Cruelty
in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
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This chapter charts in detail the development of Shklar’s arguments from the value pluralism of her early work to the value monism of her mature work. And in order to better appreciate what is at stake in this transformation I examine her changing approach to the question of paternalism, and consider this alongside current debates about the different forms of paternalism and their justification. In her early work, as a value pluralist, Shklar claims that we can be left with unresolved conflicts between the value of justice, on the one hand, and educative, perfectionist, and paternalistic commitments, on the other. In her mature work, in contrast, Shklar maintains that we may only ever restrict freedom so as to avoid cruelty and, as a result, she insists that, as a general rule, paternalistic infringements of individual liberty are always unjustified. My reading of Shklar’s work is a novel one, in part because her commentators have not recognised that over time she moves from a value pluralist to a value monist position. It is novel for the further reason that it renders explicit the following assumption: paternalistic treatment of those who lack competence is justified, and it does not violate the liberty of those treated paternalistically.

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