Utopia
in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
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This chapter examines what role utopianism can play in political thought. For Shklar’s liberalism of fear, utopianism is unjustifiable both on sceptical grounds and because it is implicated in illegitimate uses of cruelty. And yet the mature Shklar in fact defends utopian reforms that are, she believes, necessary so as to prevent greater cruelties and, therefore, to secure our freedom. Not only that, as argued here, Shklar’s position on utopianism in fact changes dramatically over the course of her writing career, reflecting a process of continual reappraisal of the work of Rousseau in particular. However, the monist utopianism of the liberalism of fear is marked by the following shortcoming: in her mature work she is, despite her scepticism, unable to identify the prima facie wrongs committed in the name of even legitimate utopias, including the radical and Rousseauian reforms she calls for in The Faces of Injustice and American Citizenship. And I will try to show that value pluralism is free from these problems. More generally, my argument is that a monist position on moral conflict, even when it is also a sceptical one, lacks a critical dimension crucial to the evaluation of such utopian projects.

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