Obligation
in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
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This chapter investigates Shklar’s arguments on political obligation. I focus here on the claim advanced in her mature work that those made into exiles no longer owe political obligations to the regime in question. I argue, first, that this claim relies on a dichotomous distinction between exiles, on the one hand, and ordinary criminals, on the other, according to which the latter are faced with no moral conflicts at all concerning their political obligations. I argue second that Shklar’s exile/ordinary crime dichotomy is explained by a value monist approach that she takes to moral conflict in her mature work; but also, third, an alternative position is suggested in her early work, where she adopts a value pluralist approach to political obligation. I will show that Shklar’s early value pluralism shows why and how criminals may be faced with genuine moral conflicts concerning their political obligations. At the same time, I will also argue that Shklar’s early work contains the seeds from which her mature work emerges, namely a conception of freedom that presupposes elements of value monism, and it is this that explains the trajectory taken in her later work.

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