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Author: Allyn Fives

What does the work of Judith Shklar reveal to us about the proper role and limits of political theory? In particular, what are the implications of her arguments both for the way in which we should think of freedom and for the approach we should take to the resolution of moral conflicts? There is growing interest in Shklar’s arguments, in particular the so-called liberalism of fear, characteristic of her mature work. She has become an important influence for those taking a sceptical approach to political thought and also for those concerned first and foremost with the avoidance of great evils. However, this book shows that the most important factor shaping her mature work is not her scepticism but, rather, a value monist approach to both moral conflict and freedom, and that this represents a radical departure from the value pluralism (and scepticism) of her early work. This book also advances a clear line of argument in defence of value pluralism in political theory, one that builds on but moves beyond Shklar’s own early work.

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Allyn Fives

the value pluralism of Shklar's early work. Now, as we know, her commentators have not noticed this radical transformation in her arguments. In this chapter I try to show the importance of that transition in shaping how Shklar, as a political non-moralist, understands tyranny. Addressing this issue also brings us back to wider debates on the nature and role of political thought. Since the early 2000s there has been an ongoing clash between moralist and non-moralist approaches to political theory. My argument is one that instead stresses the

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

she abandons her earlier value pluralism so as to embrace value monism. This way of thinking about Shklar's early and mature political theory also allows us to reflect on the role and limits of political theory more generally. We can see that, although her mature work stands opposed to political moralism, nonetheless the liberalism of fear is prescriptive. This is the case because, as I try to show below, her mature work takes a value monist approach to moral conflict. In contrast, in her early work (in particular, her second book and articles

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

on paternalism. In her early work she maintains that we are left with unresolved conflicts between the requirements of justice, on the one hand, and those of paternalism, on the other (Shklar 1964a; 1966; 1967 ). In contrast, in her mature work, the liberalism of fear, she concludes that paternalistic infringements of liberty are unjustifiable as a general rule (Shklar 1989a; 1990a ). As I have already said, her mature monism, and the move away from her earlier value pluralism, has gone unnoticed in the literature on Shklar's work. As a result, it has not been

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

Value monism is not only a specific approach to moral conflict; it also offers a distinctive way in which to conceptualise freedom. So far, I have said very little about freedom itself. Although I did refer to competing conceptualisations of that term in the last chapter, I could not do justice to the issue there. However, the whole of the present chapter is devoted to this question, and I think this level of scrutiny is justified for at least two reasons. The first is that value pluralism tells us something about freedom that is profoundly

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

like Rousseau does not acknowledge it. For that very reason, Rousseau's approach to utopianism becomes dystopian: it is Rousseau's ‘assumption of the coincidence of authority and liberty’ that is the starting point from which we gradually reach the notion of absolute despotism (Berlin 2002 [1952] , pp. 43, 47). The value pluralist position is that when we make a decision in a situation of moral conflict we will do something wrong insofar as we are required to violate some specific moral value. I have been defending value pluralism up to this

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

early value pluralism is unnecessarily restricted, for, as we know, she fails to offer a pluralist conception of freedom at this time. This is important for our purposes here because Berlin's (pluralist) conception of negative freedom will permit us to examine something that remains impossible to consider in Shklar's early work, namely, whether one is, in the first instance, free to engage in crime. Building on Berlin's work, we can also consider whether criminals are faced with genuine moral conflicts between the obligation to refrain from crime and any conflicting

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

that a critical reading of Shklar illustrates the importance of the distinction between a value pluralist and a value monist approach to moral conflict. This is the case in part because as a monist in her mature work she is faced with considerable difficulties when attempting to make sense of substantive political issues. At the same time, we will be able to appreciate the benefits of value pluralism when considering how much freedom (and what type of freedom) individuals should enjoy. This is the case in particular when we raise this question in a range of non

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Abstract only
Allyn Fives

conflicts, but also the worst evil is cruelty. We cannot resolve moral conflicts by appeal to some norm that, it is claimed, transcends reality; but reality itself provides us with the general rule for their resolution: the avoidance of cruelty. To understand the value monism of Shklar's liberalism of fear it is necessary to contrast it with value pluralism (see Galston 2005 , pp. 174–5). And to get to the heart of value pluralism we must first be clear about what a moral conflict is. We can present such conflicts, formally, as follows

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
The liberalism of fear and modus vivendi
Matt Sleat

the value of ordered political life but realise that the political vision recommended by their distinct normative frameworks cannot be achieved’.32 Often, as is the case with Gray and McCabe, this background of disagreement is explained as the inevitable consequence of value pluralism. As a theory of the origin and nature of disagreement, the central tenets of value pluralism are that there are myriad different values, ideals, and ways of life, that these can often conflict, and that when they do there is no common standard or currency against which to judge which

in Liberal realism