Tuesday, March 17, 2020

‪An Essay On Judith Shklar That’s Unsatisfactory:‬

‪An Essay On Judith Shklar That’s Unsatisfactory:‬


‪And it’s all too typical of what I generally find in Aeon. ‬

‪I studied Shklar in a jurisprudence course I took in law school but remember nothing of what of her I studied.‬

‪So I was interested to read this and try to get back some sense of her critique of liberalism and its relation to her thinking about justice.‬

‪But this essay, easily read at one sitting, is a God awful hodgepodge I think.‬

‪Ideas are averted to but not developed and those that stand alone seem trite: for example, American liberalism has been too sunshiny and has in the past overlooked the country’s historic ills persisting to the present days; or that history is best studied as an account of the immiserated.  ‬

‪There’s an awful lot of name checking in this essay but not enough said about the names or their relation to Shklar that’s in any way helpful.‬

‪If I sensed any thesis in the hodgepodge it’s this:‬

‪... She maintained that to give injustice its due demands not only a different perspective but also a different type of narrative, one that helps to identify and recognise the many victims of injustice. Such a new critical approach, she argued, could tell us more about the many faces of injustice than following the false hope of striving for an ever-more perfect state of justice, including the idea of a perpetual amelioration of the laws...‬

‪So we might expect from this some sympathy with more radical thought, but then we read:

‪....Shklar’s political thought presents particular challenges to triumphalist and exceptionalist narratives. She detected that the legacy of slavery made America’s commitment to democracy often sound hollow. To her, discrimination remained a major scar that had not healed, despite all the rhetoric of equality and hard-fought-for improvements such as citizenship. She clearly sympathised with the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King but also remained skeptical about more radical methods that she thought didn’t contribute to bridging the colour line....‬

‪This essay triggered no recollection for me nor suggested a different insight into justice. And I fail to understand a notion of liberalism or justice that has cruelty as its core focus. ‬


Read the piece on Shklar finally, and largely agree with your take. The "liberalism of fear" -- don't know if that's her phrase or the authors' -- is a particularly awkward and inapt expression, if it isn't actually wrong. And the concluding paragraph is mush -- if she was for open borders, just say so, and if not, what is "citizenship" supposed to mean? But I did like the short bit about the "rather minimalist conception of politics, free from utopian ideals" in M and M. Otherwise, the focus on injustice threatens to devolve into the SJW's obsessing over intersectional microagressions and the like.‬

‪Also, in general, prefer Quillette to Aeon too, and especially to Areo. Wonder if the last two are related? ‬

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