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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Judith Shklar’s Ordinary Vices is often oversimplified, and its radicalism underplayed. Far from simply endorsing “putting cruelty first,” the work doubts that this is politically desirable (or even clearly possible). Its defense of hypocrisy is subtler and more ambivalent than often thought. Its attack on aristocratic, “primary” snobbery merits less attention than its defense of a pluralistic snobbery that allows each of us to find some group that may freely exclude, and look down on, (some) others. Its skepticism regarding accusations of betrayal relies less on direct political analysis than on a moral-psychological analysis of our need to attribute disloyalty to others. Its defense of the “liberalism of fear” stipulates the limits of such a liberalism and the necessity to join it with representative democracy. Finally, Shklar’s benign misanthropy leads her not only to endorse constitutional politics but also, and more fundamentally, to denigrate systematic political theory.

Keywords: vices, cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery, loyalty, betrayal, misanthropy, liberalism of fear, Judith Shklar

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