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Thinking about bonsai trees

Judith Shklar, 18 April 1985

Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets 
by Yi-Fu Tuan.
Yale, 193 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 300 03222 6
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... Yi-Fu Tuan’s Dominance and Affection is not, as its title might suggest, about people who like and love their oppressors. It is an account of the many ways in which the strong torment the weak of whom they claim to be fond. Overtly hostile acts produce victims, but affection also has aggressive impulses and it creates what Tuan calls ‘pets’. In both cases there is an abuse of power, but the occasions for its display are quite different ...


Judith Shklar, 9 October 1986

The Body in Pain 
by Elaine Scarry.
Oxford, 385 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 19 503601 8
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... Books and films about terror and torture are now both more numerous and better than they used to be. The reasons for this are probably bad news. There is more to talk about. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to find a volume as solid and responsible as Edward Peters’s Torture, which traces the history of torture from the extraction of evidence from slave witnesses in criminal trials to the Inquisition, and on to its use, after a brief interruption, in our century as part of the ideological wars of nation-states with their fear of subversion and the importance they attach to intelligence ...

Virginia Weepers

Judith Shklar, 17 May 1984

The Pursuit of Happiness 
by Jan Lewis.
Cambridge, 290 pp., £20, November 1983, 0 521 25306 3
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Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels: ‘The Philosophy of Jesus’ and ‘The Life and Morals of Jesus’ 
edited by Dickinson Adams.
Princeton, 438 pp., £28.50, September 1983, 0 691 04699 9
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... When Thomas Jefferson left the Presidency he wrote to Dupont de Nemours: ‘Never did a prisoner released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power. Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the time in which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself to the boisterous ocean of political passion ...

Missed Opportunities

Judith Shklar, 4 August 1983

Will and Circumstance: Montesquieu, Rousseau and the French Revolution 
by Norman Hampson.
Duckworth, 282 pp., £19.50, June 1983, 0 7156 1697 8
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Jean-Jacques: The Early Life and Work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1754 
by Maurice Cranston.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £14.95, April 1983, 0 7139 0608 1
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... Rousseau has been loved and hated, but has never been ignored. His name rings in our ears because he expressed every form of human resentment with such intensity and intelligence that his endless nay-saying is still illuminating and seems edifying. His versatility was such that there is a different Rousseau for every reader. Dislike, however, produced his most enduring personae – first the man who spawned Robespierre and then the godfather of Romanticism ...

Resisting the avalanche

Bernard Williams, 6 June 1985

Ordinary Vices 
by Judith Shklar.
Harvard, 168 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 674 64175 2
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by Ronald Milo.
Princeton, 273 pp., £24.70, September 1984, 0 691 06614 0
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... Judith Shklar’s Ordinary Vices is a wise, clever, thoughtful book about the danger and the value of various personal vices – cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery and others. Professor Shklar asks how important they are; which are worse than others; what they can positively do for society, and how their meanings differ from one society to another ...

The Middling Sort

Alan Ryan, 25 May 1995

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 276 pp., £16.95, March 1995, 0 393 03699 5
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... have shed Mill’s anxieties. One of the most distinguished liberal writers of recent years, Judith Shklar, defended what she called ‘a liberalism of fear’, which recognises just how badly human beings can behave and tries to erect barriers against it. The gloomy realism with which Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society encouraged ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... was no reflection on the Social Democrats. In a piece that Williams wrote a year or two later on Judith Shklar, he agreed with her and with Montesquieu that ‘the real point … is not to paint the free citizen as a virtuous person, but to insist that without freedom everyone is intolerably paralysed or demeaned.’ This – what he described as the ...

A Little Swine

Sheila Fitzpatrick: On Snitching, 3 November 2005

Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero 
by Catriona Kelly.
Granta, 352 pp., £17.99, May 2005, 1 86207 747 9
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... Cheers for Democracy was certainly one too few in the opinion of such critics as the philosopher Judith Shklar, who hotly disputed his preference for private over national loyalty. While denunciation was undoubtedly immoral under the Nazi and Soviet regimes, Shklar argued, it is both moral and necessary in democratic ...

Help yourself

Malcolm Bull: Global Justice, 21 February 2013

On Global Justice 
by Mathias Risse.
Princeton, 465 pp., £27.95, October 2012, 978 0 691 14269 2
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... thinks that that itself is an injustice simply lacks a ground for the claim. Amartya Sen, echoing Judith Shklar, has recently emphasised that the sense of injustice itself merits public respect and, if nothing else, investigation. But in Risse’s theory the sense of injustice has no special claim on our attention, because justice is not primarily a ...

Institutional Hypocrisy

David Runciman: Selling the NHS, 21 April 2005

Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business and Healthcare 
by Dennis Thompson.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 0 521 54722 9
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NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Healthcare 
by Allyson Pollock.
Verso, 271 pp., £15.99, September 2004, 1 84467 011 2
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Brown’s Britain 
by Robert Peston.
Short Books, 369 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 1 904095 67 4
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... and Democracy’ in his wonderfully measured new collection, Dennis Thompson quotes Judith Shklar, who described the politics of anti-hypocrisy as an ‘unending game of mutual unmasking’, in which everyone is bound to lose. Because democracy is a system of government that institutionalises distrust, as the price we pay for handing over ...

Does anyone have the right to sex?

Amia Srinivasan, 22 March 2018

... can think of such feminists as making the case for a kind of ‘sex positivity of fear’, just as Judith Shklar once made the case for a ‘liberalism of fear’ – that is, a liberalism motivated by a fear of authoritarian alternatives.) But there is a risk too that repoliticising desire will encourage a discourse of sexual entitlement. Talk of people ...

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