Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century : The Skeptical Radicalism of Judith Shklar book cover
1st Edition

Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century
The Skeptical Radicalism of Judith Shklar

ISBN 9780367590369
Published August 14, 2020 by Routledge
164 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $54.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century offers an indispensable reexamination of the life, work, and interventions of a prominent liberal political theorist of the 20th century: Judith Shklar.

Drawing on published and unpublished sources including Shklar’s correspondence, lecture notes, and other manuscripts, Giunia Gatta presents a fresh theoretical interpretation of Shklar’s liberalism as philosophically and politically radical. Beginning with a thorough reconstruction of Shklar’s life and her interest in political theory, Gatta turns her attention to examining the tension between Shklar’s critique of the term "modernity" and her passion for Enlightenment thinkers, including Rousseau and Hegel. In the second part of the book, Gatta roots Shklar’s liberalism of permanent minorities in her work in the history of political thought, and highlights this contribution as a fundamental recasting of liberalism as the political philosophy of outsiders. She makes a compelling argument for a liberalism of permanent minorities that refuses to stand on the ground of firm foundations and, instead, is oriented by complex understandings of cruelty and fear.

Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century is a much-needed reorientation of traditional liberal policies, allowing for a more meaningful intervention in many contemporary debates. As such, it will be of interest to scholars of political theory, the history of political thought and ideas, philosophy, international relations, and political science in general.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Stage-Setting: A Brief Biography of Judith Shklar  Part 1: On Modernity  2. Skepticism And Modernity  3. Putting Flesh on A Bony Everyman: The Long 18th Century Against "Modernity"  Part 2: Skeptic And Radical: Liberalism for the 21st Century  4. Skepticism, Cruelty, and Moral Minefields  5. The Liberalism of Fear as Agonistic Liberalism  6. Politics Unbounded. Justice and Citizenship from The Margins  Conclusion

View More



Giunia Gatta is an adjunct professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management of Bocconi University, Italy. Her research interests span the history of political thought, continental political theory, liberalism, and existentialism. She is particularly interested in how certain political experiences defy state boundaries, so her work frequently crosses over into research on international relations, especially international ethics, international political theory, and human rights.


'Giunia Gatta's book uncovers the intellectual foundation on which Shklar built her distinctive understanding of liberalism: a chastened, but unapologetic defense of Enlightenment individualism. It is especially good at drawing out the broader theoretical insights of Shklar's studies of earlier thinkers.' - Bernard Yack, Lerman Neubauer Professor of Democracy and Public Policy, Brandeis University

'Judith Shklar was a committed liberal in a time in which victory over Fascism had made liberalism confident of being on the right side of history. Shklar’s adventurous escape from a continent that had created extermination camps is an important chapter in the history of Europe and "liberalism of fear." Yet Giunia Gatta’s excellent book does not lock Shklar’s political thought into the heroic past in which it was forged, but tests Shklar’s distinctive liberalism in relation to our contemporary problems. Gatta brings to life Shklar’s unique blend of skepticism and commitment, she outlines a radical and even "agonistic" understanding of liberalism that has the lives of the individuals, especially those at the margins, at the core of its political vocation.' - Nadia Urbinati, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory, Columbia University

'Giunia Gatta's book digs deep among the folds of Judith Shklar's thought, bringing to light its radical, in many ways heretical, elements. Gatta masterfully rolls out Shklar's unconventional path: her 'passionate skepticism', her struggle against political cruelty that marks the distance of  "Liberalism of fear" from mainstream liberalism, only abstractly attentive to injustice and pluralism, but in reality deaf to the voices coming from outside its own margins. Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century questions theoretical fences and conceptual oppositions, returning to us the legacy of a thus far neglected author – Shklar – who manage