Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century: The Skeptical Radicalism of Judith Shklar, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century

The Skeptical Radicalism of Judith Shklar, 1st Edition

By Giunia Gatta

Routledge

154 pages

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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Drawing on published and unpublished sources including Shklar’s correspondence, lecture notes, and other manuscripts, Giunia Gatta presents a fresh theoretical interpretation of Shklar’s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.

Reviews

'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 managed to reflect on the living and complicated body of politics. Gatta has produced an indispensable work on an indispensable thinker.' - Simona Forti, Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy

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'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 managed to reflect on the living and complicated body of politics. Gatta has produced an indispensable work on an indispensable thinker.'Simona Forti, Università del Piemonte Orientale, Italy

'Giunia Gatta’s admirable new book, Rethinking Liberalism for the 21st Century: The Skeptical Radicalism of Judith Shklar, is a welcome introduction to Shklar for anyone not yet acquainted with her. The book confirms that Shklar never produced a systematic doctrine that successors could carry forward, as her friend and Harvard colleague John Rawls did. But it also shows that her work did cohere as an intellectual project — one that’s especially timely for the present moment.'Jacob T. Levy, Foreign Policy

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

'Giunia Gatta’s study of Shklar’s work is a scholarly and thought provoking contribution to our understanding of a political philosopher of considerable stature. Gatta approaches her task with three overarching purposes: to situate Shklar’s political theory within her own biography; to uncover a common thread running through her life’s work, what Gatta calls ‘skeptical radicalism,’ and finally to ‘appropriate’ Shklar and her work in the name of ‘agonistic liberalism’'--

Allyn Fives, Ethical Theory and Moral Practrice 2018

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

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought

This series explores core issues in political philosophy and social theory. Addressing theoretical subjects of both historical and contemporary relevance, the series has broad appeal across the social sciences. Contributions include new studies of major thinkers, key debates and critical concepts.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POL000000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / General
POL010000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POL042020
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism