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Judith Shklar on the problem of political motivation

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The political thought of Judith Shklar is often invoked by contemporary theorists of realism in support of their arguments. This article contends, however, that realist discussion of Shklar has overlooked a concern central to her thought—the worry that individuals are often unwilling to reevaluate their views on the questions of political life. Shklar’s theoretical concern with this ‘problem of political motivation’ will be demonstrated by examining the evolution of her views on the relationship between utopia and hope, showing how this evolution maps on to her view of the affective conditions necessary to motivation. The article proceeds to show that Shklar seeks to address this problem directly, aiming to shape the psychology of her readers through her prose, and that in this she takes inspiration from her reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Evaluation of Shklar’s reflections on the purposes of political theory reveals her concern with the problem of political motivation to be a vital aspect of her conception of the discipline. This problem, I suggest, is one which should be taken into consideration by contemporary theorists of realism if they are to produce theories which fully adhere to the realistic moral psychology they endorse.



5003 Philosophy, 4408 Political Science, 50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 44 Human Society

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History of European Ideas

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Informa UK Limited