On Civil Disobedience: Judith N. Shklar on the Possibilities and Limitations of Dissent in Modern Democracies

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 19:42
Oral Presentation
Andreas HESS, University College Dublin, Ireland
Samantha ASHENDEN, Birkbeck College, United Kingdom
For most of her life the Harvard political theorist Judith N. Shklar rejected being drawn into, or taking direct sides when it came to political debates. However, with her lectures on political obligation, which she gave just a few months before her death in the spring of 1992, a slightly different picture emerges. More specifically I will show how Shklar tackled the issue of obligation and its boundaries in the light of two American experiences: in the 19th slavery and the systematic exclusion of Black people (incl. the protest and radical abolitionist manifestations against it) and in the 20th century the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam. In her lectures Shklar discussed various possible stands and different notions of ‘voice’, including some of its contradictions in the context of democratic aspirations, ranging from civil disobedience to advocating conscientious objection.