What is political commitment

Reading sample



Shortly before her death in 1992, Judith N. Shklar turned to the topic of political commitment in several lectures and texts. From a perspective trained in the history of ideology, she focuses in particular on conflicts of liability. In relation to other liberal theories of obligation, Shklar's works prove to be original and contemporary in this regard, because they allow conflicts of obligation to play an obligation-productive role. The present essay reconstructs central elements of Shklar's theory of obligation and also offers a classification of the text Conscience and Freedom, published for the first time in this special issue. He examines the relationship between Shklars approach and common theories of obligation and sharpens the profile of Shklars theses, especially in an exemplary comparison with Michael Walzer's theory of obligation.

Keywords: Judith N. Shklar, Political Commitment, Loyalty, Conflict



In the last years of her life, Judith N. Shklar devoted several texts and speeches to the theme of political obligation. With a clear view for the ideological embeddedness of this phenomenon, especially focused on obligation conflicts. In this perspective, Shklar’s ​​writings distinguish themselves from other liberal theories of political obligation by attributing obligation conflicts a productive role. This article reconstructs central aspects of Shklar’s ​​theory of political obligation, also offering an interpretation of the text Conscience and Liberty, which is published as part of this special issue for the first time. The article contrasts Shklar’s ​​approach with popular obligation theories, and seeks to carve out its distinctive facets in a comparison to Michael Walzer’s theory of political obligation.


Bibliography: Trimҫev, Rieke: Conflicts of Obligation and Political Obligations, ZPTh - Journal for Political Theory, 2-2018, pp. 253-267. https://doi.org/10.3224/zpth.v9i2.08