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2011 | 59 | 2 | 235-245

Article title

Liberalismus strachu


Title variants

The  liberalism of fear

Languages of publication



This is a translation of Williams’ 1994 lecture in the series of Isaiah Berlin Lectures at Wolfson College, Oxford. After some recollections of his friend Berlin, Williams turns to political and moral philosophy and raises the question of who is their addressee. In order to give the correct answer we must first be aware of what philosophy can achieve. As his example, which he analyses in the remainder of the lecture, Williams takes the liberalism of fear of Judith Shklar, which holds that the basic elements of political life are the weak and the strong (not autonomous deliberaters). Before he responds to the question of who is addressed by the thesis of the liberalism of fear, which focuses on the limitation of harm (and not on the development of autonomous units in society), Williams distinguishes between a listener attending to a narrator, and the potential community which the author addresses in their work. In contemporary political philosophy the listener is the one who has the power to put across the given ideas, while the community is the wider public which should critically attend to the one granted power. The problem is that from such literature the others drop out, and with them real politics disappears too. The liberalism of fear, on the contrary, does not neglect this aspect, and takes seriously politics itself that is, power, its division, and, above all, its limitation in each situation. The only basic interest of this work is the analysis of the asymmetry of power and powerlessness, and of how it contributes to the harm of the powerless. Because this means that the author works only with universals (power, powerlessness, fear, cruelty), her listeners are all people. The liberalism of fear emerges from a concrete situation (thus the emphasis on history), and not, like many kinds of philosophical theory, from excogitated general theses which are offered for application. T.H.








Physical description

Document type



  • Filosofický časopis, redakce, Filosofický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Jilská 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic


Document Type

Publication order reference


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