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Recognizing Resentment
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Book description

We typically think of resentment as an unjustifiable and volatile emotion, responsible for fostering the worst political divisions. Recognizing Resentment argues instead that sympathy with the resentment of victims of injustice is vital for upholding justice in liberal societies, as it entails recognition of the equal moral and political status of those with whom we sympathize. Sympathizing with the resentment of others makes us alive to injustice in a way no rational recognition of wrongs alone can, and it motivates us to demand justice on others' behalves. This book rehabilitates arguments for the moral and political worth of resentment developed by three influential thinkers in the early liberal tradition - Joseph Butler, David Hume, and Adam Smith - and uses these to advance a theory of spectatorial resentment, discussing why we should be indignant about the injustice others face, and how such a shared sentiment can actually bring liberal citizens closer together.


'Anger and resentment are often regarded as dangerous and unwelcome passions, but Michelle Schwarze shows that, when properly understood and circumscribed, they can and should play a key role in liberal political theory and practice. This book is a brilliant example of how the history of political thought, when done well, can reframe and illuminate contemporary politics.'

Dennis Rasmussen - Syracuse University

'Michelle Schwarze’s insightful and accessible study of resentment deserves a wide audience. Historians of ideas will benefit from its compelling treatment of Butler’s innovative moral theory. Political theorists will benefit from its fruitful contributions to recent debates over the place of affect in liberal political theory. All in all, this book very successfully makes its case that resentment plays a crucial and perhaps even indispensable role in a just society.'

Ryan Hanley - Boston College

'Michelle Schwarze considers and goes beyond the thought of moral sentimentalists Joseph Butler, David Hume, and Adam Smith to make the case for a fuller account of resentment and its appropriate role in bringing our moral obligations home to us. This spirited book has something to say both to scholars of the Scottish Enlightenment and to political scientists thinking about the role of anger in alternately undermining and sustaining the ties of moral community in a liberal democracy.'

Thomas W. Merrill - American University

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