August, 2021

Michelle Schwarze, recognizing resentment

Sympathy, injustice, and liberal political thought
  • Kristen Collins

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Michelle Schwarze asks, “Can free government survive (or thrive) amidst a citizenry more likely to vote with its heart than with its head?” (2020, p. 3). It is a question that has been at the forefront of many minds in recent years. To answer it, Schwarze examines an oft-maligned emotion: resentment. By showcasing the constructive power of resentment in theories of justice, Schwarze enables us to accept, and, perhaps, embrace, the role played by the “heart” in good governance. Rather than deny the role of emotions like indignation, we must ask how to best evaluate emotionally inflected political claims and movements. Working within the history of political thought, Schwarze pursues a careful understanding of key thinkers within the liberal tradition, Joseph Butler, David Hume, and Adam Smith, while also gaining a new perspective through which we can make sense of the world when our prevailing psychological and sociological assumptions fall short. The book appeals to a broad audience; Austrian economists will appreciate its elucidating treatment of the affective and political dimensions of foundational texts in political economy, which Schwarze effectively connects to contemporary debates concerning populism and economic liberalism.