Why do men and women sometimes risk everything to defend their liberties? What motivates principled opposition to the abuse of power? In Liberalism with Honor, Sharon Krause explores honor as a motive for risky and difficult forms of political action. She shows the sense of honor to be an important source of such action and a spring of individual agency more generally.
Krause traces the genealogy of honor, including its ties to conscientious objection and civil disobedience, beginning in old-regime France and culminating in the American civil rights movement. She examines the dangers intrinsic to honor and the tensions between honor and modern democracy, but demonstrates that the sense of honor has supported political agency in the United States from the founders to democratic reformers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Honor continues to hold interest and importance today because it combines self-concern and personal ambition with principled higher purposes, and so challenges the disabling dichotomy between self-interest and self-sacrifice that currently pervades both political theory and American public life.
Sharon Krause has written one of those rare works of academic political theory that demand a wide audience. Raising the question of the status of honor in liberal democratic societies, it treats its subject with intelligence, seriousness, and a graceful style that can only be the envy of her fellow academics.
This book makes a highly original and richly constructive contribution to contemporary democratic theory as well as to the interpretation and application of the thought of Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and the American tradition of political thought and culture, rooted in the Founding Fathers. The argument of the book establishes, for perhaps the first time in current literature, how capacious and fertile may be the moral resource for democratic theory that is to be found in a reconsidered and appropriately re-elaborated concept of honor.
A very welcome reappraisal of the importance of honor to democratic theory and practice. Krause’s study mines the wisdom of Montesquieu to carry us beyond contemporary debates between liberalism and communitarianism, public reason and virtue ethics.
- 288 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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