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Recognizing Resentment: Sympathy, Injustice, and Liberal Political Thought, Michelle Schwarze

Reviewed by Manu Samnotra

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Although John Rawls's prominence might lead us to believe otherwise, the tradition of liberal political thought acknowledges a broader variety of moral motivations, and their emotional triggers, than reasonability and rationality. It is the very great virtue of Michelle Schwarze's book to recover this tradition and, by doing so, develop a more capacious understanding of how negative political emotions might reshape our relationship with the demands of justice. Schwarze argues that “spectatorial resentment” (p. 8) (a combination of sympathy and indignation) is crucial to the practice of justice, the acknowledgment of injustices, the creation of institutions that rectify them, and, even if such efforts fail, according the victims of injustice a fully equal moral stature. Schwarze's exceptionally good book develops an argument that is both analytically sound and historically grounded. Recognizing Resentment contributes to our understanding of affects/emotions in politics, and its key insights advance our appreciation of the Scottish Enlightenment. Specifically, Schwarze turns to three figures in this tradition—the much-neglected Joseph Butler, David Hume, and Adam Smith—to develop an account of spectatorial resentment.

Although we might be tempted to dismiss resentment as a moral emotion, Schwarze reminds us of its impo

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