Author Archives: John R. Wallach

About John R. Wallach

Professor of political science at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He co-edited Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstruction of American Democracy (Cornell, 1994) and authored The Platonic Political Art: A Study of Critical Reason and Democracy (Penn State, 2001). The latter reveals how Plato's dialogical interest in the techne of politics radically engages political ethics, making it adaptable for democratic criticism today. His more recent publications focus on the lacunae of human rights discourse and the vexed relationship of democracy and virtue in history and political theory.

Dignity: The Last Bastion of Liberalism

This essay assesses the resurgent intellectual interest in “dignity,” reviewing recent treatments by four liberal legal and political theorists. The article notes the origins of dignity as “high standing” in Roman, Catholic, and aristocratic discourses, along with its transformation by liberal theorists into a rational tool for accommodating the equality of rights and the hierarchies of virtue for the political ethics of Western societies. The author faults these rehabilitations of “dignity” for minimizing how worldly power in history constitutes ethical prospects and how emphasis upon “dignity” elevates the passivity of moral standing over and against the activity of politics.