Political emotions Why love matters for justice

Martha Craven Nussbaum, 1947-

Book - 2013

Analyzing the role of emotion in political life, draws from a range of global sources to suggest that the cultivation of emotions--specifically love--can inspire individuals to sacrifice for the common good.

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Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2013.
Physical Description
viii, 457 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Martha Craven Nussbaum, 1947- (author)
  • A problem in the history of liberalism
  • Equality and love : Rousseau, Herder, Mozart
  • Religions of humanity I : Auguste Comte, J.S. Mill
  • Religions of humanity II : Rabindranath Tagore
  • The aspiring society : equality, inclusion, distribution
  • Compassion : human and animal
  • "Radical evil" : helplessness, narcissism, contamination
  • Teaching patriotism : love and critical freedom
  • Tragic and comic festivals : shaping compassion, transcending disgust
  • Compassion's enemies : fear, envy, shame
  • How love matters for justice.
Review by Choice Reviews

Whatever Nussbaum (Univ. of Chicago) publishes is essential for university library collections of political theory. Her career is essentially a striving to understand the emotional foundations of democratic governance and to take seriously the state's interest in promoting and protecting civic emotions. This book is no exception. Nussbaum takes the position that what is missing in contemporary politics is acceptance of the "uneven and often unlovely destiny of human beings" and that the normative goals of the liberal/progressive agenda could draw sustenance from a wider acceptance of this destiny. Nussbaum is naturally drawn to consider political emotion and public religion through such writers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Auguste Comte, whom she rejects, and John Stuart Mill and Rabindranath Tagore, whom she embraces. These latter writers expressed a modified, controlled public emotion that may drive progress without the instability of particularity or dangerous suppression of individual expression. The book is comprehensive in scope and voluminous in references to classical, contemporary, and world art, music, and literature. If nothing else, it stands as a monument to the kind of thinking about civic life that is possible only through deep familiarity with liberal arts. Summing Up: Essential. All readership levels. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. J. E. Herbel Georgia College and State University Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

The latest book from University of Chicago law and ethics professor Nussbaum (The Fragility of Goodness) stimulates readers with challenging insights on the role of emotion in political life. Her provocative theory of social change shows how a truly just society might be realized through the cultivation and studied liberation of emotions, specifically love. To that end, the book sparkles with Nussbaum's characteristic literary analysis, drawing from both Western and South Asian sources, including a deep reading of public monuments. In one especially notable passage, Nussbaum artfully interprets Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, revealing it as a musical meditation on the emotionality of revolutionary politics and feminism. Such chapters are a culmination of her passion for seeing art and literature as philosophical texts, a theme in her writing that she profitably continues here. The elegance with which she negotiates this diverse material deserves special praise, as she expertly takes the reader through analyses of philosophy, opera, primatology, psychology, and poetry. In contrast to thinkers like John Rawls, who imagined an already just world, Nussbaum addresses how to order our society to reach such a world. A plea for recognizing the power of art, symbolism, and enchantment in public life, Nussbaum's cornucopia of ideas effortlessly commands attention and debate. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Analyzing the role of emotion in political life, draws from a range of global sources to suggest that the cultivation of emotions--specifically love--can inspire individuals to sacrifice for the common good.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Emotion can be assigned to virtually every aspect of human life, be it hatred of someone's point of view or love of an abstract concept such as one's nation. Nussbaum (law and ethics, U. of Chicago) examines political emotions and why love matters for justice. She examines a problem in the history of liberalism, goals resources problems, public emotions, and how love matters for justice. Nussbaum is right, of course. The problem is choosing what one should love, and for how long. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation ©2014 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 3

How can we achieve and sustain a "decent" liberal society, one that aspires to justice and equal opportunity for all and inspires individuals to sacrifice for the common good? In this book, a continuation of her explorations of emotions and the nature of social justice, Martha Nussbaum makes the case for love. Amid the fears, resentments, and competitive concerns that are endemic even to good societies, public emotions rooted in love--in intense attachments to things outside our control--can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.Great democratic leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., have understood the importance of cultivating emotions. But people attached to liberalism sometimes assume that a theory of public sentiments would run afoul of commitments to freedom and autonomy. Calling into question this perspective, Nussbaum investigates historical proposals for a public "civil religion" or "religion of humanity" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and Rabindranath Tagore. She offers an account of how a decent society can use resources inherent in human psychology, while limiting the damage done by the darker side of our personalities. And finally she explores the cultivation of emotions that support justice in examples drawn from literature, song, political rhetoric, festivals, memorials, and even the design of public parks."Love is what gives respect for humanity its life," Nussbaum writes, "making it more than a shell."Political Emotions is a challenging and ambitious contribution to political philosophy.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Martha Nussbaum asks: How can we sustain a decent society that aspires to justice and inspires sacrifice for the common good? Amid negative emotions endemic even to good societies, public emotions rooted in love—intense attachments outside our control—can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.