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, August 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.
Justice is hard. It demands our devotion as well as our understanding. For that reason, it must grip our emotions. We must feel its absence and its presence with the depth of feeling that we associate with love. That is the compelling message in Martha Nussbaum's remarkable--and remarkably original--account of political emotions. She explores the place of love in a decent society that aspires to be just. And she explains--with great intellectual and emotional force--how we can cultivate a political love with the kind of complexity that does justice to our humanity.
(Joshua Cohen, Author Of the Arc Of The Moral Universe And Other Essays)
Political Emotions is a remarkable synthesis of two of the most distinctive strands of Nussbaum's thought--a conception of the emotions as essential to our understanding of the world and a political liberalism attuned to the fostering of human capacities. Readers will not fail to be enlightened and moved. (Charles Larmore, Author Of the Autonomy Of Morality)
In her sweeping panorama of society and culture, Nussbaum skillfully and flexibly uses her understanding of public emotions to produce a book of considerable wisdom and merit. Her study is anchored in a well-rounded view of a complex but largely unexplored theme in the West as well as in South Asia. (Mushirul Hasan, Author Of faith And Freedom: Gandhi In History)
Martha Nussbaum rises above all the disciplinary boundaries. This wise and engaging study of what patriotism is and how to cultivate it is written by a philosopher, a political theorist, a psychologist, a literary critic, and a historian--all of them at their best and all of them one amazing person. (Michael Walzer, Institute For Advanced Study)