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Political Emotions

Political Emotions

Martha C. Nussbaum
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Political Emotions
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72828-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. CHAPTER ONE A Problem in the History of Liberalism
    (pp. 1-24)

    All societies are full of emotions. Liberal democracies are no exception. The story of any day or week in the life of even a relatively stable democracy would include a host of emotions—anger, fear, sympathy, disgust, envy, guilt, grief, many forms of love. Some of these episodes of emotion have little to do with political principles or the public culture, but others are different: they take as their object the nation, the nation’s goals, its institutions and leaders, its geography, and one’s fellow citizens seen as fellow inhabitants of a common public space. Often, as in my two epigraphs,...

  4. I. History

    • CHAPTER TWO Equality and Love: Rousseau, Herder, Mozart
      (pp. 27-53)

      The ancien régime sings in a loud and authoritarian voice, saying, “No, no, no, no, no, no.” So, just before the end of Mozart’sThe Marriage of Figaro,the Count, as yet secure in his status, rejects the urgings of the other characters to mercy and sympathy as they kneel, one by one, before him. To Almaviva, revenge for insulted honor is all-important (“the only thing that consoles my heart and makes me rejoice”).¹ To display kindness to the imploring, as they humbly kneel, is a noble prerogative, not a general human virtue. He can give it, or he can...

    • CHAPTER THREE Religions of Humanity I: Auguste Comte, J. S. Mill
      (pp. 54-81)

      In the aftermath of the French Revolution, as self-governing republics began (though with many backslidings) to emerge across Europe, the search for new forms of fraternity became almost an obsession. Under the ancien régime, the emotions of citizens had been led along the all-too-familiar path thatFigarobrilliantly depicts: honor for some, shame for others, genuine reciprocity nowhere. This old emotion culture evidently could not sustain a self-governing republic, but what might replace it?

      The end of the eighteenth century left Europeans with two distinct and in some ways sharply opposed models of the new civic emotion culture: Rousseau’s and...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Religions of Humanity II: Rabindranath Tagore
      (pp. 82-110)

      Comte’s ideas were well known to leading Bengali intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century, and they helped define people’s aspirations for the future of an Indian nation. Two leading thinker/artists, above all, drew on Comte to articulate utterly different pictures of a national political culture. Novelist Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838–1894, often known as Bankim) was closely linked to an organized Positivist group in Bengal.¹ He composed numerous prose works that set the development of Indian society in the context of the Positivist conception of history. His subsequent influence, however, largely depends on his novelAnandamath(1882), which represents...

  5. II. Goals, Resources, Problems

    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 112-114)

      Part i’s historical discussion showed us why the project of a “civil religion” is important for a liberal society, and also why it should be executed in the spirit of Mill and Tagore, rather than that of Rousseau and Comte. The figure of Mozart’s Cherubino gives us an attractive image of the citizen as one who seeks not a dominating, hierarchical type of relationship with others, but, instead, a mutually respectful love that invites and delights in mutually responsive conversation, by turns playful and aspiring. J. S. Mill’s discussion of the “religion of humanity” began to give this image political...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Aspiring Society: Equality, Inclusion, Distribution
      (pp. 115-136)

      Before embarking on a contemporary constructive version of the Mozart/Mill/Tagore project, we need a sketch of where we are heading. Each political ideal is supported by its own distinctive emotions. Monarchies have long relied on cultivating emotions of childlike dependency, encouraging subjects to depend on the king as on a quasi-divine father. Fascist states (whether German Nazism or the quasi-fascist social organizations of the Hindu Right in India today) engender and rely on solidaristic pride and hero worship, fear of the solitary dissident, and hatred of groups depicted as inferior or subversive. Conservatives who are far from being fascistic also...

    • CHAPTER SIX Compassion: Human and Animal
      (pp. 137-160)

      The nations we are imagining aspire to justice. They want to figure out how emotions can help them in their work, motivating good policies and rendering them stable. They also want to thwart, or at least to control, emotions that would derail their efforts. But if a society pursues such ambitious goals, it will need to learn from research that sheds light on the resources and the problems that human nature, insofar as we can know it, makes available. Before we can even begin to consider specific policy recommendations about specific emotions, we need a general overview—in the light...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN “Radical Evil”: Helplessness, Narcissism, Contamination
      (pp. 161-198)

      A just nation needs to try to understand the roots of human bad behavior.¹ It is difficult to know how citizens’ dignity and equality should be protected, if we do not know what we are up against. Take antidiscrimination laws. Libertarian thinkers argue that these laws are unnecessary, because discrimination is economically inefficient. All the just state needs to do is to remove artificial barriers to trade, minority hiring, and so forth.² Employers, being rational, will quickly see that hiring minority workers is in their interest. Such an account rests on a particular story about human motivation: employers are taken...

  6. III. Public Emotions

    • Introduction to Part III
      (pp. 200-203)

      It is time to put this analysis to work in the context of real societies—imperfect, yet aspiring toward justice and human capability. What some might expect at this point is a general philosophical theory of the construction of political emotions. The preceding analysis, however, has given us reason to suppose that no highly general theory will prove helpful—beyond the theories of personality and the general political norms we have presented so far. This is true for two reasons. First, what we have been after all along is an experimental approach to social problems, in the spirit of Mill...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Teaching Patriotism: Love and Critical Freedom
      (pp. 204-256)

      In 1892, a World’s Fair, called the Columbian Exposition,² was scheduled to take place in Chicago.³ Clearly it was turning out to be a celebration of unfettered greed and egoism. Industry and innovation had become its central foci, as America planned to welcome the world with displays of technological prowess and material enrichment. Gross inequalities of opportunity in the nation and in the city were to be masked by the glowing exterior of the pure white Beaux Arts–style buildings (right next door to the University of Chicago) that came to be called “the White City.”⁴ The architectural choices of...

    • CHAPTER NINE Tragic and Comic Festivals: Shaping Compassion, Transcending Disgust
      (pp. 257-313)

      On his way to Troy to fight with the Greeks in the Trojan War, Philoctetes walked by mistake into a sacred shrine on the island of Lemnos. His foot, bitten by the serpent who guards the shrine, began to ooze with a smelly ulcerous sore, and his cries of pain disrupted the army’s religious observances. So the commanders abandoned him on the island, with no companions and no resources but his bow and arrows. Unlike others who wrote tragedies on this theme, Sophocles imagines Lemnos as an uninhabited island, in this way giving enormous emphasis to Philoctetes’ isolation from human...

    • CHAPTER TEN Compassion’s Enemies: Fear, Envy, Shame
      (pp. 314-377)

      Creating civic compassion requires us to understand what threatens it. Our entire project starts from an unfortunate reality: people are inclined to be narrow and greedy in their sympathies, reluctant to support projects aimed at a common good if these require sacrifice. They are also prone to ugly practices involving the projection of disgust properties onto subordinate groups, who then function in majority ideologies as quasi-animals. At this point in our inquiry, we have some understanding of how compassion may be strengthened and generalized and projective disgust minimized through civic projects of many kinds.

      Compassion, however, has other enemies. These...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN How Love Matters for Justice
      (pp. 378-398)

      After the French Revolution, politics changed in Europe. Fraternity came to the fore. No longer held together by fear of a monarch and obedience to his arbitrary will, citizens had to imagine new ways to live with one another. Because any successful nation needs to be able to demand sacrifice for a common good, they had to ask how sacrifice and common effort would be possible in the absence of monarchical coercion. Hence arose many proposals for a “civil religion” or a “religion of humanity,” a public cultivation of sympathy, love, and concern that could motivate a range of valuable...

  7. APPENDIX. Emotion Theory, Emotions in Music: Upheavals of Thought
    (pp. 399-404)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 405-436)
  9. References
    (pp. 437-448)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 449-452)
  11. Index
    (pp. 453-458)