Loving recognition: a proposal for the practical efficacy of love as a public virtue

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The anthropology of love has tended to focus on the romantic, and to explore its universality. In this article I ask a different kind of question of love. How might love be recruited as a moral force and deployed as a public virtue? I conceive of love not solely or principally as a private and domestic virtue but as a public and civil practice: a structuring of social interaction by means of affective appreciation of individual others. I understand love as the human capacity and the human practice of respecting the individuality of other lives. The desirous appreciation and affirmation of another ‘I’ – the loving attention – serves to surmount the customary ‘category-thinking’ by which the world is normally apprehended: the generalizing, homogenizing and stereotyping that characterizes a culture’s symbolic identification of the world. Loving recognition is such that the individuality of another life, its precious integrity and uniqueness, may be socially accommodated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-144
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


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