As soon as upon a time, the philosophy of love was a high-quality topic for the person of ideas, like Erich Fromm or C. S. Lewis. Lately, the topic has been relegated to self-assist, a style that many mistrust for its propensity to propose simple solutions where there are none. Self-assist has its uses, however: it neatly undoes the facile ideas of left (we are powerless victims) and right (we've total agency in our lives) alike, and it provides the calming reassurance that others on the market are as messed up as you are.
Now comes the feminist cultural critic bell hooks all about love
Hooks along with her new book of essays, ''All About Love,'' written in a didactic fashion that might merge ethical philosophy with self-help. It's a warm affirmation that love is possible and an attack on the culture of narcissism and selfishness. ''We yearn to end the lovelessness that is so pervasive in our society,'' she writes. ''This book tells us tips on how to return to love.''
Her best points are easy ones. Group -- extended household, inventive or political collaboration, friendship -- is as essential because the couple or the nuclear family; love is an artwork that entails work, not just the fun of attraction; need may rely on phantasm, but love comes solely through painful reality-telling; work and money have changed the values of affection and community, and this have to be reversed.
In Hooks's view, girls have little hope of happiness in a brutal tradition in which they are blindsided because ''most men use psychological terrorism as a strategy to subordinate women,'' whom they preserve around ''to deal with all their needs.'' Males are raised to be ''more concerned about sexual performance and sexual satisfaction than whether or not they're capable of giving and receiving love.'' Many men ''will, at times, select to silence a partner with violence rather than witness emotional vulnerability'' and ''typically turn away from real love and select relationships in which they can be emotionally withholding after they really feel prefer it however still obtain love from somebody else.'' Ladies are also afraid of intimacy but ''focus more on finding a associate,'' regardless of quality. The result's ''a gendered arrangement in which males are more more likely to get their emotional wants met while girls will probably be deprived. . . . Men are given an advantage that neatly coincides with the patriarchal insistence that they're superior and due to this fact higher suited to rule others.'' Males must study generosity and ''the enjoyment that comes from service.''
Hooks contends that she and her long-term boyfriends have been foiled by ''patriarchal thinking'' and sexist gender roles and by no means had a chance. She is right that many men and women, gay and straight, still fall into traditional traps, however she does not spend much time on why some dive into them, nor does she consider that such will not be everybody's fate. She takes her experience, neatly elides her personal function in shaping it, universalizes and transliterates her frustrations into pop sociology.
Hooks's beliefs for love, her ''new visions,'' sound good, but there's something sterile and summary about them. The ingenious ways the thoughts has to console itself, the truth that relationships do not grant bliss and perfection, the essential impossibility of satisfaction, how want can conquer the need -- to Hooks, these are however cynical delusions that shall be thrust aside in a brave new world ready ''to affirm mutual love between free girls and free men.''
Her invocation of master rhetoricians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton throws into painful relief the strange Pollyanna high quality of her prose; it's tough to imagine both of them starting a paragraph, as she does, with ''After I first began to speak publicly about my dysfunctional household, my mother was enraged.'' She ends the book as Sleeping Beauty, awaiting ''the love that's promised'' and talking to angels rather than real people. Her book confirms fears about why jargon and prefabricated concepts, including id politics and self-help, so typically flatten experience into cliché. Emotional waters run deep and wide. When one cannot navigate them, it is possible to take refuge in a shallow, sentimental idealism.