Politics of Empathy: Ethics, Solidarity, Recognition

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-08-28
  • Publisher: Routledge

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The main argument of this book is that empathy is a necessary condition for a just, democratic and ethical politics. Empathy remains significant in a variety of fields but it remains largely unexamined within political theory. At a time of increasing cultural and political polarisation it is vital that we see this 'capacity of the imagination' as central to the task of understanding difference and establishing meaningful dialogue between communities. It is argued that the need to protect and promote a 'disposition of openness' to the other is not well served by existing accounts. Thus, while acknowledging the integrity of alternative voices and our ethical responsibility to recognise them in a culture of equality, existing accounts tend to remain philosophically abstract and, as a result, fail to identify the concrete political conditions requisite for the realisation of a culture of recognition. Thus, deconstuctionist accounts, for example, those of Derrida, Tully, Cavell, Rorty, Benhabib and Critchley, while valuable and insightful in many respects, are articulated in a social and political vacuum that undermines their capacity to be politically effective. Moreover, they fail to recognise the significance of empathy as a transformative and politically salient life experience. As a result, they fail to consider politics as an activity that should be far more attuned to the task of nurturing the conditions that make empathic relations possible. In short, the argument in this book is that, because they do not consider empathy, contemporary theoretical approaches to the politics of recognition lack political traction.

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