The Wisdom of Love

The Wisdom of Love

The Wisdom of Love

The Wisdom of Love

Synopsis

The Wisdom of Love examines the seemingly contradictory claims of universalism and partisanship for the ethnic or racial Other. In discussions of topics ranging from the work of the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas to the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s to the contending positions of Right and Left in the recent culture wars in Europe and the Americas, Finkielkraut cautions against both an unreflective universalism and an equally inflexible advocacy of the Other. He argues instead that genuine respect for the Other is inseparable from calls for universal justice and equality. Rather than being opposites, otherness and universalism are, for Finkielkraut, inextricably bound to one another.

Excerpt

To speak of love, as Alain Finkielkraut does in this book, evokes a conservative return to values, seemingly at odds with the critical project of modernity. But The Wisdom of Love is a deceptively titled work. Originally published in 1984 by a major French intellectual who had already authored a critique of American conservatism as well as a book on Jewish identity, and who would go on to write an iconoclastic work on the culture wars, this book aims to unsettle the easy distinction between cultural liberalism and conservatism that continues to shape contemporary debate. It was written as the Marxist project lost credibility with the Western left and as liberalism was challenged by the claims of cultural difference; its historical moment and its grounding in the ethical thought of Emmanuel Lévinas make it a unique rethinking of love as a critical ground for social thought. The wisdom Finkielkraut offers here is no rehash of traditional pieties but a way of thinking about the relationship between minority and majority culture in an increasingly multicultural age. The Wisdom of Love thus bears on two topics crucial to contemporary cultural politics: the problem of reconciling the right to cultural difference with the demands of community, and how the thought of Lévinas sketches a new position -- committed to universalism but also to preserving the particularism of Jewish and other minority cultures -- in our multicultural debates.

FINKIELKRAUT AND THE CULTURE WARS

Finkielkraut differs sharply from the American cultural conservatives in his views on the relation between minority and . . .

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