Once upon a time, the philosophy of affection was a advantageous 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 distrust for its propensity to propose simple answers the place there are none. Self-help has its uses, nevertheless: it neatly undoes the facile concepts of left (we are powerless victims) and right (we have now whole company in our lives) alike, and it offers the calming reassurance that others out there are as messed up as you are.
Now comes the feminist cultural critic Bell Hooks together with her new book of essays, ''all about love new visions
About Love,'' written in a didactic style that would merge ethical philosophy with self-help. It is a warm affirmation that love is feasible and an attack on the culture of narcissism and selfishness. ''We yearn to end the lovelessness that's so pervasive in our society,'' she writes. ''This book tells us learn how to return to love.''
Her greatest points are easy ones. Neighborhood -- extended family, artistic or political collaboration, friendship -- is as important because the couple or the nuclear household; love is an artwork that involves work, not just the joys of attraction; desire could depend upon illusion, but love comes solely via painful fact-telling; work and money have changed the values of love and group, and this must be reversed.
In Hooks's view, ladies have little hope of happiness in a brutal tradition through which they are blindsided because ''most males use psychological terrorism as a way to subordinate ladies,'' whom they keep around ''to deal with all their needs.'' Males are raised to be ''extra concerned about sexual performance and sexual satisfaction than whether they are capable of giving and receiving love.'' Many males ''will, at times, choose to silence a companion with violence relatively than witness emotional vulnerability'' and ''typically turn away from real love and choose relationships wherein they are often emotionally withholding when they really feel prefer it but still obtain love from somebody else.'' Girls are also afraid of intimacy but ''focus more on finding a partner,'' no matter quality. The result's ''a gendered arrangement wherein men usually tend to get their emotional needs met while girls might 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 have to study generosity and ''the enjoyment that comes from service.''
Hooks contends that she and her long-term boyfriends were foiled by ''patriarchal considering'' and sexist gender roles and by no means had a chance. She is right that many women and men, gay and straight, still fall into conventional traps, however she does not spend much time on why some dive into them, nor does she consider that such just isn't everybody's fate. She takes her experience, neatly elides her own function in shaping it, universalizes and transliterates her frustrations into pop sociology.
Hooks's beliefs for love, her ''new visions,'' sound good, however there's something sterile and summary about them. The ingenious ways the mind has to console itself, the truth that relationships do not grant bliss and perfection, the important impossibility of satisfaction, how desire can conquer the desire -- to Hooks, these are but cynical delusions that might be thrust apart in a courageous new world prepared ''to affirm mutual love between free women and free men.''
Her invocation of master rhetoricians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton throws into painful reduction the strange Pollyanna quality of her prose; it's tough to imagine both of them starting a paragraph, as she does, with ''Once I first began to talk publicly about my dysfunctional household, my mom was enraged.'' She ends the book as Sleeping Beauty, awaiting ''the love that is promised'' and speaking to angels slightly than real people. Her book confirms fears about why jargon and prefabricated ideas, together with identity politics and self-help, so typically flatten expertise into cliché. Emotional waters run deep and wide. When one can't navigate them, it's possible to take refuge in a shallow, sentimental idealism.