Notes on: Lanas, M & Zembylas, M (2014) 'Towards a Transformational Political Concept of Love in Critical Education'.  Studies in the Philosophy of Education, 34: 31-44.  Doi: 10.1007/s11217-014-9424-5

Dave Harris

[Looks like one of those hilarious attempts to argue that love is both supreme and also easily defined in six terms. Christianity really in a mild 'liberation theology form. Attempts to specify are all tautologous -- transformational love is quite different from any other kind, and we can identify it by its transformative power etc. Lots of asset-stripping of some person called Chabot]

Love need not be contrasted with power, and social justice can be associated with 'a love ethic' [citing hooks] (31).  Emotions can support protest and the development of social movements [the Nazis were very good at this].  Anger can lead to protest against injustice, but it should not lead to further tyranny.  Love is not just personal relations but a political emotion, and we should aim at moral nonviolent and loving notions of social justice.  Love can lead to transformation.  There can be '"revolutionary love"' to guide us (33)

[Lots of classifications and sub categories of love ensue. Oh dear].  Love is not normally discussed in formal education, but it is connected to critical education as in revolutionary love.  It also introduces a necessary dimension which escapes measurement and competition.  Biesta reminds us that education does not only provide us with qualifications, but socializes and subjectifies as well.  The last one produces independent individuals [no Foucaldian suspicions then]. Love deepens the notion of socialization and subjectification.  Freire emphasises the ethics of love, for example in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where teachers need to risk an act of love as a part of solidarity.  In Pedagogy of Hope he talks about '"armed love"', where those fighting for justice see what they do as an act of love (34).  This does not involve sentiment or psychologism, but a political project. However, the concept is not well defined in Freire, and others have tried to expand it [list on 34—it all seems to involve empowerment, commitment and caring, overcoming oppression and the like].  Activism becomes armed love.  Transformative love copes with despair, and addresses others and the injustice they experience.  It identifies the good, focuses on others not self, and aims at justice and the toleration of difference.

However, there is still a need to develop emotion and affect as an essential part of critical pedagogy.  First we have to try and pin down what love is, because at the moment it means anything to anybody [says hooks].  It must be separated from patriarchal love, for example.  However static definitions are problematic, and we need to preserve instead an approach which is 'relational, political and transformative'(35).  There are no less than six interrelated perspectives, which are 'different ways of looking at love' (36) and offer a new ways of thinking about critical education.  The intention is to lead to ways of considering socialization and subjectification.

Love is an emotion, something embodied and performative, not just a feeling, and not 'pure'.  It can be risky because we become vulnerable, especially if the other does not respond.  It is not a simple antidote to despair, but the way of responding to it, choosing 'to move against fear, against alienation and separation'.  Love involves choice, and this choice must be constantly reaffirmed and renewed.  Love is also a response to others, connecting us to others, and at one level, this is 'engrained [sic] in existence itself' (37), so not a choice, because we always must respond, even if to turn away.  We choose how to respond not whether.  A response can also affect the 'possible selves of others', so we have an ethical responsibility not to close off options: that in itself is 'a loving response', which welcomes others and difference.

Love is relational, involved in dialogue and relationships with other people [then an odd bit quoting feminists saying that love is actually produced by social and gendered relations - so it must be dominating in its actual forms?].  We can relate to others in various ways, according to Chabot—compete, isolate ourselves, act charitably, coordinate with others, and link self with self as a form of love.  If we are to form a loving link, we must cease to prioritize ourself, attend towards the situation and the other, and act on 'the presumption that "good" exists and is the object of love' (38) [all very Christian].  If love is a relation, it appears differently in different places and contexts, and it is potentially transformational as well if it can be materialized.

Love is political, reflecting power relations.  It is affected by previous experiences and contexts, and may act like Bourdieu's habitus.  Emotions are shared by individuals and important in identities and collective behaviour.  Love can form social bonds, but also be used to exclude and hate others, so we have to be careful with its collective dimensions [!].  Who gets loved is a political matter, and who decides what is appropriate expression of love.  We should think of it as the source of suitable 'collective becoming' [and Hardt and Negri are cited here -- that Levinas stuff I assume].

Love can be understood as praxis, both an intention and an action, and thinking of actions immediately includes accountability and responsibility.  Love may be expressed by 'voluntary acts of care, responsibility, respect, knowledge'(39) [citing Chabot again] [these terms are then briefly defined, in rather repetitive ways].  However, acting is not necessarily a clear indication of love.  Revolutionary love requires consistent effort and a clear orientation towards others, '"based on giving rather than just receiving"'[Chabot again, or was it Jesus].  Giving is not just something we sacrifice, but something we use to 'enrich the other person' [luckily, it seems we can give all sorts of non economic goods like understanding and humour].  [Then a bit of classic tautology] 'love is praxis, because it transforms and transports'.  It changes our ontology because it shows us the truth about social relations.

We need to pay more attention to it in education.  Education can be critical whether it involves love or not, but we should be thinking in terms of 'transformative love' (40) and its connections to socialization and subjectification.  Transformative love asks us to consider why love flourishes better in some social contexts than in others -- not in market economies where there's lots of measurement and competition.  These nasty values have been asserted by specific power interests, and asking about love raises important questions about the values of education.  We also need to look at everyday practices and encounters, and how these can produce emotions such as anger and whole [negative]  emotional cultures.  We need to go beyond anger and indignation to assert love, since anger only perpetuates cycles of repression, through reification and reiteration.  Anger is not natural, and nor is it the only motive for revolt. 

Focusing on love means we can develop new practices in formal education.  Love is not always present in other institutions like families.  We need to deliberately intend to love.  This will involve changing practices.  [Lots more Chabot/Jesus...].  We need to discipline our thoughts about loving relationships, increase our powers to concentrate on what's meaningful, develop patience, and make loving ties our primary concern.  We need to work out what this means in particular contexts, so that developing discipline could mean teaching about love [good old PSE, or religious instruction], or forgiveness especially in societies with a history of conflict. We need to turn from merely 'instrumentalist efficiency' (42), we need to demonstrate patience rather than measurable learning, and allow for difficult emotions.  We need to give the same emphasis to love as we do with exam results, to prevent, for example, alienation and drop out.

We need to extend Chabot [that's practically the entirety of this].  Revolutionary love strengthens transformation, and restores the emphasis on socialization and subjectification.  It will encourage the focus on the emotions generally, and help deal with 'fear, shame, hatred, despair and anger'.  It would not be easy to turn these into revolutionary love, and it will require 'patient, and knowledgeable and disciplined effort'.  We should not avoid emotions, but speak openly about love.  We have to avoid 'the trap of sentimental or scorned love', and Ahmed is suspicious about those who claim to act in the name of love, especially if it means turning against other people.  Love should not be a matter of simple opposition, but a way of transforming people's lives.  Transformative love should be separated from these other kinds [entirely tautologous again]

Chabot, S. (2008) 'Love and Revolution'.  Critical Sociology, 34 (6): 803-828.

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