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Love in a time of empire: an engagement with the political thought of Tolstoy, Tagore and Camus

Hartnett, Liane (2018) Love in a time of empire: an engagement with the political thought of Tolstoy, Tagore and Camus. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Hannah Arendt once wrote, ‘Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical, perhaps the most powerful of all antipolitical human forces’. Situated in the interstices of intellectual history, international political theory and literature, this thesis is my attempt to think through this claim. I do this via an engagement with the thought of three liminal literary figures, namely, Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Albert Camus (1913-1960). Reading their literary work alongside their more conventionally understood political writings, I explore how they conceived, evoked and ‘mobilised’ love in the context of Russian, British and French imperialism. Further, I argue that political conceptions of love in this period (circa 1880-1960) were not rare. Rather, love was evoked in the political work of canonical figures associated with International Relations. In this thesis, I aim to make love a serious object of study in International Relations. Indeed, despite the burgeoning literature on aesthetics and emotions, there is no systematic study of love in the discipline. I argue a thematic focus on love not only illuminates neglected dimensions of the thought of canonical figures, but brings to light the political work of forgotten ones. Considering the myriad of ways in which love is ‘mobilised’ in the works of Tolstoy, Tagore, Camus and their contemporaries, I offer an account of love as part of a social imaginary – or what Charles Taylor describes as the ‘background’ that enables practices and confers legitimacy – variously hospitable and hostile to empire and politics. I argue that not all loves are conducive to politics. However, to the extent that the polis is populated by plural loves, love is integral to the study of International Relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Liane Marie Hartnett
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Brown, Chris

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