Passion, Affection, Community: Love and Politics

Seminar critical cultural theory (Pt. I – first term)



  • September 27, 2012 (double session, 10.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00)
  • October 18 (double session, 10.00-13.00, 14.00-17.00)
  • November 22 (10.00-13.00)

SYMPOSIUM: December 13/14

Love is one of the central themes in the history of philosophy and literature. One may even say that it is in those discourses the concept of worldly love (eros), as distinct from divine Christian love (agape), is invented. At the very core of human affections, love is an example for normalizing discourses on subjectivity yet it contains its own logics of subversion. This ambivalence still marks its contemporary philosophical discussion between ethics and ontology.

Because of the fundamental importance for subjectivity traditionally attributed to love, love appears to be a tremendously political subject from the very beginning. It coincides with affectionate forms of political solidarity, has to do with forms of commitment and with the shaping of affects to produce forms of concord. In gender and queer theoretical perspectives, intimacy is politically loaded in yet another respect: which forms of intimacy will be legitimized? And, more fundamentally: How have they been constituted in the first place?

In the seminar we will study some of the central figures of this history reconstructing both the roots of humanist framings of subjectivity and its critique. In our readings we will refer to classical texts of Plato, where love appears as a powerful response to beauty; to Spinoza’s the ideas of affect and cooperation, Kierkegaard, where a modern subject takes shape and the narcissism inherent in love is reflected. In addition to and as a critique of the tradition we will discuss post-humanist and gender theoretical positions such as the one of Hardt & Negri, where love is re-established as a political concept and Sara Ahmed, focussing on the political logics of affective economies.

The reading is contingent on the interests and contribution of PhD students: PHD students who work on related issues are welcome to present their projects. The first session (September 27) will be on selections from Plato, Aristotle (and most likely a number of Neoplatonist and Humanist philosophers). (Copies will be available.)

People who would like to join the group are asked to send an email to Johan Hartle (

Selected research master students may participate in this PhD seminar and have it count as a 6  EC tutorial for their studies. Please contact the organizer(s) for eligibility and further details.