Compassion and Critique

Harris, Angela P.

In this Essay, I am interested in the relationship among ideology, ideological critique, and emotion. I argue that the ideological critique produced by Marx in the nineteenth century and by critical legal theorists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries undertakes not only to persuade our minds but also to rally our emotions. To accomplish this, critical theorists show us that ideology is already a technique of emotion management. Ideology makes suffering invisible and compassion inappropriate by assuring us that the status quo is natural, normal, and necessary. Ideological critique, in turn, reveals the suffering beneath the bland façade of ideological concepts like "capital" and "property." It tries to persuade us, moreover, that this suffering is unjust and unnecessary: that politics and not nature is its source, and that we should act to relieve it.


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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 20, 2012