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  • Why Love Leads to Justice: Love across the Boundaries by David A. J. Richards
  • Dawn Rae Flood
Why Love Leads to Justice: Love across the Boundaries. By David A. J. Richards. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. 270. $85.00 (cloth); $31.00 (paper).

Constitutional scholar David A. J. Richards's book adds to a growing body of his scholarship that considers social justice and how individuals forge new paths of acceptance and equality. His latest offering places intimate relationships at the center of his research while simultaneously exploring how artistic and scholarly works challenge injustice. In this book Richards continues the project of exposing the psychological trauma imposed by patriarchy not only on individuals but also upon the institutional practices and ideologies that are affected by strict adherence to its prescriptions. Why Love Leads to Justice attempts to illustrate how egalitarian, loving relationships that specifically violate what he calls the Love Laws—laws designed to keep patriarchal hierarchies in place—can shape resistance.

The book opens with an explanation of the damages that patriarchy has inflicted upon justice, insofar as it is a system that supports a distinct hierarchy of social positions: the presumed superiority of certain races, genders, religions, and classes. Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia—what Richards calls "some of the worst structural injustices in our world" (209)—are held in place by Love Laws, which criminalize or socially condemn anything that challenges patriarchy. Richards uses the somewhat clunky shorthand of "gender binary and hierarchy" (15) to explain how patriarchy orders social relations in such a way as to privilege the rule (hieros) of the father (pater). By beginning the book with a definition of patriarchy and how it contradicts the universality of human rights, Richards takes seriously the ethical and emotional trauma that patriarchal mandates impose upon those who resist them, and he anticipates the transformative potential of individuals who transgress social boundaries. In seeking out egalitarian and loving relationships, including same-sex, interracial, or extramarital relationships that violate the Love Laws, people have challenged patriarchal injustice even under the most politically difficult circumstances. Richards calls his research "a book of love stories" (1), but it is more than that.

The case studies he uses involve a number of individuals who, in one way or another, defied the gender binary and hierarchy. He begins with the examples of Harriet Taylor and George Henry Lewes, who were married when both began extramarital affairs: Taylor with John Stuart Mill and Lewes with George Eliot (Marian Evans). Although these heterosexual relationships between individuals with similar backgrounds did not transgress the boundaries that Richards analyzes, such as same-sex and interracial relationships, they nonetheless violated Victorian-era social mores. Richards points out how some of Mill's most profound work, that which established the fundamental principles of political liberalism (On Liberty, The Subjection of Women), were created in true collaboration with Taylor after the two [End Page 181] began their relationship. Similarly, Eliot's talents as a female writer in the nineteenth century were muted until her relationship with Lewes allowed her to break free of gendered constraints, leading to the publication of novels (Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda) on par with the great male writers of her day. These examples illustrate how political theorists and literary figures could challenge injustice by exposing the inequities inherent in patriarchy.

The other case studies presented involve same-sex relationships, which Richards deploys as further evidence for his central thesis that love can, and indeed does, inspire the pursuit of social justice. It is an argument more successfully made in some cases than in others. Focusing on the remarkable artistic collaboration that emerged from the long-term relationship of composer Benjamin Britten and singer-muse Peter Pears, Richards argues that after finding each other and rejecting British imperial rule and homophobia, these two British men were able to produce some of the most important operatic works of the mid-twentieth century, works such as Peter Grimes and Billy Budd that exposed social injustice to a broader audience. This argument works less effectively in the case of Wystan Auden, who attempted to transgress the Love Laws, first in his brief sexual...


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pp. 181-183
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