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About The Book:

Love and Violence

Insights from Shakespeare on Ethics, Psychology,
Theater and Law

By David A.J. Richards, Ethics Press, October 2023



Love and Violence offers both a philosophical and psychological theory of an aspect of human love, first noted by Plato and used by Freud in developing psychoanalysis, namely, lovers as mirrors for one another. Shakespeare’s art makes the same appeal—theater as a communal mirror—expressing the artist holding a loving mirror for his culture at a point of transitional crisis between a shame and guilt culture.


The book shows how Shakespeare’s plays offer better insights into the behavior of violent men than Freud’s, based on close empirical study of violent criminals (in the work of the psychiatrist James Gilligan); develops a theory of violence rooted in the moral emotions of shame and guilt; and a cultural psychology of the transition from shame to guilt cultures.

The work argues that violence is, contra Freud, not an ineliminable instinct in the nature of things, requiring autocracy, but arises from patriarchally inflicted cultural injuries to the love of equals that undermine democracy, and that only a therapy based on love can address such injuries, replacing retributive with restorative justice, and populist fascist autocracy with constitutional democracy based in respect for human rights. 

Love, thus understood, underlies a range of disparate phenomena: the appeal of Shakespeare’s theater as a communal art; the role of love in psychoanalysis; in Augustine’s quasi-psychoanalytic conception of God's love in religion and its corruption by patriarchal assumptions; in Kant’s anti-utilitarian ethics of dignity; in a naturalistic ethics that roots ethics in facts of human psychology; the role of law in democratic cultures as a mirror and critique of such cultures; and the basis of an egalitarian theory of universal human rights (inspired by Kant and developed, more recently, by John Rawls).

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About The Author

David A. J. Richards is Edwin D. Webb Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and is the author of numerous articles and over 20 books, including A Theory of Reasons for Action (Oxford: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1971); Sex, Drugs, Death and the Law: An Essay on Human Rights and Decriminalization (Totowa: Rowman & Littlefield, 1982); Toleration and the Constitution (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1986); Foundation of American Constitutionalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Conscience and the Constitution: History, Theory, and Law of the Reconstruction Amendments (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Women, Gays, and the Constitution: The Grounds for Feminism and Gay Rights in Culture and Law (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Italian American: The Racializing of an Ethnic Identity (New York: New York University Press, 1999); Resisting Injustice and the Feminist Ethics of Care in the Age of Obama: “Suddenly, All the Truth Was Coming Out” (New York: Routledge, 2013); Free Speech and the Politics of Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Disarming Manhood: Roots of Ethical Resistance (Athens: Swallow Press, 2003); The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy’s Future (with Carol Gilligan) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Darkness Now Visible: Patriarchy’s Resurgence and Feminist Resistance (with Carol Gilligan) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Patriarchal Religion, Sexuality, and Gender: A Critique of New Natural Law (with Nicholas Bamforth) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Fundamentalism in American Religion and Law: Obama’s Challenge to Patriarchy Threat to Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Why Love Leads to Justice: Love across the Boundaries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); The Rise of Gay Rights and the Fall of the British Empire: Liberal Resistance and the Bloomsbury Group (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Identity and the Case for Gay Rights: Race, Gender, Religion as Analogies (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Boys’ Secrets and Men’s Loves: A Memoir (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2019); and the recent Holding a Mirror Up to Nature: Shame, Guilt, and Violence in Shakespeare (with James Gilligan) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022).



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