Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire

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Princeton University Press, Jan 10, 2009 - Political Science - 288 pages

Tolerance is generally regarded as an unqualified achievement of the modern West. Emerging in early modern Europe to defuse violent religious conflict and reduce persecution, tolerance today is hailed as a key to decreasing conflict across a wide range of other dividing lines-- cultural, racial, ethnic, and sexual. But, as political theorist Wendy Brown argues in Regulating Aversion, tolerance also has dark and troubling undercurrents.

Dislike, disapproval, and regulation lurk at the heart of tolerance. To tolerate is not to affirm but to conditionally allow what is unwanted or deviant. And, although presented as an alternative to violence, tolerance can play a part in justifying violence--dramatically so in the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. Wielded, especially since 9/11, as a way of distinguishing a civilized West from a barbaric Islam, tolerance is paradoxically underwriting Western imperialism.

Brown's analysis of the history and contemporary life of tolerance reveals it in a startlingly unfamiliar guise. Heavy with norms and consolidating the dominance of the powerful, tolerance sustains the abjection of the tolerated and equates the intolerant with the barbaric. Examining the operation of tolerance in contexts as different as the War on Terror, campaigns for gay rights, and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, Brown traces the operation of tolerance in contemporary struggles over identity, citizenship, and civilization.


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User Review  - brleach - LibraryThing

This book is a thorough and nuanced account of the operation of tolerance discourse as articulated by Western liberalism. Brown is attentive to detail, clear in her reasoning, probing in her ... Read full review

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An earlier review highly praised the acuity of analysis of this book, but degraded their opinion because it wasn't "groundbreaking". Do not let this small remark deter you from this book in any way, as what Wendy Brown achieves here so successfully is to create solid ground on this topic. While many others have contributed essential work to this field of inquiry, Wendy Brown's talent is to succinctly collect the broadest spectrum of concerns within the field and express them clearly. Her clarity of language and quality of analysis makes this title, nearly a decade on from its initial publication, an essential introduction to what is one of the most vital and underestimated fields of inquiry for critical and social theory today. 



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About the author (2009)

Wendy Brown is professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also a member of the Critical Theory Faculty. Her books include Edgework: Essays on Knowledge and Politics, Politics Out of History, and States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (all Princeton).

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