They Call It Love: The Politics of Emotional Life

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    Alva Gotby

    Publisher: Verso

    Year: 2024

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 193 pages

    ISBN: 9781839767043

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The work of love is a feminist problem, and it demands feminist solutions

Comforting a family member or friend, soothing children, providing company for the elderly, ensuring that people feel well enough to work; this is all essential labour. Without it, capitalism would cease to function.
They Call It Love investigates the work that makes a haven in a heartless world, examining who performs this labor, how it is organised, and how it might change. In this groundbreaking book, Alva Gotby calls this work “emotional reproduction,” unveiling its inherently political nature. It not only ensures people’s well-being but creates sentimental attachments to social hierarchy and the status quo. Drawing on the thought of the feminist movement Wages for Housework, Gotby demonstrates that emotion is a key element of capitalist reproduction. To improve the way we relate to one another will require a radical restructuring of society.

What People Are Saying
"Intellectually nourished my thinking and language on gender."
—Raymond Antrobus, Best Books of 2023, Granta

"A fascinating and exhaustive explanation as to why emotions are a political issue."
—Brit Dawson, AnOther Magazine

They Call It Love shines a light on the invisible labour involved in love, examining who is responsible for performing it, how it can blossom, and why we do it."
—Adele Walton, Dazed

"Gotby makes clear our emotional lives are inherently political. Her analysis of the politics of reproductive labour is a cogent criticism of the bourgeois capitalist logics of feeling, of the free labour of intimacy and of normative femininity."
—Adele Cassigneul, Mai

"Gotby's narrative masterfully outlines how emotions, feelings and their manifestations tend to be portrayed, and understood, as a feminine domain of expertise ... Gotby brilliantly dismantles the silences and abuses surrounding this invisible work by naming it and showing its societal (and capital) worth"
—Patrycja Sosnowska-Buxton, Sociological Review

They Call It Love is a very fine book – one that balances polemical force with careful and rigorous research. In advancing its account of emotional reproduction, it brings together existing bodies of work on unwaged social reproduction and remunerated emotional labour to great effect, shining a light upon a too often overlooked (and heavily gendered) form of work. It is sharp, thoughtful, and well-written, and represents a substantial scholarly achievement. Alva Gotby is a writer and thinker to watch out for."
—Helen Hester, author of Xenofeminism, co-author of After Work

"This thorough book sheds new light on the critics of the political economy on emotional life. It is a welcome addition to the studies on the social meaning of the immaterial production that takes place in the domestic sphere.
The Call It Love is a fascinating insider's account of the hidden, economic dimension of our emotional lives whose subject matter will make for passionate arguments and conversations among feminists and scholars in general."
—Leopoldina Fortunati, author of The Arcane of Reproduction

"Gotby's book importantly attempts to underscore and theorise the role of emotions within social reproduction theory. Her concept of 'emotional reproduction' is a reminder that fife-making work is not devoid of affect."
—Sara Farris, author of In the Name of Women's Rights

They Call It Love is a call to attention: Alva Gotby astutely maps the work of emotional support and care that is done day in and day out and across everyday life. Gotby not only insists that more value be attributed to emotional reproduction, but makes a sophisticated and compelling case for a radical repurposing of emotions, needs, and desires in the struggle for change - a struggle that is necessarily also a struggle for new ways of being together."
—Emma Dowling, author of The Care Crisis
About the Author
Alva Gotby holds a PhD in Media Studies from the University of West London and an MA in Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University. Her writing has been published in MaI: Feminism and Visual Culture, Blindfield: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, and Feminist Review, as well as in outlets in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. She frequently speaks at conferences related to Marxism, feminism and queer politics.

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