Gentleness is an enigma. Taken up in a double movement of welcoming and giving, it appears on the threshold of passages signed off by birth and death. Because it has its degrees of intensity, because it is a symbolic force, and because it has a transformative ability over things and beings, it is a power.
The simplicity of gentleness is misleading. It is an active passivity that may become an extraordinary force of symbolic resistance and, as such, become central to both ethics and politics. Gentleness is a force of secret life-giving transformation linked to what the ancients called potentiality.
In our day, gentleness is sold to us under its related form of diluted mawkishness. By infantilizing it our era denies it. This is how we try to overcome the high demands of its subtlety—no longer by fighting it, but by enfeebling it. Language itself is therefore perverted: what our society intends to give the human beings that it crushes “gently,” it does in the name of the highest values: happiness, truth, security.
From listening to those who come to me and confide their despair, I have heard it expressed in every lived experience. I have felt its force of resistance and its intangible magic. In mediating its relation to the world, it appears that its intelligence carries life, saves and amplifies it.
“Power of Gentleness achieves [the] incredible feat of being a gentle book. . . . . One of the most surprising points of the book is the argument that the true enemy of gentleness is . . . gentleness. Fake gentleness, mawkishness, this passivity sold to us via every new age commercial technique. . . . True gentleness contains an element of negativity, . . . and therein lies the crux of the problem: gentleness has its own dialectic. . . . Power of Gentleness is an important text that teaches us, comforts us, disturbs us too, that in any case touches us, always, at every moment. From this book that is so devoted to fragility, the reader emerges—and this is incontestable—that much stronger.”
— from Catherine Malabou's Foreword
About the Author:
Anne Dufourmantelle, philosopher and psychoanalyst, taught a seminar on philosophy at EGS (European Graduate School) and a seminar in Paris on psychoanalysis. She also rans a philosophy chronicle every month in the daily paper Liberation. Her most recent nonfiction book is Défense du Secret and novel is L'Envers du feu.
Catherine Malabou, holder of Visiting Chairs in numerous North American universities, currently teaches philosophy at the CRMEP (Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy) at Kingston University (UK) . The most recent of her books are, with Judith Butler, You Will Be My Body for Me (forthcoming in English), and Changing Difference: The Feminine in Philosophy.