Jane Austen and Altruism

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Abstract

Jane Austen and Altruism identifies a compelling theme, namely, the view that Jane Austen propounds a rigorous, boundary-sensitive model of altruism that counters the human propensity to selfishness and promotes the culture of cooperation. In her days, altruism was commonly known as "benevolence", "charity," or "philanthropy", and these concepts overlap with Auguste Comte’s later definition of altruism as "otherism". This volume argues that Austen’s thinking co-opts the evolutionary idea that altruism is seldom truly pure, egoism cannot be eradicated, and boundless group altruism is not sustainable. However, given that she comes from a naval and clergy family, she witnesses the power of wartime patriotism, the Evangelical revival, the Regency culture of politeness, and the sentimental novels. In her novels, she locates human relationships along an altruism continuum that ranges from enlightened selfishness to pathological altruism. Unconditional love is hard to find, but empathy, kin altruism, reciprocal exchange, and group altruism are key to the formation of self-identity, family, community and the nation state.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge
Number of pages306
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9780429324888
ISBN (Print)9780367342999
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2020

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