What is Paulo Freire's view of love in social change, based on his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One of Paulo Freire's arguments laid out in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed concerns the fact that the oppressed and the oppressors are both equally dehumanized. The oppressed are dehumanized because they have been stripped of their ability think and act for themselves, whereas the oppressors are dehumanized because they dehumanizes others. He further argues that the act of liberation, which can only be achieved through the actions of the oppressed with the assistance of education, is an act of love.

He defines liberation as an act of love because as the oppressed fight to become fully human, they also take away the power of the oppressors "to dominate and suppress." In so doing, the oppressed "restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression" (p. 56). In other words, the oppressed demonstrate love by freeing not only themselves but the oppressors as well, and freeing the oppressors is a natural occurrence of removing the oppressors' power over others. Be that as it may, he further notes that the concept of this love is a bit paradoxical since the rebellion the oppressed need to initiate to be liberated is, almost always, as violent as the oppressors' violence towards the oppressed.

In addition, Freire defines the oppressors' act of fully joining in solidarity with the oppressed as "an act of love." Such solidarity is possible when the oppressor stops viewing the oppressed "as an abstract category," or as an other, and begins seeing the oppressed instead as "persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor" (p. 50). However, true solidarity must not be confused with charity as charity is only "false generosity" since, according to Freire, charity only serves to make the oppressed even more reliant on the oppressor. Only when the oppressor unites with the oppressed in the need for liberation and takes active steps towards liberation does the oppressor achieve true solidarity with the oppressed and demonstrate an act of love.

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