Cover

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Frontmatter

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Series page

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p. ii

TItle page

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p. iii

Copyright page

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p. iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Series Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

THOSE WHO UNDERTAKE A study of American political thought must attend to the great theorists, philosophers, and essayists. Such a study is incomplete, however, if it neglects American literature, one of the greatest repositories of the nation’s political thought and teachings. America’s literature is distinctive because it is, above all, intended ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

OUR THANKS GO FIRST to Patrick Deneen, the series editor, and Stephen Wrinn, Allison Webster, Susan Murray, and the rest of the UPK staff for making this volume possible. With everyone else today who takes Emerson’s politics seriously, we are deeply indebted to the authors of this volume’s four “classic” essays, Wilson Carey McWilliams, Judith Shklar, ...

Abbreviations

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p. xi

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Introduction: The New History of Emerson's Politics and His Philosophy of Self-Reliance

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pp. 1-40

IF MELVILLE, THOREAU, AND other major American authors have suffered signifi cant periods of neglect, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) has never wanted for commentators. And yet from The Centenary of the Birth of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903) forward, none of the many collections of essays dedicated to Emerson has focused exclusively on his political thought ...

Part I

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pp. 41-42

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Chapter 1. Emerson: THe All and the One

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pp. 43-52

AMERICANS OF THE nineteenth century acclaimed Ralph Waldo Emerson with an impressive unanimity. They lavished on him all the accolades that the schoolmen had reserved for Aristotle; he was nonpareil, the sage, the philosopher, the metaphysician. Even Julian Hawthorne, carrying on a family tradition of distaste for the seer of Concord, felt obliged to call ...

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Chapter 2. Emerson and the Inhibitions of Democracy

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pp. 53-68

EMERSON MAY NOT HAVE been what is conventionally called a political philosopher, but political considerations played a more subtle part in his thinking than mere expressions of opinion on public affairs would suggest. For Emerson, the beliefs and practices of American representative democracy constituted an integral moral barrier which he could neither ...

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Chapter 3. Self-Reliance, Politics, and Society

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pp. 69-90

AT THIS POINT, a reasonable question may arise. What provision does Emerson make for a self-reliant individual to work with others, to cooperate and collaborate? No doubt the very idea of association disturbs self-reliant people when association moves out of a small circle of friends and includes numbers of people, many of them strangers or only acquaintances. When ...

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Chapter 4. Aversive Thinking: Emersonian Representations in Heidegger and Nietzsche

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pp. 91-122

IN TAKING THE PERSPECTIVE of the Carus Lectures as an opportunity to recommend Emerson, despite all, to the closer attention of the American philosophical community, I hope I may be trusted to recognize how generally impertinent his teachings, in style and in material, can sound to philosophical ears—including still, from time to time, despite all, my ...

Part II

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pp. 123-124

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Chapter 5. Self-Reliance and Complicity: Emerson's Ethics of Citizenship

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pp. 125-151

EMERSON IS NOT KNOWN as a voice of social or civic responsibility. Wilson Carey McWilliams lambastes him as antipolitical: “Emerson saw in man . . . a deifi ed self, independent of other individuals and the democratic public alike. . . . [I]ndividualistic romanticism, not democracy, was the logical result of his teaching.”1 ...

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Chapter 6. The Limits of Self-Reliance: Emerson, Slavery, and Abolition

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pp. 152-184

“SELF-RELIANCE” IS CENTRAL to the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, his most famous and attractive idea. Emerson challenges the individual to “set at naught books and traditions,” to “be a nonconformist,” to recognize that ideas, books, religions, institutions, and occupations acquire life and value only when an individual enlivens them with his or her own ...

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Chapter 7. Emerson, Self-Reliance, and the Politics of Democracy

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pp. 185-220

THERE WAS A TIME when most scholars assumed that Emerson’s transcendental philosophy, with its emphasis on self-reliance, was antithetical to political activism. Even though Henry Steele Commager asserted in his Era of Reform: 1830–1860 (1960) that “Emerson [was] the cow from which [reformers] all drew their milk,” it was generally assumed that Transcendentalists ...

Part III

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pp. 221-222

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Chapter 8. Skeptical Triangle? A Comparison of the Political Thought of Emerson, Nietzsche, and Montaigne

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pp. 223-264

THIS ESSAY SHARPENS OUR understanding of the exact nature and consequences of Emerson’s political thought by contrasting it to the thought of the skeptic Emerson most admired, Montaigne, and the skeptic with whom he is today most often compared, Nietzsche. In contradistinction to almost all scholars who have written on these connections in the past ...

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Chapter 9. Emerson's Politics, Retranscendentalized

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pp. 265-304

IN HIS FIRST BOOK, the 1836 Nature, Emerson famously proclaimed, “I am part or particle of God” (E&L, 10). For the next forty years, Emerson continued to express this conviction, not only about himself but about all human beings: “the doctrine,” as he put it in the 1841 “Lecture on the Times,” “of the indwelling of the Creator in man” (E&L, 167). All of Emerson’s ...

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Chapter 10. Emerson's Transcendental Gaze and the "Disagreeable Particulars" of Slavery: Vision and the Costs of Idealism

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pp. 305-340

EMERSON DESCRIBES IDEALISM as “a manner of looking at things.”1 In a fundamental way, he reminds us of the deep connection between thinking and seeing: the term “theory” derives from the Greek theoria, which means to look at, view, or see something but also to contemplate and think about it. For Emerson, transcendental idealism was primarily a ...

Part IV

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pp. 341-342

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Chapter 11. Property in Being: Liberalism and the Language of Ownership in Emerson's Writing

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pp. 343-382

AN INTERESTING FAMILY OF words appears at important moments throughout Emerson’s writing. Near the beginning of his fi rst major work, Nature (1836), Emerson draws on the language of ownership to urge his readers to look afresh at the world around them: “There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts” ...

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Chapter 12. Standing for Others: Reform and Representation in Emerson's Political Thought

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pp. 383-414

WAS RALPH WALDO EMERSON a democratic theorist? And, if so, which aspects of his political thought provide the best resources for thinking through the dilemmas of contemporary democratic theory? In recent years, a scholarly revaluation of Emerson’s politics has engaged deeply with these questions, enriching the study of American political thought ...

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Chapter 13. Emerson's Democratic Platonism in Representative Men

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pp. 415-450

THIS VOLUME HAS SOUGHT to correct two trends in Emerson scholarship— the underappreciation of Emerson’s political thought, and the tendency to read doctrines and positions into Emerson that belong more to ourselves (or to our enemies) than to him. Scholars tend to assimilate Emerson to what is familiar and useful. His works ask for this mistreatment ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 451-462

Contributors

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pp. 463-466

Index

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pp. 467-487