Emerson and Self-Reliance

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Overview

During much of his life in the early 1800s, Ralph Waldo Emerson was considered as a radical thinker. His opposition to established religious opinion and to slavery was scandalous. It was Emerson's deep commitment to individualism that is at the root of his disdain. His articulation of individualism is constant, whether aimed against the group mind or institutional constrictions. Kateb has written this book to bring Emerson into our conception of modernity. Kateb gives a reading of Emerson which is friendly to the interests of Nietzsche and to later Nietzscheans including Weber, Heidegger, Arendt and Foucault.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
This reprint is distinguished by a new preface reconsidering Emerson's , a work that goes undiscussed in the text proper (Kateb moves toward the notion that Emerson's divinization of humanity renders the balance with nature lost, "its mute appeal denied"). Nonetheless, Kateb (politics, Princeton U.) views Emerson as a radical for his commitment to individualism as an ideal suitable for democracy. Emerson calls it "self-reliance" and Kateb distinguishes between the mental and active kinds, suggesting Emerson elevates intellectual independence above independence of character and practical achievement. Nietzsche is held up as Emerson's best reader, Kateb aspiring to a reading of Emerson friendly to Nietzsche's interests. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Esq: Journal Of American Renaissance
In this original treatment, which offers new insightson one of Emerson's central ideas as well as on his political theory,Kateb portrays an Emerson who is indispensable for thinking about America, as important as Jefferson and Lincoln.
— Eric Wilson
American Literature
There is no recent study that so convincingly shows that Emerson anticipates (and rivals) Nietzsche as a sustained practitioner of multiple perspectivism and that Emersonian self-reliance is therefore 'not one particular substantive or doctrinal principle like other ones.' In this and other ways, Kateb has deepened, and usefully complicated, our understanding of Emerson.
— Richard F. Teichgraber, III
College English
By emphasizing mental self-reliance Kateb reasserts Emerson the Transcendentalist and makes a compelling case for the political importance of this dimension of Emerson's thought. . . . For [Kateb] Emerson's construction of self-reliance serves as a vital, but problematic, model that political philosophers can situate as both the foundation and the consummation of a theory of democratic civil society.
— T. Gregory Garver
Critical Inquiry
An important contribution. . . . Kateb] has an excellent discussion of how antagonism and contrast lie at the heart of Emerson's notion of identity.
— Sharon Cameron
ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
In this original treatment, which offers new insightson one of Emerson's central ideas as well as on his political theory,Kateb portrays an Emerson who is indispensable for thinking about America, as important as Jefferson and Lincoln.
— Eric Wilson
ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance - Eric Wilson
In this original treatment, which offers new insightson one of Emerson's central ideas as well as on his political theory,Kateb portrays an Emerson who is indispensable for thinking about America, as important as Jefferson and Lincoln.
American Literature - Richard F. Teichgraber
There is no recent study that so convincingly shows that Emerson anticipates (and rivals) Nietzsche as a sustained practitioner of multiple perspectivism and that Emersonian self-reliance is therefore 'not one particular substantive or doctrinal principle like other ones.' In this and other ways, Kateb has deepened, and usefully complicated, our understanding of Emerson.
College English - T. Gregory Garver
By emphasizing mental self-reliance Kateb reasserts Emerson the Transcendentalist and makes a compelling case for the political importance of this dimension of Emerson's thought. . . . For [Kateb] Emerson's construction of self-reliance serves as a vital, but problematic, model that political philosophers can situate as both the foundation and the consummation of a theory of democratic civil society.
Leo Marx
Emerson, in George Kateb's engagingly lucid and compelling account, is the American Shakespeare. Kateb justifies this bold claim by demonstrating the poetic amplitude, incisiveness, impersonality, and authority of Emerson's thought. With Emerson, to be sure, the dramatist's characters are replaced by ideas, and one idea—'self-reliance'—dominates all the rest. The chief imperative for citizens of a democracy, according to Kateb's Emerson, is a steady effort to think one's own thoughts and to think them through. This radical principle defines the philosophy of democratic individuality, a distinctively modern creed whose founding genius—Kateb persuasively reveals—was Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Critical Inquiry - Sharon Cameron
An important contribution. . . . Kateb] has an excellent discussion of how antagonism and contrast lie at the heart of Emerson's notion of identity.
American Literature - Richard F. Teichgraber III
There is no recent study that so convincingly shows that Emerson anticipates (and rivals) Nietzsche as a sustained practitioner of multiple perspectivism and that Emersonian self-reliance is therefore 'not one particular substantive or doctrinal principle like other ones.' In this and other ways, Kateb has deepened, and usefully complicated, our understanding of Emerson.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803938670
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Modernity and Political Thought Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

George Kateb is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University.
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Table of Contents

Self-Reliance and the Life of the Mind
Redeeming the Frustations of Experience
The Question of Religiousness
Friendship and Love
Individuality and Identity
Self-Reliance, Politics and Society

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