A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreauby Jack Turner
Pub. Date: 06/11/2009
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
The writings of Henry David Thoreau (1817 -- 1862) have captivated scholars, activists, and ecologists for more than a century. Less attention, however, has been paid to the author's political philosophy and its influence on American public life. Although Thoreau's doctrine of civil disobedience has become a touchstone in world history, the greater part of his
The writings of Henry David Thoreau (1817 -- 1862) have captivated scholars, activists, and ecologists for more than a century. Less attention, however, has been paid to the author's political philosophy and its influence on American public life. Although Thoreau's doctrine of civil disobedience has become a touchstone in world history, the greater part of his political legacy is often overlooked. A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau is the first comprehensive volume focused exclusively on Thoreau's political thought.In sixteen incisive essays, editor Jack Turner and other noted scholars illuminate the unexamined aspects of Thoreau's life and writings. Turner's introduction surveys the scholarship that first explored Thoreau's politics, and the book's opening essays examine the complex relationship between Thoreau's work and both classical and modern elements of democratic theory. The contributors show that Thoreau espoused democratic ideals of equality and individual liberty while questioning the authority of majoritarian, representative governments.A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau also places Thoreau's work within the context of American history and politics. Here, Thoreau emerges as an unflinching, prophetic voice against the horrors of slavery and the subjugation of Native Americans. Thoreau's mistrust of the constitutional rule of law, however, puts him in opposition to Abraham Lincoln and other acclaimed defenders of the American democratic experiment. Thoreau's reluctance to engage with governmental systems also influenced twentieth-century environmentalists in ways sometimes perceived as detrimental to the goals of conservation and responsible stewardship.Other essays examine the metaphysical and ethical concerns animating Thoreau's politics. Thoreau's example shows that solitary quests for connection to nature and the spiritual realm, and the insights that emerge as a result, are politically consequential because they set the stage for critical awareness and civil disobedience. The book concludes with essays that compare Thoreau to Rousseau, Adorno, Gandhi, and other philosophers, situating Thoreau within the canon of classical and contemporary political theory.Combining both new and classic essays, this book examines the far-reaching political significance of a great American thinker. A Political Companion to Henry David Thoreau is a landmark reference, exploring Thoreau's political philosophy more thoroughly than ever before as well as demonstrating the continuing relevance of his ideas to the American political landscape.Jack Turner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington, has published articles on Tocqueville, Emerson, Thoreau, and Ellison in such journals as Political Theory, Raritan, and Polity.
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