Religion, Democracy, and Work: Emerson and Economic Crisis
Brown University - Department of Religious Studies
Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper
When our interpretations of Emersonﾒs political thought includeﾗrather than dodge or defuseﾗhis religion, our accounts of his work are enhanced. Among other things, we stand to learn much about his contributions to the democracy theory of his day and of our own, and new and bright light is cast on Deweyﾒs claim that ﾓEmerson is not only a philosopher, but that he is the Philosopher of Democracy.ﾔ I will highlight Emersonﾒs early and late religiosity, mainly focusing on the Divinity School Address (1838) and Worshipﾔ (1860). In these essays, we see an evolving, normative conception of religion in relation to democracy, or what I will call Emerson's spiritual democracy. I will identify two central and interrelated components of this Emersonian spiritual democracy, namely, self-reliance and work. These virtues belong to his conception of a democratic character and cultureﾗthat is, to the identity of a democratic nation and its citizens. In particular, I will highlight what he called the democratic practice, ﾓworkﾔﾗEmersonﾒs an attempt to address the anomie and hardship that was brought on by rapid economic change.
Date posted: April 6, 2010
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