'Get Drunk'!: Baudelaire's Defiant Liberalism

4 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2021

See all articles by Cass R. Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: October 22, 2021


We live in a period in which liberalism is under considerable pressure.Can poems be liberal? Baudelaire’s Enivrez-Vous captures something essential about the most appealing forms of liberalism, and about its underlying spirit (captured, in different ways, by John Stuart Mill, Walt Whitman, and Bob Dylan as well): its insistence on freedom of choice, on the diversity of tastes and preferences, and on human agency. The poem is liberal in its exuberance – its pleasure in its own edginess, its defiance, its sheer rebelliousness, its sense of mischief, its implicit laughter, its love of life and what it has to offer. It is the opposite of dutiful. It is far more exuberant than Mill’s On Liberty, but it is exuberant in the same way.

Keywords: liberalism, freedom, diversity, agency

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., 'Get Drunk'!: Baudelaire's Defiant Liberalism (October 22, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3947912 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3947912

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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