Transcendentalism in Civil Disobedience Essay

3717 Words Mar 29th, 2013 15 Pages
Dannheisig 1 Jan-Hendrik Dannheisig Susanne Hamscha, M.A. Re(dis)covering America: Emerson, Thoreau, and American Democracy 10 April 2012

Transcendentalism in "Civil Disobedience" Thoreau's Politics of Individuality and Nature

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Contents Introduction 1. Transcendentalism a. Nature b. Introspective Conscience and Politics 2. Political Individualism a. Ethical and Political (In)justice b. Critique of Democracy Conclusion Bibliography

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Dannheisig 3 Introduction Henry David Thoreau was part of a movement called American Transcendentalism. To illuminate Thoreau's understanding of democracy, political action and justice this paper will focus on the influence transcendentalism had on his ideas and
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The right to rule, politically and culturally, given to the elite by presumptions of racism and classism, seemed outdated by upcoming "working-class radicalism."2 The civil commotion during this period of economic transition towards a regime of industrialization and away from traditional Jeffersonian agrarianism gave way to social movements that rethought the focus the American society should concentrate on. One of these social movements was Transcendentalism. Transcendentalists devoted their energy towards the conquest of cultural authority and they achieved it in many ways. The "Transcendental Club," as the public referred to the gathering organized by Emerson and Thoreau included influential literary participants like Elizabeth Peabody, Margaret Fuller, Orestes Brownson, William Henry Channing and occasionally Nathaniel Hawthorne (who himself was not a transcendentalist). They defined themselves as a group of liberal minded individuals who share the common believe that the way to establish principles of human brotherhood and democratic equality was to
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Newman, 35 Newman, 39

Dannheisig 5 reestablish one's individual relationship to the "divinely ordained laws of nature."3 The disconnect in culture and socioeconomic conditions between workers and capitalists was so troubling to this group that different utopian experiments grew out of this discontent, one of them being Thoreau's residence in Walden Pond, another being Brook Farm. This was a

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