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March 18, 2020


Michael Boughn is co-editor of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars and a longtime serious reader of Emerson. I shared the above post on the Emerson passage with him, and this is what he wrote back:

>>I know it well. The New Historical anti-Emersonians latched onto it in the 90s and used their misreading of it to attack Emerson as some kind of neo-liberal.

This is part of his critique of bourgeois culture, which is founded on alienation. Alienation from the things you make. Alienation from our true selves. Alienation from being-together, which we abandon in the name of society. Society takes on the functions of relation that belong to the person. We create a hell on earth and then invent "charities" to help out those mutilated by it, in the same way that we abandon moral judgement and turn over authority to a code. Thoreau said, If I knew for certain that a man was coming to my home to do me good, I would run for my life. In a world where people accept and honour their own authority, there would be no need of "charity" because each person would take care of their poor. Charity breeds poverty by undermining a world of actual relation and relieving people of their responsibility to those around them.

Have you read the essay? It's fucking brilliant. And it is NOT about individualism. It is about personal responsibility, and presence.

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