Blaming Covid 19 on the World Health Organization or on a lab in China and calling Black Lives Matter “radical leftist extremists” follow the American-populist playbook of responding to duress by targeting an alien “other” who have wronged “us” and whom “we’re” right to combat with force.
Thoreau is a figure who all at once embodies, hyperbolizes, and in that hyperbolization lays excruciatingly bare the contradictions of what Michael Warner calls “liberal culture,” and that for our part we might name secular capitalist modernity.
Thoreau’s asceticism was always also related to his hope for just economy – a way of life beyond slavery or exploitative capitalism. I am thus invested in thinking about Thoreau’s religion – his ascetic practice in the woods and the theological commitments that drove it – as deeply tied to his politics.
Thoreau’s generative ambivalence, the reason we keep returning to him, comes from a specific move he makes, over and over again. Thoreau does something very particular for us. He recasts problems of political economy as ethical questions about the conduct of life.
When placed in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., civil disobedience is premised on nonviolent resistance. But Thoreau understood that, under certain conditions, the protestor’s nonviolent resistance may lead to violence by the state.
Where the parliamentary organization of the Kingdom took care of the horizontal unity of Crown law, the advent of the new police both represented and ensured its vertical unity, from the streets of Whitechapel to the halls of Westminster.
Born out of the recognition that the place of guns in the United States cannot be adequately explained via statistical data—that qualitative accounts are urgently needed—these approaches aim to understand the logics of self-defense and self-preservation at play in forms of life in which guns have been incorporated.
The structure of Title IX actually bears the right shape of how sexual violence should be addressed, if not the language or content sufficient to address such a horror.
In light of contemporary work in black feminism, a critical consideration of police violence shows us that the ostensibly natural right to self-preservation is, in fact, not afforded to certain racialized (namely, black) subject positions.