Shklar the Outsider?

In class we read Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The passage we read was simply called “History” and prior to that we read “Self-Reliance” and both passages were full out of this world references and ideologies. Looking at who Emerson was can better explain this thinking. He is in a specific group called “transcendentalists.” Transcendentalists simply believe that society and its institutions, particularly organized religion and political parties, ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. They have faith in that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and or “independent.” It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed. Now not everyone can be apart of this group of “free thinkers.” Those who are in this group have had to have had a transcendentalists thought and eye opening experience. These are people who have, and I use this term loosely, “seen the truth” and if you as a person want to accept what they are preaching, then go ahead and listen. But if you do not believe and or want to hear it, well thats fine to, transcendentalists really don’t care what other have to say or think. They are their own little world. Now this made me start thinking about Judith Shklar, and here view/definition of what is or what isn’t a “citizen.” Would Shklar consider these citizens actual “citizens?” I personally believe that Shklar would count them as citizens, and even count them as outsiders. Now looking at Shklar as if we were transcendentalists we wouldn’t care if were were insiders or outsider. All that really matters to an transcendentalists is the truth in the world/universe. To an transcendentalists being an insider simply means not seeing the truth which is out there, just like in Plato’s “The Republic,” where the man leaves the dark cave and see the truth, that is a transcendentalists. This got me thinking about Shklar’s ideology as a whole. In Shklar’s realm of thinking there are “insiders” and there are “outsiders.” Those who are the “insiders” are what she call “citizens,” those who participate in society, have a steady source of income, and are proactive in the world. Now if you are to look at the transcendentalists members, people like: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Longfellow, Margaret Fuller, and to an extent Henry David Theroux, these were very much the insiders of there time. But simply because of their thinking would not be considered to be “insiders” in Shklar’s view today. Though I really could not comprehend or even understand the transcendentalists view of history, (I do however enjoy this quote by Emerson, “All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography.” Really made me think about my view on history and how it is taught.) It made me think what if Shklars views are seen an “outsiders” way of thinking? What if there is no “insiders” or “outsider,” no “citizens,” just people? And ones level of “citizenship” was being and thinking what you wanted to? Thats my view on “citizenship.”

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One Response to Shklar the Outsider?

  1. kdmflag says:

    I would first like to raise a point of clarification. When you say, “It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed” are you stating that such ‘true communities’ must be comprised of Transcendentalists, or merely contain them? While you say they exist ‘in their own little world’ I wonder how many truly do. In class we discussed the cycle of enlightenment through Plato’s allegory of The Cave, whereupon the final stage witnesses the enlightened return into darkness to profess what he as seen to the masses. To say these communities are ‘comprised’ of enlightened free-thinkers keeps Transcendentalists in the light, so to speak, forming communities of like-minded individuals and excluding those not up to criteria. To say these communities ‘contain’ them is to include the ‘preaching’ we both agree exist. I know physical exclusion and inclusion occurred during this time period, with Walden Pond and Fruitlands examples of each. This argument appears to fracture Transcendentalists into more than one ‘insider/outsider’ group, and leads me to agree with your conclusion in some respects, the views on ‘insiders/ousiders’ is too subjective for a unified citizenship. Yet we must always strive to find the best-fitting examples, because strife never ceases to exist, and exclusions need to be made. While it is great to set a personal, mental view of what citizenship means to the individual, I feel codified strictures for citizenship must be created and maintained.

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