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What does Emerson say about society in "Self-Reliance"? Does he believe that...

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tnoh | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:08 AM via web

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What does Emerson say about society in "Self-Reliance"? Does he believe that it limits individual freedom?

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted April 24, 2008 at 2:20 AM (Answer #1)

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Emerson says that the problem with society is that its goal is to conform people ("The virtue most in request is conformity,"). He goes on to say that the conformity then robs people of their ability to think for themselves and to be independent thinkers because it becomes so easy to simply follow the crowd rather than form original thoughts.  Furthermore, he says that society "...whips you with its displeasure," if one is a non-conformist meaning that one who does not conform to the general rules and ways of society are considered outcasts and are shunned or worse.  So, yes, Emerson did believe that society limited individual freedom.

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