Does Ralph Waldo Emerson say anything positive about society in his essay "Self-Reliance"?
Though Emerson espouses self-reliance as the optimal way of living one's life, early in the essay he urges readers to "accept the place the divine providence has found for you, [and] the society of your contemporaries," suggesting that a higher power puts us among peers that will in some way enrich us. However, Emerson believed that by aligning ourselves with others we actually diminish ourselves.
Overall, Emerson's praise for society is faint. He does allow that it "is civilized." He recognizes that it is "Christianized" and that it supports those among us who are in some way weakened or less capable. He recognizes that society offers unity, but he also observes that each individual that makes up society is eventually replaced by another individual, thus making society a "wave." The man who is replaced takes with him his wisdom and experience, and as a result, society never truly advances.
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