On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, by Maggie Nelson
So often deployed as a jingoistic, even menacing rallying cry, or limited by a focus on passing moments of liberation, the rhetoric of freedom both rouses and repels. Does it remain key to our autonomy, justice, and well-being, or is freedom’s long star turn coming to a close? Does a continued obsession with the term enliven and emancipate, or reflect a deepening nihilism (or both)? On Freedom examines such questions by tracing the concept’s complexities in four distinct realms: art, sex, drugs, and climate.
Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Maggie Nelson explores how we might think, experience, or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. Her abiding interest lies in ongoing “practices of freedom” by which we negotiate our interrelation with―indeed, our inseparability from―others, with all the care and constraint that entails, while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion.
For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture―from recent art-world debates to the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation, from the painful paradoxes of addiction to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis―is itself a practice of freedom, a means of forging fortitude, courage, and company. On Freedom is an invigorating, essential book for challenging times.