On Freedom

On Freedom

Four Songs of Care and Constraint

Summary

**A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2021**

*A GUARDIAN AND TLS 'BOOKS OF 2021' PICK*


'One of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation' - Olivia Laing

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, 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 relation 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.

Reviews

  • With insight and intellectual rigour Nelson wrestles the concept of "freedom" away from its contemporary political misuses and explores what it means in the context of art, sex, drugs and climate.
    Guardian

About the author

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is the author of several books of poetry and prose, including the New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Argonauts, and most recently in the UK, Bluets. She teaches at University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles.
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