cover of book

Acts of Hope: Creating Authority in Literature, Law, and Politics
by James Boyd White
University of Chicago Press, 1994
Cloth: 978-0-226-89510-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-89511-6 | eISBN: 978-0-226-05635-7
Library of Congress Classification JC328.2.W55 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 303.36

To which institutions or social practices should we grant authority? When should we instead assert our own sense of what is right or good or necessary?

In this book, James Boyd White shows how texts by some of our most important thinkers and writers—including Plato, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Mandela, and Lincoln—answer these questions, not in the abstract, but in the way they wrestle with the claims of the world and self in particular historical and cultural contexts. As they define afresh the institutions or practices for which they claim (or resist) authority, they create authorities of their own, in the very modes of thought and expression they employ. They imagine their world anew and transform the languages that give it meaning.

In so doing, White maintains, these works teach us about how to read and judge claims of authority made by others upon us; how to decide to which institutions and practices we should grant authority; and how to create authorities of our own through our thoughts and arguments. Elegant and accessible, this book will appeal to anyone wanting to better understand one of the primary processes of our social and political lives.

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