Acts of Hope: Creating Authority in Literature, Law and Politics

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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 text, the author shows how texts by some of the important thinkers and writers - including Plato, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Mandela and Lincoln - answer these questions in the way they wrestle with the claims of the world and self in particular historical and cultural contexts. As they define the institutions or practices for which they claim (or resist) authority, they create authorities of their own, in the 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.