George Kateb : Dignity, Morality, Individuality
George Kateb is our foremost theorist of democratic individuality. For 50 years, building on the writings and extending the main legacies of Emerson and Whitman, Kateb has explored the fundamental quandary of how modern democracy—sovereignty vested in the many—might nevertheless protect, respect, promote, even celebrate the singular, albeit ordinary individual.
This collection draws together the key works of Kateb, focusing on his writing on Dignity, Morality and Individuality and is framed by a introduction from John Seery, a new essay from Kateb and an interview in which Kateb reflects on the work in the volume.
His writing is sometimes normative and idealizing, sometimes critical and caustically so; sometimes exegetical, or contextual; part literary, part analytic; now brooding, now conclusive. But there’s a unique voice, a clear voice, running throughout, which seems to hold these many studies together, as opposed to scattering them. It is a patient yet insistent voice, one that seems to summon one’s readers, tacitly positioned as equals, to be serious and attentive and thoughtful. It is a cant-free voice that exemplifies, and thus encourages, the very importance of self-reliant thinking. In writing, Kateb practices the democratic individuality that he preaches. By definition, however, his converts cannot be described as a flock.