Synopses & Reviews
The author of the landmark study The Body in Pain
, Elaine Scarry offers a stunning and original analysis of the "claim of emergency" that modern governments have used to undermine democracy and increase executive power. For sixty years, democratic governments have bypassed legal provisions concerning the declaration of war, the use of torture, civilian surveillance, and nuclear weapons. In the desire for swift national action, we citizens devalue thinking and ignore ways to check government power, plunging our countries into a precarious state between monarchy and democracy.
Drawing on the work of philosophers, neuroscientists, and artists, Scarry here proves decisively that thinking and rapid action are compatible. Practices that we dismiss as mere habit and protocol instead represent rigorous, effective modes of thought that we must champion in periods of crisis. Scarry's bold claim on behalf of fundamental democratic principles will enliven and enrich the ongoing debate about leadership in times of emergency.
Award-winning critic Elaine Scarry provides a vital new assessment of leadership during crisis that ensures the protection of democratic values.
In , Elaine Scarry lays bare the realities of "emergency" politics and emphasizes what she sees as the ultimate ethical concern: "equality of survival." She reveals how regular citizens can reclaim the power to protect one another and our democratic principles. Government leaders sometimes argue that the need for swift national action means there is no time for the population to think, deliberate, or debate. But Scarry shows that clear thinking and rapid action are not in opposition. Examining regions as diverse as Japan, Switzerland, Ethiopia, and Canada, Scarry identifies forms of emergency assistance that represent "thinking" at its most rigorous and remarkable. She draws on the work of philosophers, scientists, and artists to remind us of our ability to assist one another, whether we are called upon to perform acts of rescue as individuals, as members of a neighborhood, or as citizens of a country.
About the Author
Elaine Scarry is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University. She is the winner of the 2000 Truman Capote Award and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.