Category: History
Transcendentalism and American Reformism

The history of the United States of America has witnessed multiple influences from the works of various scholars whose publications have been a part of the activities that have informed the political and economic scenes. Ralph Waldo Emerson is distinguished as one of the most influential authors of his time with texts that created an impact on different aspects of the American reforms. Most people still attribute American transcendentalism to Emerson as a result of the influence that his works had on the concept and its absorption into the society. As a leader of the transcendentalist movement of the nineteenth century, the author was famous for delivering public speeches across the country mostly focusing on individualist perceptions of the world and their importance in the development of self and the community as a whole. The interest of this investigation lies in determining the connection that exists between transcendentalism and the American reformism of the United States beginning at the time of Emerson’s publications. The focus is on the texts Self-Reliance, The American Scholar, and New England Reformers that offer the best opportunity to understand the perspectives that Emerson held and that were influential in the reforms. The intent that the analysis holds is to utilize those publications to determine how transcendentalism acts as a system of thoughts and its role in and impact on societal existence.

Transcendentalism proposes the perspective that a person must first assess and understand the processes that govern natural experiences as a means of gaining knowledge about the reality and the surrounding environment (Emerson, b, 7). The conception offers that every soul is equal basing its roots in religion that perceives all people in equality without an arbitrary distinction among them. That perception has been influential in discouraging most people from engaging in conformity while encouraging focusing on the uniqueness that they own that allows them to act autonomously (Emerson, b, 8). That is because every person has an equal opportunity to perceive the world in his or her own means and use own translation to create an ethical path of coexistence with other members. It should then be upon every person to allow others to act in a manner that pleases them, but they have to ensure that it does not violate the codes of coexistence. Emerson believes that nature serves as the greatest teller of truth as it is not influenced by the translations that other people have made about their perceptions that are likely to infect the underlying factors (Emerson, a, 9). The author offers an example of an infant as someone who does not conform to any human perceptions but rather only reacts to natural phenomena according to own feelings and translation of the immediate environment (Emerson, b, 8).

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The main perception that Emerson held is that focusing on the progress of an individual will be helpful in ensuring overall development than concentrating on the community as a whole. Focusing on communal conceptions in the society only succeeds in turning the men into a system that only fits into the context of their role instead of bringing that function to be a part of their activities (Emerson, c, 29). However, placing the perceptions on the development of an individual allows every person to act autonomously and solve personal problems innovatively as the thoughts are free from the translations of others. Systemic thoughts only allow people to conceive ideas on the existing conventions while disregarding the ability to develop creative solutions that each of them has. These proposals by Emerson were influential in tipping the scales of the labour and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century from institutional policy realignments into focusing on individual citizens and employees. The perception of the role of an individual in the development of a societal system has begun gaining popularity as more scholars and activists pushed for reforms on the policies of different sectors.

The perceptions that Emerson held about social being through the transcendentalist approach were essential in influencing the American reforms that focused on the equality of people in the society with the particular center of attention on gender and labour rights. Most scholars in this period started deviating from the focus on business tariffs and investor dividends and diversified into the improvement of the working conditions of the various participants. One of the most notable outcomes was the push for the inclusion of women in politics and leadership roles as well as ensuring their equitable participation in the labour force of the country. The activism put emphasis on promoting the transcendentalist ideals of the equality of all humans in the face of nature, thereby, the inclusion of all beings equitably in all sectors was essential. The absorption of those concepts had spread wide enough in the United States and formed the core principles upon which most proponents based their policies. While individualism was a major component of these ideals, it was clear that Emerson also had an interest in ensuring that all individuals served effectively in their role. The philosophy he uses to undertake this proposes that it is the idea of unification using various unions that can create efficiency and lead to societal progress (Emerson, a, 6). The implication of this concept is that people need to work together in a system that allows them to think autonomously if they are eager to develop innovative solutions to the existing problems.

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