Daniel Carpenter and Andrew Delbanco on abolitionism


in Books and literature, Law, Politics, The environment, Writing

Delbanco’s essay considers abolitionism as a general category of political vision, one impelled by “imprecatory prophets” whose contribution is, in part, to envision what their contemporaries regarded as “preposterous” and to make it seem possible. Abolitionists render a moral case against the existence and endurance of or or more of a society’s perceived wrongs, such as slavery and racial castes. And perhaps others: alcohol, or gender discrimination, or abortion, or the hierarchy of heterosexuality over gay and lesbian lives. The abolitionist then and now requires moral clarity in the form of a sharp division between good and evil in which the viewer and reader can tell the two apart. Abolitionism also requires a refusal to settle for half-measures; it paints these compromises themselves as part of the problem, as resting firmly on one side of the binary divide. And, not least, abolitionism must conjure a world without the evil institution whose demise it seeks: a promised land.

From Daniel Carpenter’s forward to: Delbanco, Andrew. The Abolitionist Imagination. Harvard University Press. 2012.

Perhaps climate change activists should begin calling themselves fossil fuel abolitionists.

Previous post:

Next post: