A Guardian Books of 2021 pick.
So often deployed as a jingoistic, even menacing, rallying cry, or limited by a focus on passing moments of liberation, the rhetoric of freedom both rouses and repels. Does it remain key to our autonomy, justice and wellbeing, or is freedom's long star turn coming to a close? Does a continued obsession with the term enliven and emancipate, or reflect a deepening nihilism (or both)? On Freedom examines such questions by tracing the concept's complexities in four distinct realms: art, sex, drugs and climate.
Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Nelson explores how we might think, experience or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. Her abiding interest lies in ongoing "practices of freedom" by which we negotiate our interrelation with - indeed, our inseparability from - others, with all the care and constraint that relation entails, while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion.
For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture - from recent art world debates to the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation, from the painful paradoxes of addiction to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis - is itself a practice of freedom, a means of forging fortitude, courage and company. On Freedom is an invigorating, essential book for challenging times.
"One of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation." (Olivia Laing)