Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Professor Tim Spiekerman

Second Advisor

Professor Kurt Pyle

Third Advisor

Professor Pam Jensen

Abstract

The contemporary political moment is characterized by a popular notion that anger has taken hold of the public and is powerfully impacting American politics. However, this paper argues that the nation’s current irascibility is not an exceptional event; instead, it marks a high point in the long-building trend of increasing demoralization and frustration surrounding politics over the last half-century. In an effort to understand American anger in a broader context, this paper uses Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile as a lens to provide greater insight. Emile provides a framework that can be used to uncover the roots of anger, evaluate its political implications, and explore potential solutions to our present ills. This paper first examines Emile’s framework for anger and then moves on to an explanation of it structural causes in American society, focusing particularly on the effects of widening material and psychological inequalities between social classes. A consideration of Rousseau’s elite-based strategy for moderating popular anger is then explored in the last chapter. In short, this paper holds that Emile’s timely wisdom proves indispensable for comprehending and remedying anger in American politics today.

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