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Brought to you by Penguin.


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 well-being, 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

© Maggie Nelson 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • With insight and intellectual rigour Nelson wrestles the concept of “freedom” away from its contemporary political misuses and explores what it means in the context of art, sex, drugs and climate.

  • Part of what makes [Nelson’s] writing so compelling is a comfort with uncertainty… It is a delight to spend time with Nelson’s erudite mind.

    Times Literary Supplement
  • Nelson is such a friend to her reader, such brilliant company. Her book is a nuanced, exhilarating rallying cry for all those who are tired of the drab norms of our tech-topia and who long for another conversation

    Literary Review
  • [Nelson’s] books vary between an academic or lyrical register, but all revel in the recognition that feeling and thought aren’t fixed… They encourage a slowing down, an absorbing… [and a] willingness for intellectual and linguistic exploration.

    Financial Times
  • What makes this book so exciting is precisely the balancing act that enables Nelson to tear everything up at the same time as she retains faith in the values (desire, artistic freedom, difficulty) that shaped her. Reading it, I had a visceral experience of seeing how this can be done in good faith, how we can think as Nelson does about sex and art while also believing in the necessity for a new order.


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