In this essay I explore the signi�cance of equality in Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, particularly with respect to his treatment of personal relations and, more generally, to his ideas about self-reliance. I begin with Alexis de Tocqueville's premise that equality, by uniting individuals under some common rubric, thereby induces these same individuals to separate or de�ne themselves against one another. In essays such as "Love" and "Friendship," Emerson plays out this dynamic with peculiar vehemence: af�rmations of a radical sameness linking all together go hand-in-hand with warnings against sacri�cing one's individuality to another. I ascribe this dynamic to equality's social logic more than to psychological ambivalence, and I go on to argue for the importance of distinguishing between different kinds of equality in order to underscore and help account for the extremity of Emerson's attachment to this theme. I also suggest that so long as contemporary criticism remains �xated on one particular understanding of equality-speci�cally, as a social good that may be won or lost-it is bound to misconstrue not only its signi�cance to a writer like Emerson but, more broadly, its signi�cance as an ideological force.
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