The introduction lays out the argument of the book, circling around a discussion of Wordsworth’s hesitant expression of reverence for ‘the people, philosophically characterized’. Touching on the work of Raymond Williams, it indicates how discourse about popular sovereignty impacts the rise of the idea of culture in the 1790s. With particular reference to Antonio Negri, the central concept of the people as constituent power is introduced in order to indicate why this concept is such a source of ambivalence for the writers studied in the rest of the book. A key question for the book is highlighted: how we should evaluate these various conceptions of the role of the writer, and relates this evaluation to the Romantic ideology. Are they self-serving? Do they ultimately collude with the status quo in suppressing the full force of the majesty of the people?
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