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The Invisible Hand in Popular CultureLiberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV$
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Paul A. Cantor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813140827

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813140827.001.0001

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Order Out of the Mud

Order Out of the Mud

Deadwood and the State of Nature

(p.96) (p.97) 3 Order Out of the Mud
The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture

Paul A. Cantor

University Press of Kentucky

Chapter Three analyzes the concept of “order without law” in David Milch's television series Deadwood. Set in a gold rush mining camp, the show investigates whether a community of self-interested individuals can develop functioning social institutions in the absence of traditional forms of government. Accordingly, Deadwood raises the same issues broached in the state-of-nature thinking of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Deadwood portrays people in a pre-political condition, although, as the chapter shows, it might be better understood as post-political. Deadwood is basically Lockean in its faith in private property and in the self-organizing power of society, while it maintains a Hobbesian anxiety about the fragility of social order together with a Rousseauian skepticism about civilization's ultimate value.

Keywords:   David Milch, Deadwood, state of nature, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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