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The Social Contract and Discourses [Paperback]

By Jean Jacques Rousseau (Author) & G. D. H. Cole (Translator)
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Item description for The Social Contract and Discourses by Jean Jacques Rousseau & G. D. H. Cole...

The Everyman Paperback Classics series offers the latest scholarship on the works of the world's greatest poets, writers and philosophers. Each edition includes a comprehensive introduction, chronology, notes, appendix, critical responses, and a text summary. Presented in an affordable edition with wide format pages for generous margins for notes. Contact your sales rep or call Tuttle for a complete list of available titles.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Noach Publishing
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.72" Width: 7.5" Height: 0.41"
Weight:   0.69 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 30, 2007
ISBN  9562915417  
ISBN13  9789562915410  

Availability  63 units.
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More About Jean Jacques Rousseau & G. D. H. Cole

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Franklin Philip is the prize-winning translator of numerous French texts. Patrick Coleman is the author of Rousseau's Political Imagination (1984).

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in 1712 and died in 1778.

Jean Jacques Rousseau has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought
  2. Oxford World's Classics (Paperback)
  3. Penguin Classics

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Political

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Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains  Dec 17, 2006
Jean Jacques Rousseau born (1712-1778), in Geneva mother dies in childbirth, he was an engravers apprentice. Stayed out too late one night and locked out of the city, knew he would get in trouble for it so he takes off for France, and meets Madame De Warrens becomes his lover and she converts him to Roman Catholicism. He had a lifelong mistress had 5 kids which he left with an orphanage, which is amazing considering he wrote the book "Emile," which was a guide to raising and educating young children. He neglected the opportunity to put theory into practice. To begin at the beginning, famous lines of book "The Social Contract," "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."

The question he asks, how do we find a way to get people to live together in groups? To live together in society and yet still make it true that each person only obeys himself that leaves us as free as when we were in the state of nature. He thinks he has the answer, he thinks he can legitimate, a kind of society, where people have this much freedom. There are certain things that he thinks are necessary for this, first, it has to be a society with general laws. It can't be that whoever is in charge of the government gets to do whatever they feel like doing. There has to of been laws made that authorize this. Second, there has to be universal consent to the laws, everybody has to accept the laws. Now this may be a little unclear, because there is a point that Rousseau talks about majority rule. It does make sense though there is a sense that he believes that the people have to consent to all of the laws, it has to be unanimous, it is just going to take a little while to get to that point. We will see how he reconciles these ideas. Third, there has to be unlimited Sovereignty, people have no rights against the laws you can't say the laws are illegitimate because they violate your rights the way that Locke would say for example people completely give up their rights to the collective. Therefore, there is no worry that a law might trespass on somebody's rights. For Rousseau, be sure to understand that this idea of sovereignty means the power to make laws. Therefore, it is a little bit different say than what you got out of Hobbes were he talks about the sovereign's power. For Hobbes, sovereign power is the power to say what goes. There is no real distinction between what we would call legislative power and executive power. You know the power to make the law and the power to enforce the laws. For Rousseau, sovereignty means the power to make the laws. Therefore, that's the power that is unlimited. Everything the state does has to be done in accordance to the laws. However, there is no limit on what the laws can be. At least no limits coming from the idea of violating individual rights. The only limit on the power of the state is the laws. There is this kind of notion that periodically there would be an assembly of people to come together to decide on the laws and make new ones. The power like a monarchy or oligarchy has power to enforce the laws and they do what ever the assembly tells them to do. The general laws are there and then the executive power is in charge of applying those general laws to specific cases. However, all they can do is apply those general laws. They cannot freelance and do stuff on there own.

Rousseau really praised Sparta as a model democracy. So, here's the kind of society that Rousseau thinks that makes it possible for us to enjoy freedom and social life. We give up all power to the state; we claim no individual rights to ourselves against the government. We give up complete power to the state we do not think we have any individual rights that can limit what the state can do but we insist that the state only act in accordance with general laws and these be laws everybody consents and agrees to. Now you ask, how in the world can we have unanimous consent to the law? With any size or group, how do you get unanimous consent? Rousseau's answer is that in a proper society, one where everyone has been brought up properly and so on, they think of them selves as a community there will be two different choices that people can make about the laws that they want. Two different standpoints, for which they will choose what the laws should be. 1. Their individual wills, which will be a choice about what is best for each persons point of view, 2. However, each citizen will also possess a "General Will." There will as a citizen. The general will of every citizen will be the same. Their general will, will from each of them will be in favor of the laws that will be best for the community. Even if it is not best for them as an individual, sometimes it will be. Just like Kant thinks that everybody's Numinal self is in favor of the same law, Rousseau thinks that in a proper political community every bodies general will is in favor of the same laws each citizens general will, will be the same. Even if from your own perspective, you do not like some of the laws that are passed, if in fact they are laws that are best for the community, you will consent to them from the standpoint of your general will. Therefore, everybody does consent to whatever laws there are that are best for the community. Now ideally, people will think of themselves as citizens first and individuals second that they will have no hesitation in obeying the laws that the general will is in favor of, but people being what they are sometimes people will not obey the laws even when their general will has consented to the laws. Rousseau says people will be acting in accordance with their general will as a citizen rather than their private or individual will. That if one should be tempted or inclined to act on the basis of their individual will in a way that is contrary to their and everybody else's general will, then they ought to be forced to obey the general will and the laws it endorses. Not just be forced to obey, but in being forced to obey you are actually being made more free than you would be if you did in a sense what you think you want to do. You can call this Rousseau's "paradigm of positive freedom."

Rousseau does not think that any group of people can form this kind of society. Before a society can form a government under this kind of basis, it will already be a society that exists under illegitimate rule. Therefore, even though Rousseau talks about the state of nature the way Hobbes and Locke does, he does not really have the expectation that groups of people are going to go from the state of nature straight into a legitimate society. They are going to start out with some kind of illegitimate rule, and that is going to give them enough cohesion, this kind of shared experience they have had, that then they are going to be able to form a legitimate government. They are going to be similar enough in outlook and have enough of a bond to the society, that they have the general will. This can only happen in a relatively small community. They must have shared values and experience. He thought that the only place in his time in Europe that could do this was the island state of Corsica. Once the laws are already in place you are agreeing to them, it is tacit consent. He believes that when the society is first formed legitimately, people have to give expressed consent.

There is not some kind of disconnect that you would get in say some kind of fascist political philosophy like what is good for the community and what is good for the people. There is almost no connection between those things. Somehow for Rousseau there seems to be some kind of connection that what's good for the community is some kind of function of what is good for the individual people in the community. But, the nature of that function to me is just opaque, he doesn't get whatever he is trying to say across there.

In practice obviously this is hard to do. Because Rousseau is hostile to the idea that you could have just a select group of people to make the laws, this means he has to be against representative democracy. The only societies that are this democratic that have worked are societies that have had slaves (Greek and Roman). Because how much time does citizenship take without representatives, we have to be in assembly all the time so you need slaves to cook and raise crops. So, you should have this picture in mind that every so often the citizens get together to develop laws, what they should be doing of course is trying to vote in a way that the general will tells them to vote, whatever is best for the community. Rousseau is not so naïve to think that they are all going to unanimously and spontaneously put their hands up at the same time. People are going to disagree, abut what the law is. Majority rule he says in that case. However, it is not the majority rule in the spirit that we think of it, where the side with the most votes wins and the losers are disappointed because their way didn't prevail. No, what Rousseau says is the minority should look at this as they were wrong about what the general will was in that case, and so they should be happy that what they wanted didn't get adopted because that would have been a mistake. The majority essentially knows best. It is as if they are all trying to get to the same place, some will get there some will be misled and they should be grateful to be straightened out. One can see how totalitarian's can embrace some of Rousseau's writings.

I read this book for a graduate class in Philosophy. Recommended reading for anyone interested in philosophy, political science, history and, psychology.

A great collection of works by an unequalled thinker  May 28, 2005
It is often said that Descartes is the father of modern philosophy; but much of modern philosophy would be unthinkable without the writings of Rousseau. While Descartes put epistemology at the center of philosophy, and used reflections on subjectivity as a means to knowing, Rousseau put the historical human being at the center of his thinking, and thus paved the way not only for Kant but for Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard.

These texts are the ones to look to for the core of his thinking. Read the first and second discourses first -- of which the second is the most critical, but the first gives an easy orientation to his general strategy. The Social Contract is extremely relevant today, when words like "democracy" are bandied about unthinkingly. Rousseau identifies there what a genuine democracy requires: that individuals become prepared through education to cast their vote for what they think is the general good. The conditions for this cannot be established overnight, and cannot be imposed by war or by political pressure.

This is another fine edition by Hackett, who cannot be commended enough for their excellent series of inexpensive philosophical texts. After reading this, take a look at Rousseau's two other brilliant pieces (among many more): Emile, and his Autobiography.
Rousseau's influence on Kant  May 13, 2004
A more immediate influence of Rousseau's political thought was on the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, sometimes called "the philosopher of the French Revolution." Kant took over Rousseau's emphasis on the faculty of will and incorporated it into his political philosophy, especially in Part II of "The Metaphysics of Morals," "The Metaphysical Elements of Justice." There Kant, unlike Rousseau, favored a constitutional government rather than a direct democracy. But he utilized Rousseau's notion of the social contract in the form of a hypothetical agreement among autonomous individuals. Kant's conception of a hypothetical contract was in turn applied by John Rawls in his "A Theory of Justice," so it may be argued that Kant is in some respects a precursor of liberal representive democracy. Rousseau's idea of democracy has more application to contemporary theorists of participatory democracy than it does to Marx, whose "dictatorship of the proletariat" was largely undeveloped. And Mill's "On Liberty" is in many ways a critique of Rousseau's General Will, in that Mill asserted, among other things, that "if all of mankind except one were of one opinion, and that one were of another, all of mankind would be no more justified in silencing that man that would he in silencing all of mankind." So Rousseau's conception of positive freedom (i.e., "freedom to. . ."), encapsulated in his notorious remark that it may be necessary to "force men to be free," has no place in Mill's "On Liberty," which advances the more Anglo-American notion of negative freedom (i.e., "freedom from. . ."). Furthermore, Mill favored a form of representative government (as put forth in his treatise of the same name), so he differs from Rousseau on that point as well.
Rousseau Comments on Society and the General Will of Man  Mar 26, 2000
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "The Basic Political Writings," have a two part effect. Rousseau uses the first portion of the book, the discourses on science and the arts, the origin of inequality, and political economy, to describe the basic policies of then modern society. Rousseau describes the creation of society as a threat against the laws of nature. Rousseau also explains that the origin of society coincides with the concept of personal property. From there society develops by who controls whom into a political system. Rousseau comments on several points in "The Social Contract." In the first book of "The Social Contract" Rousseau explains the limiting of the human spirit by the bonds of society. This is the origin of the infamous line, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." Books two and three describe the attitudes of a nation and its responsibilities to both other nations and its own people. The final book of "The Social Contract" affirms the point that a nation cannot destroy the general will of the people. "The Basic Political Writings" are considered an excellent resource on society simply for its commentary on the general will. Rousseau's writings are amazing when coupled with the later thoughts of Karl Marx in "The Communist Manifesto." Obvious correlation's can be made between Rousseau's commentary and Marx's ideals of the creation of a communist society. Although these writings may not be for the average reader, the points they make extremely thought provoking.
Attention Poly Sci Students  Mar 24, 2000
This book contains 4 of Rousseau's works: Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, Discource on the Origin of Inequlality, Discource on Political Economy, and On the Social Contract. In his writings, Rousseau theorizes about the state of nature of man before civilization, a time before any societal influences governed his actions. He then explains how man left this initial state of nature to form society's. According to Rousseau, reason and cooperation, which led to the sciences and arts, are what forced us to leave our happy state of nature. Based on the state of nature, Rousseau then goes on to relate how man is in a society and what an ideal society should be. Enjoy your reading...

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