Item description for The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau...
Revolutionary in its own time and controversial to this day, this work is a permanent classic of political theory and a key source of democratic belief. Rousseau's concepts of "the general will" as a mode of self-interest uniting for a common good, and the submission of the individual to government by contract inform the heart of democracy, and stand as its most contentious components today. Also included in this edition is Rousseau's Discourse on Political Economy", a key transitional work between his Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract. This new translation offers fresh insight into a cornerstone of political thought, which is further illuminated by a comprehensive introduction and notes.
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More About Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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...
Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought
Reviews - What do customers think about The Social Contract?
1984 Anyone? May 25, 2008
I picked up a copy of this book in a shop in Hong Kong with high expectations. I had heard of it but had not yet read it and was rather shocked to find an english language copy in a place like Hong Kong. It is very persuasive in some of it's arguments but is essentially little more than a book advocating totalitarian government systems and as I read it I couldn't help but wonder if the former Texas governer had a member of his staff read it to him sometime during his recent administration. Aside from a few clever quotations and a few speechlike chapters this book is little more than a more elegant political pundit book. It proves little more than one Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh would reason if they had a stronger command of the English language. One difference would be that Rousseau believed, at least in some parts of the book, that religion weakened government.
Collectivism Against Individuality Jan 22, 2008
The fallacy is in his assumption that individuals must forfeit all sovereignty to the state. The second specious argument is in the creation of a General Will. The third is that the general will will not do anything to harm any of the individuals within the collective.
The collectivist social contract was most assured well intentioned, but it's opposition to individualism has obviously anti-individualist consequences.
This is evident in his support of democratic censorship. If the general will is offended, then censorship is justified.
In his desire to create equality, he justifies both socialism and communism, and democracy in its purest form - majority rule.
A very odd book. Sep 6, 2007
I don't see how someone like Rousseau could ever write a book with "social" in the title. The woman lived alone on the island for over 16 years. She is clearly disturbed.
Still a Timely Study on Liberty Jan 29, 2007
Immanuel Kant had one portrait hanging in his house in Konigsberg. The portrait was of Rousseau. What an honor, to be memorialized while alive by THE leading figure of the enlightenment!
Rousseau never coined the term 'noble savage'. This is a popular misunderstanding and outright lie. He was himself though, a seeming savage. He carried on love affairs, abandonded children, spoke of heresy, and so on.
But on to 'The Social Contract'. It is the houses, no matter how prettily and well built they be, that make up the town, but it is the citizen, gloriously free citizen who makes up the city.
So Rousseau to me ironically leaves the countryside behind and sets himself up in the city.
Here, man, at least enlightened man, democratically chooses his leaders and magistrates and allows them to rule by choice. This enlightened man is subject to the law and not to the magistrate, and Liberty, Sweet Liberty, is the penultimate Virtue of the now ennobled citizen.
Death is to be preferred to loss of it.
It can be won.
It cannot be won again.
Once you lose it, it's gone forever, this Liberty.
Social cohesiveness Jan 27, 2007
From page 186: "It is impossible to live in peace with people one believes to be damned"
From page 187: "But anyone who dares to say `outside the church there is no salvation should be expelled from the state unless the state is the church and the Prince the Pontiff"
The Social Contract was written in 1762. It is my understanding many of the Founding Fathers of the United States had read the book and this work certainly had a major influence on French thought, therefore on the French Revolution. French society suffered many wrongs because of religious intolerance and it had a major effect on the author's thoughts. In my Faith, in my thoughts those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior are damned to Hell. I believe there is one true Universal church. A church not made bricks and mortar, but of souls. While this definition of church does include a denomination, the theology is in disagreement with what Rousseau believed to be of a benefit to social cohesiveness. He be believed people should only have positive dogmas which did include earthly punishment for sin, that people should seek to do God's will; God has a watchful eye over people and government. The author certainly had a problem with one believing that God damns those of other Christian constructs. He wanted to outlaw or redefine the Catholic Faith and Protestantism to fit into his idea of social cohesiveness. His idea of religious tolerance gets a more sympathetic ear today then when written.
Rousseau contributed to the thoughts of man. That man gives up certain rights in a civil society. That only through government does anyone truly has his rights protected. That it is only through some sort of social agreement that ones civil rights and property rights are protected. My physical security is no longer just dependent on me. It is through the organization of men I can own, I can do without fear that another will deny simply because of my absence or more might.
Partiality and equality. Equality is not to have a right beyond that of another individual Partiality is to have more rights then another individual because who your Father is, wealth, friendship with the Prince, or any other reason. Rousseau did not dismiss partiality from society, but he did ask it only be set up through the general will of the people. He therefore argued that people should associate together for the purpose of forming a political argument. He wanted each person to come to conclusions based on the strength of argument. How debate could not be obtained without alliance and organization of debate is not dealt with. Freedom of association is not dealt with in the book.
The General Will is determined by the majority. Rousseau recognizes the particular will of the individual is often in disagreement with the general will. Compromise is needed and an individual is generally better off because of government action then if no action were taken. The author decries sectionalism ( beliefs or ideas that grow out of living in a different geographic area and beliefs coming forth from other associations). He does not have an idea how this can be eliminated.
The author speaks on many topics on the determination what is the best form of government. The author makes a distinction between the prince as the one who enforces the law and the lawmaker. Rousseau discusses how population, climate, geographic landscape, beliefs of the public and education effect the form of government and the ability to be governed. This book I believe made a major contribution on how we think about government and society.