The Social Contract

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Cosimo, Inc., Jan 1, 2008 - Philosophy - 144 pages
2 Reviews
Wise men, if they try to speak their language to the common herd instead of its own, cannot possibly make themselves understood. There are a thousand kinds of ideas which it is impossible to translate into popular language. Conceptions that are too general and objects that are too remote are equally out of its range: each individual, having no taste for any other plan of government than that which suits his particular interest, finds it difficult to realize the advantages he might hope to draw from the continual privations good laws impose. -from VII: "The Legislator" How does human nature impact politics and government? What is the "social contract," and what are our obligations to it? Is the "general will" infallible? What are the limits of sovereign power? What are the marks of "good government"? What constitutes the death of the body politic? How can we check the usurpations of government? Swiss philosopher JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712-1778) was a dramatic influence on the French revolution, 19th-century communism, the American Founding Fathers, and much modern political thought, primarily through this 1762 work, his most influential. Here, he explores concepts of civil society, human sovereignty, and effective government that continue to be debated-and not yet settled-in the 21st century. A classic of modern thought, this is required reading for anyone wishing to be considered well educated.
 

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Review: The Social Contract

User Review  - Erica Basco - Goodreads

Supposed to be a classic, but to be honest bored me, and when I wasn't bored, I was offended with the sexism within. Read full review

Review: The Social Contract

User Review  - Logan - Goodreads

I thought the most interesting parts were when he said that there is not one form of government that is suitable for all countries, so some countries would be better under a monarch than a democracy ... Read full review

Contents

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Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Jean Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss philosopher and political theorist who lived much of his life in France. Many reference books describe him as French, but he generally added "Citizen of Geneva" whenever he signed his name. He presented his theory of education in Emile (1762), a novel, the first book to link the educational process to a scientific understanding of children; Rousseau is thus regarded as the precursor, if not the founder, of child psychology. "The greatest good is not authority, but liberty," he wrote, and in The Social Contract (1762) Rousseau moved from a study of the individual to an analysis of the relationship of the individual to the state: "The art of politics consists of making each citizen extremely dependent upon the polis in order to free him from dependence upon other citizens." This doctrine of sovereignty, the absolute supremacy of the state over its members, has led many to accuse Rousseau of opening the doors to despotism, collectivism, and totalitarianism. Others say that this is the opposite of Rousseau's intent, that the surrender of rights is only apparent, and that in the end individuals retain the rights that they appear to have given up. In effect, these Rousseau supporters say, the social contract is designed to secure or to restore to individuals in the state of civilization the equivalent of the rights they enjoyed in the state of nature. Rousseau was a passionate man who lived in passionate times, and he still stirs passion in those who write about him today.

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