Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rousseau and the Social Contract

Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rousseau and the Social Contract

Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rousseau and the Social Contract

Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rousseau and the Social Contract

Synopsis

Rousseau's Social Contract is a benchmark in political philosophy and has influenced moral and political thought since its publication. Rousseau and the Social Contract introduces and assesses:*Rousseau's life and the background of the Social Contract *The ideas and arguments of the Social Contract *Rousseau's continuing importance to politics and philosophy Rousseau and the Social Contract will be essential reading for all students of philosophy and politics, and anyone coming to Rousseau for the first time.

Excerpt

I first read Rousseau’s Social Contract when I was about fifteen years old. the boyfriend of my French exchange partner’s elder sister was interested in philosophy and he persuaded me to read a number of works of which Rousseau’s was one. At the time, it was hard for me to distinguish Rousseau from Marx or Nietzsche since they all seemed to preach a message sharply at variance with the norms of English middle class society. Shortly afterwards, I acquired my own copy (and an edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan) following the expulsion of their original owner from our public school.

In the thirty-odd years since, I have read the Social Contract and many of Rousseau’s other works over and over again. the Social Contract, in particular, is an elusive text. It is somewhat fragmentary and poorly integrated. As a consequence, it has given rise to multiple and contradictory interpretations. To some of his readers, Rousseau has seemed to be the prophet of a participatory democracy; to others, he is the harbinger of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Some have seen the Social Contract as being apart from the main body of his work; others have found ways of integrating it with Rousseau’s wider thought.

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