Rousseau's political thought has been accredited with major influence upon subsequent radical democratic thinking, but in fact its contradictions and obscurities render the real import of its legacy deeply ambiguous. This article aims to identify its central message through clarification of the Social Contract's presuppositions and prescriptions, interpreted in the light of his other writings. Although the modernity of his thought is evident in the priority he gives to individual freedom, Rousseau's disturbing novelty lies in his belief that this can only be reconciled with the interests of political community when people are, by contemporary standards, severely underdeveloped in their individuality. For him, modern socialization irreversibly blocks this reconciliation and compounds the oppression of individuals by distorting their authentic identities. Thus, Rousseau ought to be seen as offering nothing but a critique of any aspiration to salvage genuine liberty in society now. The article urges a redefinition of his contribution to political thought and depicts him as an early articulator of powerful challenges to the main aims of contractarian and democratic theory, which the latter is still unwisely apt to ignore
Keywords Rousseau, Jean-Jacques   Political science
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00201749508602388
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 54,536
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 1651 - Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Reflections on the Revolution in France.Edmund Burke - 2009 - London: Oxford University Press.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 2006 - In Aloysius Martinich, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Early Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
40 ( #247,024 of 2,385,598 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #560,301 of 2,385,598 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes