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and absurd insistence that politics might be reduced to mathematics and algebra. Rousseau’s trust in natural conservatism provided him with the institutional means of avoiding radical and revolutionary change – something which he (like Burke) detested. He developed these views into a constitutionalist doctrine of gradual reform and piecemeal change, the principles of which were outlined in Du Contrat Social, the Discourse sur l’inégalité, and given a concrete form in Lettres écrites de la montagne. The latter is often – though unfairly – overlooked. For while the

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

awareness of the individual’s uniqueness, which had eluded his colleagues. It is still not customary to criticise progress. Conservatism is not a positive adjective in the early stages of the twenty-first century – nor was it in the middle of the eighteenth. Voltaire scornfully rebuked Rousseau’s opposition to science and progress in Discourse sur l’inégalité, branding it Rousseau’s ‘second book against the human race’ (Gray 1998: 38).2 Yet, even in popular culture there have occasionally been criticisms of the unintended consequences of the evolution of technologies that

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau’s and nationalism

which had been unknown a couple of centuries before. Elie Kedouri observed – perhaps not entirely accurately – that ‘Nationalism is a political doctrine invented in Europe at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century’ (Kedouri 1960: 1). This might have been an exaggeration but Kedouri had a point. Nationalism is not only regarded as a relatively recently established ideology, it is also regarded as a fatherless doctrine, without the illustrious intellectual ancestry which characterises socialism, liberalism, and even conservatism. Nationalism, it is asserted, lacks a

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau