This book presents an overview of Jean–Jacques Rousseau's work from a political science perspective. Was Rousseau — the great theorist of the French Revolution—really a conservative? The text argues that the author of ‘The Social Contract’ was a constitutionalist much closer to Madison, Montesquieu, and Locke than to revolutionaries. Outlining his profound opposition to Godless materialism and revolutionary change, this book finds parallels between Rousseau and Burke, as well as showing that Rousseau developed the first modern theory of nationalism. It presents an integrated political analysis of Rousseau's educational, ethical, religious and political writings.
The politics of the soul:
the life and times of Jean-JacquesRousseau1
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his
own soul? (St Matthew, 16.26)
Did Ludwig Wittgenstein write the most successful love story of his century? Did Thomas Hobbes compose an opera – and did it inspire the
work of Mozart? Did Byron write poems about Hume or Leibniz? Did
Schiller compose sonnets about Descartes and Locke? These questions
seem too ridiculous to warrant an answer. Ask the same questions about
Jean-JacquesRousseau (1712–78) and the opposite
) true Christendom. This is no mean accomplishment.
A civic profession of faith
This conclusion should be ample proof that Benedict Anderson’s
conclusion regarding nationalist political theorists was premature. At least
one major philosopher has developed a political theory of nationalism;
namely Jean-JacquesRousseau. Not everybody will see this as an
accomplishment. Rousseau’s enthusiasm for nationalism is not in vogue
today. Yet it is worthwhile to remember that Rousseau was not the only
one to reach this conclusion. A
Checks, balances and popular participation:
Rousseau as a constitutionalist
The liberty of the whole of humanity did not justify the shedding of blood
of a single man. (Jean-JacquesRousseau, L. 5450)
Rousseau’s denunciation of violence as a means to an end, in his letter to
the Countess of Wartesleben, is in stark contrast to the picture painted of
him by his adversaries (see the previous chapter). While it is generally
acknowledged that J.L. Talmon (1952) was unduly one-sided (HampsherMonk 1995) when accusing Rousseau’s ‘Jacobin’ philosophy for requiring
, Music and Language (New York:
Garland, 1987); Michael O’Dea, Jean-JacquesRousseau: Music, Illusion, and
Desire (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995); and Thomas M. Kavanagh, Writing
the Truth. Authority and Desire in Rousseau (Berkeley, University of California
2 Rousseau’s enmity towards Rameau was not surprising. In 1745 Rousseau
had revised Rameau and Voltaire’s opera Les Fêtes de Ramire, which became
a success. Yet Rousseau did not receive credit for the work.
men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the
food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to
speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in
their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no
boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten
me. I deliver myself entirely to them. (Machiavelli 1994: 3)
Two hundred years later, one of his most famous disciples, Jean-JacquesRousseau, sought to emulate the Florentine master, by taking up his pen.
latterday feminists. As Nancy Hirschman
has written, ‘since feminist political theory began as a subfield … that famous
sexist Jean-JacquesRousseau has been the political theorist that feminists
love to hate’. Nancy Hirschman, ‘Rousseau’s Republican Romance’, review
article, Political Theory, vol. 30, no. 1 (2000), 164. A new approach by feminists
is contained in Elizabeth Rose Wingrove’s Rousseau’s Republican Romance.
Wingrove reads Rousseau metaphorically, arguing that Rousseau’s
‘republicanism consists in proper performance of masculinity and
femininity’. She goes on
questionable if the Englishman would have expressed himself in this way
had it not been for Jean-JacquesRousseau.1 More than any other writer,
Rousseau became the apostle of the romantic reaction against vain
scientism and the intellectual hubris of the Enlightenment. Strangely,
perhaps, as Rousseau in the same period was treated as the intellectual
father of the French Revolution, and as he – according to Joseph De Maistre
and Edmund Burke – was to blame for the demise of the traditional order.
To be sure, great men invite different interpretations. Yet, it is difficult in
This book engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In much of Cavell's writing on film he seeks to show us that the protagonists of the films he terms "remarriage comedies" live a form of perfectionism that he upholds as desirable for contemporary democratic society: moral perfectionism. Films are often viewed on television, and television shows can have "filmlike" qualities. The book addresses the nature of viewing cinematic film as a mode of experience, arguing against Cavell that it is akin to dreaming rather than lived consciousness and, crucially, cannot be shared. It mirrors the celebrated dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean D'Alembert on theatre. The book articulates the implications of philosophical pessimism for addressing contemporary culture in its relationship to political life. It clarifies how The Americans resembles the remarriage films and can illuminate the issues they raise. The tragedy of remarriage, would be a better instructor of a democratic community, if such a community were prepared to listen. The book suggests that dreaming, both with and without films, is not merely a pleasurable distraction but a valuable pastime for democratic citizens. Finally, it concludes with a robust response from Dienstag to his critics.
establishment of a theater. It was generally suspected that this
part of the article was either written or suggested by Voltaire, who
was living in exile there at the time and complaining bitterly to
his friends about the lack of a theater.
Jean-JacquesRousseau, born in Geneva, had contributed
many entries to the Encyclopédie on music and
political economy and was well known as a