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The impossibility of reason

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.

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In the beginning was song

6 Epilogue: in the beginning was song And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1.5) We have (rather deliberately) said very little about the subject of music, as this is not obviously a part of Rousseau’s social philosophy. Yet music was – though scholars have often forgotten this1 – Rousseau’s main passion, and this passion spilled over into his political writings in more ways than one. Rousseau, the musician and note-copier, was an accidental philosopher. Had he not seen the prize question from the Academy in Dijon on

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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The life and times of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

.S. Eliot, ‘is someone who establishes a culture’ (Eliot 1975: 402). Few others than Plato, Virgil and Christ (and the latter, arguably, had unfair parental support!) can lay claim to this status. As one scholar has put it, ‘In our time Rousseau is usually cited as a classic of early modern political philosophy. He is more than that: he is the central figure in the history of modern philosophy and perhaps the pivotal figure in modern culture as a whole’ (Velkley 2002: 31). Rousseau belongs to the noble few. Reviled and ridiculed, liked or loathed, the Swiss vagabond, who

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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philosopher colleague, the Swiss thinker also believed that political philosophy should be a continuing dialogue with the classics. In the introduction to the Discourse sur l’inégalité (The Origin of Inequality), Rousseau, almost echoing Machiavelli, set out to transcend history and speak directly to all of mankind. As my subject of interest is mankind in general, I shall endeavour to make use of a style adapted to all nations, or rather forgetting time and place, to attend only to men to whom I am speaking. I shall suppose myself in the Lyceum of Athens, repeating the

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

arts he predicted that his essay ‘would live beyond its century’ (III: 3). And so it did. Approaching the tercentenary of his birth, the Swiss note-copier’s works are on the reading lists in sundry faculties all across the academic horizon – from anthropology through music and philosophy to political science and even botany. Why this continued interest in a man who was ‘from childhood to his death but an artisan, a bureaucrat or minor employee just as much as a writer’ (Launay 1963: 22)? This question is as easy to ask as it is difficult to answer. A short, adequate

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

overlooked even by Rousseau scholars.3 Nationalism does not feature in the authoritative works on Rousseau’s political philosophy. Rousseau’s writings on nationalism are mainly contained in two treatises (although traces can be found elsewhere); in Projet de Constitution pour la Corse (1764 ) and in Considérations sur la gouvernement du Pologne (1771). In Du Contrat Social Rousseau availed himself for advice on constitutional engineering to nations that were entitled ‘to be taught by some wise man how to preserve freedom’ (III: 391). Two countries requested his services

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

002.p65 19 11/09/03, 13:33 20 The political philosophy of Rousseau state? Where would we be without the progress of medical technologies and the tremendous advances in the sciences, which have led to electricity, the lap-top computer, MTV, the electric guitar, Viagra, Boeing 747s, the hedonistic pleasures of the welfare state and cellular phones? Have we ever had it so good? Brave new world! What more could we possibly want? The history of progress Certainly the sciences have made life easier in many respects. Yet it is as if there is a flaw in the heaven of

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau as a constitutionalist

principle of direct and indivisible democracy … there is the implication of dictatorship’ (46). There are, however, scholars who – with ample textual evidence – have pointed out that Rousseau’s positive concept of liberty, in general, and his theory of popular participation in particular, does not make him a Chap003.p65 49 11/09/03, 13:34 50 The political philosophy of Rousseau totalitarian (Leigh 1964).3 But it is as if his advocates, in their eagerness to defend him, trade in that very multiplicity of readings and meanings which have earned him a position in the

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design

Introduction Drawing its energy from the wave of New Left and counter-cultural radicalism of the 1960s ( Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005 ), an NGO-led direct humanitarian action pushed onto the international stage during the 1970s. The radicalism of this new anti-establishment sans frontières humanitarianism lay in its political challenge to the conventions of Cold War sovereignty. By being there on the ground it sought to hold sovereign power to account, witnessing its excesses while professing a face-to-face humanitarian solidarity with its

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

issue for contemporary humanitarian action. This article is thus an historically informed contemplation on the political function of IHL and what we can expect from it. The Soldier, the Legal Expert and the Rescuer Let us begin with the first Geneva Convention, the starting point of contemporary IHL; it was signed on 22 August 1864 1 and did not even mention the word ‘humanitarian’. In ten articles occupying two pages, its subject (as reflected by its title) was ‘the amelioration of the condition of the wounded in armies in the field’. It can be summarised in just

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs