Philosophy and Critical Theory

Rousseau’s and nationalism

Previously unrecognised by scholars of nationalism, Rousseau was, in fact, the founder of the modern doctrine of nationalism. This chapter shows how Rousseau succeeded in developing a case for social cohesion and the necessity of having a common culture in a society. In developing a case for nationalism as a ‘civic profession of faith’ he continued—and redeveloped—a doctrine begun by Machiavelli, which was later to be further elaborated by Alexis de Tocqueville and present-day theorists and practitioners of social capital, like the political scientist Robert Putnam and the English politician David Blunkett. It is argued that Rousseau accomplished the feat of developing a new doctrine of civic religion (i.e., nationalism) and that he succeeded in combining a defence for this doctrine with a new place for Christianity (which was consistent with the original apolitical teachings of Christ). The chapter also presents an account of Rousseau's thinking on international politics, including something as timely as an account of his opposition against the establishment of a European superstate.

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This chapter outlines the major philosophical problem for Rousseau: the burden of modernity. It gives an account of Rousseau's place in the emerging world of modernity, and his opposition to secularism and scientism. It shows how his general philosophical—and theological—opposition to modernity underpinned his moral philosophy. Unlike liberal or utilitarian thinkers, Rousseau sought to base his moral judgements on emotions and sensibility, not on rational calculations. It is shown how this made him overcome the poverty of ethical theory that has characterised modernity—and how Rousseau invented post-modernism (with a pre-modern face). The chapter also contains a section on Rousseau's economic philosophy, in which it is shown that he—like Adam Smith—succeeded in transcending the economic theories of mercantilists and physiocrats. An analysis of the relationship between Rousseau and Burke is also presented. Often seen as adversaries, the chapter shows that Rousseau and Burke, in fact, were in agreement on the majority of issues, including opposition to revolutionary change, reverence for religion, and a preference for gradual reform.

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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In the beginning was song

This chapter presents an account of Rousseau's philosophy of music. Music was Rousseau's main passion, and this passion spilled over into his political writings in more ways than one. The whole tenor of his prose had a musical aura about it. His works were composed rather than written—which, perhaps, explains his eloquence. Readers of Rousseau's work in the original French have been struck by the rhythmical patterns. This musical quality was not unintended. Through the melodious tone he wanted to prove a philosophical point. Musicheld the key to restoring our original emotions, that natural ‘goodness of man’, which manifested itself in the natural compassion with suffering, weak, and unfortunate individuals. It is, perhaps, indicative that Rousseau—the thinker of natural goodness of man and a composer—never tired of stressing that music and song was man's first impulse.

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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This introductory chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to re-open a dialogue with the classics. It attempts not only to see the masters in context—as has become popular among modern thinkers—but rather to seek inspiration from the great minds to deal with contemporary political problems. Rousseau—and indeed any other classic—is politically relevant only if he reveals timeless insights. If a classic cannot inspire he is nothing, and is better confined to the dustbin of failed political doctrines. This book is based on the premise that Rousseau speaks through the ages. It seeks to show that Rousseau, while he may not have the answers to contemporary problems, at the very least provides new angles and perspectives on the debate.

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This chapter presents some conclusions and shows that there was an internal coherence in Rousseau's thought. As befits a classical thinker, Rousseau's contribution to Western philosophy was rich in detail and even broader in scope. Like other critics of modernity, his philosophy was a showdown with a society marred by Godless materialism, absurd social inequalities, and unnatural inter-human relations. Men, argued Rousseau, would not be set free if left to himself. Liberty, as understood by Rousseau, could only be acquired once man had reconciled his natural, spiritual, and social sides of himself with the requirements of living in an advanced civilisation. He further argued that men could only be free when—or if—they recognised the imperatives of living in a family, in a republic and in harmony with a universe created by God.

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

This chapter presents an overview of Rousseau's life and times. More than any other writer Rousseau's philosophy has been associated with his life. There is something to be said for this interpretation. Without an understanding of his life it is difficult to appreciate why he wrote the works he wrote, and what he sought to accomplish. Yet his biographers have often presented an incomplete account of his life, one based only on his own autobiographical writings. The chapter challenges this tendency by using Rousseau's letters and eyewitness accounts by comtempories as well as his autobiographical writings to paint a more nuanced picture of the Swiss philosopher. It also presents the range of Rousseau's genius, which included operas, plays, novels, as well as political, economic, botanical, and theological writings. Rousseau's work is related to the geniuses who were inspired by his writings, such as Goethe, Kant, and John F. Kennedy.

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Entanglements and ambiguities

This chapter discusses aspects of the interplay between the disciplines and modernity, as mediated by temporal-spatial imperatives. It focuses on the relationship between anthropology and history in order to discuss formations of modern knowledge as themselves forming critical subjects and crucial procedures of modernity. Time and temporality are usually projected as the stuff of history, quite as culture and tradition are implicitly understood as subjects of anthropology. Staying with and thinking through the formative ambivalences of ethnography make it possible to approach anew anthropology in non-Western worlds through temporal-spatial considerations. The temporality of anthropological others could only emerge as being external to and lagging behind the space and time of the writing of ethnography. The chapter considers the presence of ambivalence and ambiguity at the core of recent renovations of anthropology and history, often overlooked by presumptions of progress in explanations of disciplines and their makeovers.

in Subjects of modernity
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Time and space

This chapter is cast as a personal narrative. It unravels how the author arrived at inklings and understandings of space and time - alongside those of disciplines and subjects, modernity and identity. The chapter explores processes that braided time, space, and their enmeshments. The contentious enmeshments shaped the mission project and a vernacular Christianity. The chapter is concerned with the acute entanglements between missionary and convert, colonial cultures and vernacular Christianity, empire and modernity, and power and difference, shored up by overlapping yet heterogeneous articulations of time and space. Away from the mutual constitution of these critical copulas by their constitutive elements as well as each other, the work of subaltern studies principally rested on keeping the segments apart, bringing into play temporal-spatial demarcations.

in Subjects of modernity
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Antinomies and enticements

This chapter considers aspects of the interplay of modernity and history, as entailing pervasive procedures of the temporalization of space and the spatialization of time. It shows that these protocols have twin dimensions. On the one hand, they entail routine projections of historical time as necessarily homogeneous and yet founded on inaugural spatial ruptures. On the other, they involve antinomian blueprints of social space as innately split but ever along a singular temporal hierarchy. The chapter focuses on some of the distinctions of subjects of modernity and modern subjects, all the while keeping in view modernity's enchantments. Intensely spectral but concretely palpable, forming tangible representations and informing forceful practices, the one bound to the other, the enticements stalk the worlds of modernity's doing and undoing. As worldly knowledge, abiding oppositions, and their constitutive presumptions entered the lives of historical subjects, albeit at different times and in distinct ways.

in Subjects of modernity