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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and government


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Francois Guerin


Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a French-Swiss philosopher best known for influencing the French Revolution and his analysis of government. Ian Adams and R. W. Dyson said,


"...whatever his ambiguities of his legacy in respect to totalitarianism, there is no doubt that Rousseau is the key figure in the development of democratic thought... it was Rousseau who developed the concept of sovereignty of the people, and he was the first to insist upon the fitness and right of the ordinary people to participate in the political system as full citizens." (Fifty Major Political Thinkers, 2003)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Rousseau.




"The Sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has not can have any interest contrary to theirs." (The Social Contract, 1762)


"Nothing is more dangerous than the influence of private interests in public affairs, and the abuse of laws by the government is a less evil than the corruption of the legislator." (The Social Contract, 1762)


"It is solely on the basis of this common interest that every society should be governed." (The Social Contract, 1762)


"In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed." (The Social Contract, 1762)




"What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses." (The Social Contract, 1762)


"The money that we possess is the instrument of liberty, that which we lack and strive to obtain is the instrument of slavery." (Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1782 posthumous)


"A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue." (Quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts by Tryon Edwards)


"I love liberty, and I loathe constraint, dependence, and all their kindred annoyances." (Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1782 posthumous)




"That man is truly free who desires what he is able to perform, and does what he desires. This is my fundamental maxim. Apply it to childhood, and all the rules of education spring from it." (Emile, or On Education, 1762)


"I well know that children ought to be kept employed, and that idleness is for them the danger most to be feared. But what should they be taught? This is undoubtedly an important question. Let them be taught what they are to practise when they come to be men; not what they ought to forget." (Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, 1750)


"Those whom nature intended for her disciples have not needed masters. Bacon, Descartes and Newton, those teachers of mankind had themselves no teachers. What guide indeed could have taken them so far as their sublime genius directed them? Ordinary masters would only have cramped their intelligence by confining it within the narrow limits of their own capacity." (Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, 1750)


Private property


"The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying 'This is mine', and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society." (Discourse on Inequality, 1754)


"You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all and the earth itself to nobody." (Discourse on Inequality, 1754)


"Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they." (The Social Contract, 1762)