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Men and Citizens: A Study of Rousseau's Social Theory (Cambridge Studies in the History and Theory of Politics) Paperback – May 31, 1985

1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0521316408 ISBN-10: 0521316405 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews


' ... both original and stimulating ... solidly constructed and marked by a truly impressive grasp of Rousseau's elusive thought ... The excellence of this book is undeniable ... deserves the widest possible attention.' American Historical Review

Book Description

This book, first published in 1969, is widely regarded as one of the best studies of Rousseau's thought in any language. In it, Professor Shklar examines Rousseau's central concern: given that modern civilisation is intolerable and a return to the state of nature impossible, how is man to arrange his existence in society?

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in the History and Theory of Politics
  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (May 31, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521316405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521316408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Niklas Anderberg on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Judith N. Shklar's classic study was first published in 1969 and reissued in 1985. This paperback version is from 2009. Included is Shklar's preface from the 1985 edition and no further changes are made. It is widely regarded as one of the finest studies of Rousseau. And rightly so. In eminently readable prose and with a minimum of academic jargon, Shklar guides us through his complicated mental landscape. She convinces the reader that Rousseau's thought, which seems to abound in contradictions, nevertheless possesses an overarching coherence. In doing so, she deals with some of the prejudices many of us share. The first is the idea of a Utopia. Rousseau described two utopias; one was the family in a Golden Age, the other a Spartan city. As Shklar points out, they were at odds with each other and not attainable in the real world. But most importantly, this was never his intention. Rousseau was first and foremost a critic. His utopias were held up as mirrors of the evils of modern society. His often misquoted notion of a "return-to-nature" was never meant as a real alternative but as a critique of an oppressive civilization. In fact, he could sometimes come eerily close to Hobbes: "the pure state of nature (, which) is one of fear and suspicion, fed by ignorance." Here he sounds like a pessimistic misanthrope rather than a social reformer.
Consideration is, of course, given to Rousseau's notorious quarrels with a number of the philosophes, notably Voltaire. Contrary to Voltaire's reaction to the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, Rousseau held that one should not blame God for it, but rather mankind itself. After all, we had built all those crowded cities ourselves and were consequently responsible for any (to be expected) disaster.
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Men and Citizens: A Study of Rousseau's Social Theory (Cambridge Studies in the History and Theory of Politics)
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