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Discourse on Political Economy and The Social Contract (Oxford World's Classics) Reissue Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199538966
ISBN-10: 0199538964
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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Christopher is Senior Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Warwick.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538966
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
There are many editions of "The Social Conract" in print and it is a relatively short work. Hence publishers often seek to make their edition stand out from the crowd with either a long introduction or some add-ons. In this case we have the addition of "Discourse on Political Economy" plus the draft version of the first chapter of The Social Contract in the earliest manuscript of the book. The Discourse on Political Economy is an article first published in Diderot's Encyclopaedia, and shows the direction of Rousseau's thinking he finalised in this work.

The Social Contract has been seen as democratic by some and as a harbinger of totalitarianism by others. It is not difficult to portray Rousseau's ideas as authoritarian or totalitarian. He denied citizenship to women (though this was normal for thinkers of his age). He used language such as" forced to be free" and "trained to bear with docility the yoke of the public happiness". The Censorial Tribunal and the insistence on a civil religion seem illiberal to the modern mind. He argued that monarchy (single ruler) government is best in large states, and elsewhere aristocracy (preferably elective) is generally best for democratic governments often suffer internal strife; "If there were a nation of Gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men." He requires citizens to cede all rights to the community, whereas modern democracies usually stress individual rights. Finally, Rousseau condemns representative government and dislikes political parties and pressure groups, for they tend to create mini general wills that make it difficult for the General Will to emerge.

Some of these points can be countered more or less successfully.
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Format: Paperback
This book collects the two most important political writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discourse on Political Economy and On Social Contract. Rousseau is one of the most original and influential philosophers, having a profound effect on everyone and everything from the French Revolution - and, depending on whom you ask, the American - to Marx to Tolstoy. His range was literally encyclopedic, but he is probably best remembered for political writings. Anyone looking to get a good overview of these will do well to start here, as this basically has all of his strictly political work, but anyone wanting a wider overview must look elsewhere.

Discourse on Political Economy essentially takes the next step of asking how we can legitimize and improve such a corrupt society. It does not have easy answers but does reject the seemingly obvious one that we return to a primitive state; Rousseau has often been charged with this, but he actually explicitly denies it. This Discourse is far less original but has several salient points and is well-written. It is an important contribution to the question that has dominated Western thought since at least Plato and essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in it.

On Social Contract is now considered Rousseau's most important work, and it is easy to see why. He of course did not invent the social contract; Thomas Hobbes' 1651 Leviathan is generally considered its foundation, but elements are visible at least as far back as Plato. It had dominated Western political thought since Hobbes, though, and Rousseau's contribution is one of the most important. He looks at the question more thoroughly and systematically than anyone since Hobbes and, though he admired the latter, comes to almost the opposite conclusion.
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A Great Book I have wanted to read for Years,glad I finally did!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wonderful book.
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A classic !
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