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The Social Contract (The Hafner Library Of Classics) Unknown Binding – 1962


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  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: N.Y.: Hafner Publishing Company, (1962)
  • ASIN: B0016AYRTS
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
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) is best in large states, and elsewhere aristocracy (preferably elective) is generally best because 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 invariably stress 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. On the question of language Rousseau is employing rhetorical flourish. On democratic government, Rousseau's preference for aristocracy is not all-important because the democratic elements of his theory concern the sovereignty of the people, not the form of government. On pressure groups and political parties, Rousseau wishes to discourage rather than ban them, and Rousseau has certainly not been the only critic of representative government.

In what ways is Rousseau's thought democratic? The elements are consent, participation and majorities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric le rouge on 16 Jun 2013
Format: Paperback
A crucial book that is regularly included in school's programs in France.

The reading is not easy and one must really make an effort to read this book as the ideas are densely packed.

I have read this book when I was very young and just read it again and it has lost nothing of his power.
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By Xing on 14 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback
The book Social Contract by J.J. Rousseau, a great French thinker, ideated a state built on the basis of a contract made by people. Social contract was thus conceptualized to legitimate democracy established by most of the modern states in the world. Yet if we study the origin of the state further, we may find that men’s behavior of making a contract may be studied in a deep-going way in view of the role played by language because when a contract is made, language must be used. Thus we may probe the origin of the state from the perspective of linguistic ontology to explain why the idea of social contract can be thoughtful and reasonable. In my study I find that language plays a role in the formation of the state. That is why Rousseau could vindicate the role of contract in the formation of the state. I mean that human community evolves from the tribe of the primitive society to the state of the civilized society. Language is the key for the explanation of the origin of the state. That is, the use of language extends the distance of communication step by step because media can be developed when language is used. When the distance of linguistic communication is extended because human chain linguistic communication as well as written communication can be performed, the community grows large in population and area. When language is used in communication, common interest of those who use that language is also formed. For example, common memory is kept and common religious belief is spread. Then the unity of the community is no longer maintained by kinship ties but by linguistic communication. In the meantime, in their mutual interaction, men gradually feel obligated to give certain rights to others and the need of gaining certain rights acceptable by others. A tacit contract is made.Read more ›
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Astbury VINE VOICE on 21 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
I actually fell in to a slight, but common, trap when thinking about buying this book (as the Introduction explains). Rousseau's brilliant first line "Man is born free, and everywhere he is chains" immediately suggests that mankind must throw of the shackles of oppression, in order to be free from the powerful few, who wish to control the many by depriving them of their liberty. With this in mind, I thought that this book might be similar in message to the great works on Liberty by, for instance, John Stuart Mill or Thomas Paine. In fact it says the opposite - I even believe it goes farther than Machiavelli argues in The Prince in the need to be a strong but not necessarily free society (at least as far as Personal Freedoms are concerned). This is a book about how Rousseau thought different societies ought to be run, and not about liberating man from all repression.

The central idea is that each citizen should give over to the State whatever the State requires, and in return he would become part of a moral entity, whose General Will - composed of all its citizens' individual consciences - is always to act in the interests of the State, therefore ultimately benefiting its citizens. In such a way, the citizen becomes part Sovereign of the State. This is the Social Contract. There is nothing particularly illiberal about all this, except that Rousseau places the interests of the State infinitely higher than that of Personal Freedom; condoning the use of whatever measures necessary to ensure that the General Will is enacted, by means of authoritarianism if necessary.
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