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The Social Contract and The Discourses

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  619 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews

Two works in one volume

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the first, and the most eloquent and versatile, of that extraordinary line of radical modern thinkers who aimed their disenchantment at the very roots of the human social order and thereby forever reshaped the way we deal with one another. Of Rousseau’s many contributions to the tradition he inaugurated, the one for which he
Hardcover, 472 pages
Published October 26th 1993 by Everyman's Library (first published 1762)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,562)
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I don't know what to make of Rousseau. On the one hand, the entire concept of the social contract seems like a hopelessly dated relic, and a completely flawed starting position for any program of political philosophy. And, I think, Isaiah Berlin was right when he heard the tap-tap-tapping of jackboots in the future-- albeit completely unbeknownst to Rousseau-- when notions about an inalienable and indivisible general will of the people were being bandied about. But, at this time, Rousseau was wr ...more
Bibi shakoor
Jun 14, 2012 Bibi shakoor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, well written and quite an indictment on western civilization. While some of his ideas I thought Utopian, some are issues that are quite relevant today. It is true civilized man will be unable to return to his or her natural state, but I guess we can aspire to those aspects that are possible.
May 24, 2016 Kerem rated it it was amazing
The book is full of gems, and at times it gets quite heavy and makes you think a lot. Some opinions can be definitely evaluated differently in our times, but certainly worth reading...
Shahriar shiva
Apr 15, 2015 Shahriar shiva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rousseau is a philosophical genius, but unfortunately, many of his ideas do not formulate a cohesive pattern of application to the practical world. His ideas are intriguing, yet they also are sporadic and hap-hazardous and much of it seem more ambiguous as opposed to rationally practical. One may not find the former shocking of critique by other philosophes. However Rousseau is still a critical figure as his work (this one in particular) caught the attention of Immanuel Kant, who tried to deciph ...more
Bob Nichols
Rousseau writes about biological man who is driven by self-interest (one's preservation, welfare). The need for freedom to attend to one's own needs is grounded in biology and this is Rousseau's philosophical core. Self-interest is balanced by "pity" for the sufferings of other feeling beings. Rousseau's natural man interacts with his fellows in a way that preserves a balance between respect for the self's need for freedom with a respect for the rights of others to their own freedom. His task as ...more
Mar 07, 2012 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.' At times, Rousseau is very insightful, at other times quite narrow, but his writings are always rich in passion and historical context. The social contract is intended to represent the general will of the people, which forms a body called the Sovereign. Separate from government, the Sovereign acts in the best interests of the people and is the fabric that holds societies together. The government merely represents an officer of the Sovereign, th ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impetuous and unerringly divisive, called alternately a progenitor of the righteous will of the people and of blood-drenched revolution, Jean Jacques Rousseau spent much of his life arguing for acceptance of his beliefs, only to be loathed wholly by contemporaries Voltaire, Diderot, and Montesquieu, and ultimately exiled; it wasn’t until after his death that his work discovered fervent allies (misinterpreters?) in the likes of Robespierre and his Jacobins, with his The Social Contract cited as a ...more
May 08, 2015 nicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as poetic as his first discourse on inequality, but still intriguing and important in understand both modern and contemporary times.
RK Byers
Jun 19, 2015 RK Byers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
as a savage, I totally agree with the pro-savage perspective.
Arkar Kyaw
Introduction to Nietzsche: how to shitpost at an essay competition edition.
Shyne Tunglskin
Lu en version numérique. A relire absolument en version papier pour ajouter annotations.
Sep 04, 2013 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the pillars of European democratic philosophy. It's opening: "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains." To me, if Rousseau contributed to our current culture, it wasn't just in democratic thought, but also the notion(s) implied in this famous quote: That our freedom is complicated, that we are capable - no, willing even - of subjecting ourselves to popular control without truly realizing it. You can't account for the history of modern politics without Rousseau.
Oct 07, 2009 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political-theory
"For it is by no means a light undertaking to distinguish properly between what is original and what is artificial in the actual nature of man, or to form a true idea of a state which no longer exists, perhaps never did exist, and probably never will exist; and of which it is, nevertheless, necessary to have true ideas, in order to form a proper judgment of our present state."
Cock Johnson
Feb 12, 2016 Cock Johnson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
The essay I find most compelling is his discourse on inequality.
Sep 07, 2015 Rick rated it it was ok
It was a mixed bag, at the bottom of which was found a handful of truisms.
Oct 26, 2011 AC rated it it was amazing
I've decided to teach the Second Discourse as part of one of my courses, and so have now reread this after *many* years. It remains a book of great depth and interest.

This particular edition, inexpensive and well-made (hardbound), with Cole's translations and notes, is excellent.
Aug 14, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what uber-nerdy frame of mind I was in that I was reading Rousseau for pleasure... anyways. This was surprisingly well paced and enjoyable for political theory essays.
Sean Chick
Apr 24, 2015 Sean Chick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rousseau is like Thomas Jefferson but with a more state friendly approach (although even that is debatable). His work is sometimes brilliant, often wrong, and always intriguing.
Cody Paris
Oct 22, 2013 Cody Paris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Busy two weeks, finally had a bit of time to read last night to finish this classic. Timeless insights on the relationship between government, representatives, and the people.
Mar 02, 2012 Dave rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'd rather have red hot forks in my eyes than ever read this book again!
Jun 07, 2010 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First discourse is really amazing. Insightful, unique, unexpected.
A bit tough to get through the first time around but worth the read.
Jan 24, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of my world view, but not all of it. Worth the time.
Oct 26, 2007 Suz added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gb
Rosseau was a good writer, but his ideas are wacko.
Corey Grabar
Jun 17, 2008 Corey Grabar is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm just really excited to dig in on this one...
Franco Alen
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Jul 25, 2016
Zachary Sweet
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Jul 24, 2016
Mathias rated it did not like it
Jul 24, 2016
Danny Byrne
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Jul 23, 2016
Ecegul rated it it was amazing
Jul 22, 2016
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau remains an important figure in the history of philosophy, both because of his contributions to political philosophy and moral psychology and because of his influence on later thinkers. Rousseau's own view of philosophy and philosophers was firmly negative, seeing philosophers as the post-hoc rationalizers of self-interest, as apologists for various forms of tyranny, and as pl ...more
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“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: "Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!” 188 likes
“Why should we build our happiness on the opinons of others, when we can find it in our own hearts?” 135 likes
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