Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: On The Individual and Society

MERLE L. PERKINS
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hzdv
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  • Book Info
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    Book Description:

    In this study, Merle L. Perkins links individual freedom with national power in offering a close reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's major texts. He sees in Rousseau's thought an extreme tension and interdependence between the idiosyncrasy of nonconforming character and an almost obsessive concern with the external pressures operating on the state.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6403-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-8)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 9-10)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 11-12)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 13-18)

    My initial approach to Rousseau’s moral and political philosophy was in large parth through a study of his views on international politics. I believed this perspective, when it could be justified, would yield new insights into his thought and into the interpretations of it already made by others. Previous studies had dealt almost exclusively with Rousseau’s ideas in the context of the state seen as an isolated unit rather than in the context of influences exerted by other nations.

    The two early twentieth-century writers who examined Rousseau’s views about the international scene did so in a limited way. In his...

  5. Chapter I THE SOURCE OF VISION
    (pp. 19-48)

    The student of Rousseau, whether considering his ideas on education, his novel, or some aspect o his moral, political, and economic theory, soon feels the need to return to theConfessionsfor more intimate knowledge of the man, his thought processes, his values, his strengths and weaknesses. The work is made up of two sections. The First Part, in six books, tells of the happy years of his youth and early manhood (1712-1741) spent near Lake Geneva or wandering in Switzerland, France, and Italy. Written while he was still on friendly terms with Hume at Wootton, Staffordshire, in 1765 and...

  6. Chapter II VIRTUE AS SCIENCE AND ART
    (pp. 49-72)

    In Book VIII of theConfessionsRousseau dramatizes his decision to question the most basic values of civilization. Diderot, imprisoned at Vincennes, was now permitted to receive visitors, and Rousseau on a hot autumn day of 1749 set out from Paris to visit him. Walking at a slow pace, he skimmed through the October issue of the literary journal theMercure de Franceand found news of the essay contest to be sponsored by the Academy of Dijon for the year 1750. The topic, there could be no doubt, was open to daring interpretation, for it asked the participants if...

  7. Chapter III NATURE AND NECESSITY
    (pp. 73-114)

    In 1753 the Academy of Dijon proposed another important subject for discussion, the origin of inequality among men. The topic encouraged Rousseau to develop further the premises of thePremier discours.Leaving Paris in November of that year and settling comfortably for a few days with Thérèse in the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, he found the isolation and serenity needed for deep meditation. Reproducing in his imagination the story of mankind’s most primitive existence, he sought and found to his own satisfaction the basic secrets of human nature, traced the steps of man’s advance into civilization, and tried to explain how...

  8. Chapter IV THE ENLIGHTENED PRINCE
    (pp. 115-147)

    Less known than the first and second discourses, theDiscours sur l’économie politique¹ nevertheless represents a vital link in Rousseau’s reasoning, for it attempts to define precisely the legitimate role of government in the state. Its first section establishes that administration must be according to law. The second deals with the government’s duties with respect to the liberty, security, and education of citizens. In the third and final section Rousseau describes some of his views on public finance. The work was first published as an article of the Encyclopédic, volume 5, November 1755, when Rousseau was still in friendly collaboration...

  9. Chapter V A NATION’S CHARACTER: THE MECHANICS OF DESTRUCTION
    (pp. 148-167)

    TheSecond discoursand theEconomie politiquein describing the civil state made three observations: first, each nation exists under pressure from internal and international conflict; second, the fate of the nation rests in large part on the quality of the relationship between people and government; and third, unless the government actively forms and maintains the character of the people, the latter will become corrupt and degeneration and destruction of both people and government will follow. Underlining these tenets of operational necessity, Rousseau in effect asked that the prince accept the scientific and artistic challenge of creating a people. Government,...

  10. Chapter VI THE EVOLVING FAMILY
    (pp. 168-204)

    No excuse seems necessary for giving theNouvelle Héloïsea full chapter in a discussion of Rousseau’s ideas on the foundations of national power. The importance of this work’s contribution to his system has been frequently recognized (Pléiade, 2: xx, xlii, liv). Some of his main themes — the opposition of provincial life to the decadence of brilliant cities, the glorification of antiquity at the expense of modern nations, the tension between passion and duty, the education of children, the struggle between deism and atheism — appear in his novel, either amplified beyond their expression in the earlier writings, or used to...

  11. Chapter VII EDUCATION: MATRIX FOR UNIQUENESS AND LEGITIMACY
    (pp. 205-238)

    Written between 1757 and 1760,Emileappeared in 1762 and was widely read. Its ideas can be said to have very soon started new trends in educational theory, but the reaction of the authorities to its religious doctrine was disastrous for Rousseau. After his stay at the Hermitage in 1756-1757 and at Montlouis, 1757-1758, he found new shelter in May of 1759 at the Petit Château of Montmorency, where he was the guest of the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Rousseau now enjoyed the hospitality of the highest ranking nobility, of a figure very close to royal power. The publication...

  12. Chapter VIII SUSTAINING THE INDIVIDUAL WILLS
    (pp. 239-270)

    Among the projects Rousseau was considering after 1756 was a study of political institutions. The idea for it, he says in Book IX of theConfessions,in fact went back thirteen of fourteen years to when he was in Venice (1743-1744) serving as secretary of the French ambassador. But not until 1751 was the vast plan given serious attention and reduced to practical proportions. The actual writing of theDu Contrat social ou principes du droit politique¹ was probably delayed even more until 1756 or as late as 1758. By August of 1761 he told his publisher, Marc-Michel Rey of...

  13. Chapter IX HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
    (pp. 271-302)

    My analysis of theContrat socialhas attempted to make clear that, in Rousseau’s view, freeing the energy within the individual self is the goal of the prospering nation. All domestic structures are designed to encourage and protect private capacity. The tutor forms education to that end. The family provides the atmosphere conducive to a training which, if private, is at the same time public in the sense that it develops the independence essential to legitimacy. The contract further guarantees the integrity of the individual self as subject and the legislating freedom of the self as citizen. Since the individuality...

  14. Chapter X LEGITIMACY AND NATIONAL POWER
    (pp. 303-317)

    Brief descriptive remarks have already been made about most of the works to be discussed in this chapter. Only a few words need be said about Rousseau’sExtrait du projet de paix peréptuelleand hisEtat de guerre.The first, a shortened version of the Abbe de Saint-Pierre’sProjet de paix perpétuelle(1712), an ambitious plan for a peace-keeping union of European nations, was prepared by Rousseau after 1756. In theConfessionsRousseau says he performed this task at the suggestion of Mme Dupin, who out of respect for the good Abbé wanted to revive the “stillborn” works of her...

  15. Chapter XI THE UNIQUELY EVOLVING SELF
    (pp. 318-329)

    It is a humbling experience to try to trace the patterns of Rousseau’s feelings and thoughts, to weigh the images he uses to express them, to find the shifting and multiple meanings which underlie his words and give them their power of renewal. The clues to interpretation he forces upon us in the autobiographical works do not relieve the frustration that troubles him and all men in their efforts at intimate communication. The barriers to communication are at times of his own creation, for the more he tries to be his own analyst, the more we are compelled by his...

  16. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 330-334)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 335-342)