Fugitive Rousseau: Slavery, Primitivism, and Political Freedom

Fugitive Rousseau: Slavery, Primitivism, and Political Freedom

Jimmy Casas Klausen
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Fugitive Rousseau: Slavery, Primitivism, and Political Freedom
    Book Description:

    Critics have claimed that Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a primitivist who was uncritically preoccupied with "noble savages" and that he remained oblivious to the African slave trade. Fugitive Rousseau demonstrates why these charges are wrong and argues that a fresh, "fugitive" perspective on political freedom is bound up with the themes of primitivism and slavery in Rousseau's political theory. Rather than trace Rousseau's arguments primarily to the social contract tradition of Hobbes and Locke, Fugitive Rousseau places Rousseau squarely in two imperial contexts: European empire in his contemporary Atlantic world and Roman imperial philosophy. Anyone who aims to understand the implications of Rousseau's famous sentence "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" or wants to know how Rousseauian arguments can support a radical democratic politics of diversity, discontinuity, and exodus will find Fugitive Rousseau indispensable.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5730-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    Why have political theorists whose work is marked by critiques of colonial modernity rejected Rousseau so vociferously over the past decade, while those who still champion Rousseau play a tug of war between liberal and communitarian accounts unmarked by postcolonial concerns?Fugitive Rousseausuggests that, although the charges of Rousseau’s critics are not unfounded, they are wrong to dismiss him, and that, symmetrically, liberal and communitarian interpretations are wrong to ignore imperial and colonial themes in Rousseau’s projects for freedom.¹ This book argues that Rousseau’s political theory of freedom, especially collective freedom, must be reconstructed by way of, not in...

  7. I Slavery
    • 1 Displacements
      (pp. 33-72)

      “Civil man is born, lives, and dies in slavery” (É 42; OC IV.253). What would it mean to take Rousseau at his word when he publishes such a thought during the long eighteenth century, when the constituent features on which political modernity is built, such as the large-scale agricultural capitalist slave plantation, are taking form? The slave plantation was “an integral part of the economic life of capitalist modernity” and the reason “why the French Revolution and the San Domingo Revolution are so inextricably interconnected,” coming to a head within decades after Rousseau’s death.¹ Rousseau continues, “So long as [civil...

    • 2 … and Condensations
      (pp. 73-112)

      In the first chapter I analyze slavery inOf the Social Contract, Book I, and conclude that Rousseau dismisses all traditional theoretical justifications for slavery as ill-fitting masks for mere force. In making this move, however, Rousseau poses a problem for himself, for he states that greater force is not enough on its own to institute a lasting relation: “The stronger is never strong enough to be forever master, unless he transforms his force into right, and obedience into duty” (SC I.3, 43; OC III.354). If brute force is not enough on its own to sustain any relation of subjection,...

  8. II Freedom?
    • 3 Cosmopolitanism
      (pp. 115-158)

      During the long eighteenth century, fromcirca1648 until about 1789, when revolution and Continental war disrupted travel and mobility, the Grand Tour typified the education of the young men of privileged classes, at first the aristocracy and later the “professional middle classes” or the “bourgeois propiétaires.”¹ Or, as not every young man with the wherewithal for the three-year circuit cared to endure the physical rigors of early modern transit, it would be more accurate to say that if the Grand Tour did nottypifythe education of aristocrats, gentlemen, and the elite bourgeoisie, at least it represented an educational...

    • 4 Nativism
      (pp. 159-203)

      In the previous chapter I explored the ideology of travel that structures Rousseau’s endeavor to reorient the political pedagogy of Émile’s grand tour so it aligns with a more genuine cosmopolitanism. Just as Émile is meant to be the ideal guest-traveler who would purportedly maintain his autonomy in all of his interactions, so would the ideal host-native communities maintain their authenticity by never wanting and so rarely needing to interact with the wider world. This ideology invokes arecto-versorelation between two ideals: to Émile’s autonomy corresponds Touraine’s autarky, its virtuous self-sufficiency. As hosts-natives, idealized Tourangeaux remain as yet uncorrupted...

    • 5 Fugitive Freedom
      (pp. 204-264)

      In an enticing remark in one of his last published articles, Robert Wokler suggested that “Rousseau’s chief political texts” could profitably “be read as commentaries on the Bible,” with theSecond Discourse’s serving to reinterpret Genesis toOf the Social Contract’s Exodus.¹ On the latter score this chapter takes Wokler’s suggestion in earnest in order to ask the following questions: how different would theSocial Contractand Rousseau’s oeuvre generally appear if we foregrounded it as articulating an exodus from slavery? How would such fugitivity rewrite our understanding of political freedom? These questions depend on a prior consideration: amidst abundant...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 265-284)

    One aim of this book has been to show that a heretical reading of Rousseau can offer us an alternative radical politics—a politics of discontinuity, whereby zones of fugitive freedom contradict and counteract the continuous ordering of all global space by the system of private property and the interstate system, and a politics of deformation by which enchained peoples deform the modes of sociability they had been forced to carry on under conditions of domination in order to generate, instead, bodies politic that confirm their freedom by techniques of distancing. Without resorting to nostalgic myths of vestigial natural liberty,...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 285-324)
  11. Index
    (pp. 325-334)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-336)