Forced to be Free: Rethinking the Terms of Rousseau’s ‘Social Contract’

Epoche Magazine 25 (2019)
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Abstract

There is a great deal of room for misunderstanding in the pages of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work. His prose is not as weighed down by jargon as Heidegger’s or as difficult to wade through as Hegel’s — by all accounts his writing is easy to parse! And yet, at times, his writing seems to leave too much up in the air. As such, his work has been both a guiding star for the political left and decried as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Much of this disparity in opinion can be traced back to a common concern that Rousseau’s attempt to create a basis for legitimate political power seems to take place at the expense of individual freedom. But this raises a question: What is freedom for Rousseau?

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Tyler Loveless
George Washington University

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