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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Fundamental Political Writings

by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Broadview Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 392 pages
AU$37.99 NZ$39.12
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Fundamental Political Writings includes the Social Contract, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, and “Preface to Narcissus.”   


Each text has been newly translated, and includes a full complement of explanatory notes. The editors’ introduction offers students diverse points of entry into some of the distinctive possibilities and challenges of each of these fundamental texts, as well as an introduction to Rousseau’s life and historical situation, from his early years in Geneva to his final years in relative solitude. Each text is accompanied by images from the original editions. The volume also includes annotated appendices that help students to explore the origins and influences of Rousseau’s work, including excerpts from Hobbes, Pascal, Descartes, Mandeville, Diderot, Voltaire, Madame de Staël, Benjamin Constant, Joseph de Maistre, Kant, Hegel, and Engels.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Texts
Notes on the Translations

First Discourse: On the Sciences and the Arts
Preface to Narcissus, or the Lover of Himself
Second Discourse: On the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality among Men
On the Social Contract

Appendix A: Points of Departure
1.From René Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637)
2.Blaise Pascal, Letter to Monsieur and Madame Périer (24 September 1651)
3.From Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
4.From Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1705)
5.From Samuel Pufendorf, On the Duty of Man and Citizen (1682)

Appendix B: Rousseau and His Contemporaries
1.From Charles Bordes, Discourse on the Advantages of the Sciences and the Arts (1751)
2.Charles Bonnet (or "Philopolis") to Louis de Boissy (25 August 1755)
3.Denis Diderot, "On Natural Right" (1755)
4.Voltaire, "Letter to Rousseau" (30 August 1755)
5.From Adam Smith, "Letter to the Authors of the Edinburgh Review" (1755–56)
6.From Madame de Staël, Letter V: On the Political Writings of Rousseau (1788)
7.From Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Preface to the Complete Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1788–89)

Appendix C: Rousseau and Revolution
1.From Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, "What is the Third Estate?" (1789)
2.French National Assembly, "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" (1789)
3.From Joseph Lakanal, Report on Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1794)
4.From Joseph de Maistre, On the Sovereignty of the People: An Anti-Social Contract (1794–95)
5.From Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to all Governments (1815)

Appendix D: Rousseau's Political Legacies
1.From Immanuel Kant, "Notes … on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime" (1764–65) and Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (1766)
2.From J. G. Fichte, The Science of Rights (1796–97)
3.From G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821)
4.From Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878)

This superb new collection will be of invaluable assistance to students and scholars alike.  With judicious commentary and an excellent selection of supplementary writings, it provides in one volume the essential tools to understand Rousseau's fundamental political ideas and their tremendous resonance in his own time, and ever since.GÇ¥ ' Darrin M. McMahon, Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor of History, Dartmouth College




GÇ£This is an excellent classroom edition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's key political works. It features clear, accessible translations of important texts ' the First and Second Discourses, On the Social Contract, and, less conventionally, the Preface to Narcissus ' and a well-chosen set of passages from canonical works designed to encourage comparisons, some of which influenced Rousseau, and some of which responded to him. In addition to providing important biographical details, the introduction beautifully situates the texts within the history of political thought.GÇ¥ ' Melissa Schwartzberg, New York University




GÇ£The political writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau were immensely influential in their day and remain crucial for understanding contemporary discussions of diversity, rights, democracy, and the value of humanistic and scientific inquiry. This volume collects the key texts, including On the Social Contract in its entirety. Along with a useful overview of Rousseau's life and career, it provides numerous thoughtfully selected excerpts from other thinkers. These illuminate the roots, context, and impact of Rousseau's complex, often paradoxical interventions. Rousseau is a canny and controlled rhetorician, whose style ranges from terse simplicity to grandiloquence. Ian Johnston's translation cleaves to the original while crisply rendering the author's varied prose.GÇ¥ ' James A. Steintrager, University of California, Irvine




GÇ£Readers of Rousseau are often frustrated that very few editions combine his great political writings into one volume.  This edition does that, but also so much more.  It includes Rousseau's important Preface to Narcissus, as well as excerpts from many works that provide invaluable context for understanding Rousseau's significance in the history of political thought.  Williams' and Maguire's editorial introduction and notes offer an insightful and detailed guide through Rousseau's text and beyond.  An excellent edition for students and scholars.GÇ¥ ' Jeffrey Church, University of Houston




GÇ£This superb volume introduces students to Rousseau's principal political writings. The editors draw attention to the diversity of interpretations elicited by Rousseau's writings and offer a robust introduction to the main angles and nuances of Rousseau's political thought. The volume also presents the welcome inclusion of the lesser-known preface to Rousseau's play Narcissus, in a new translation by Samuel Webb, and a comprehensive appendix of excerpts of key texts written by Rousseau's predecessors, his contemporaries, French revolutionaries and modern philosophers, who have all grappled with his provocative and probing ideas in intriguing and diverging ways. Anyone interested in inequality, politics, philosophy and the challenges of modernity will benefit from this elegant volume. It makes for essential reading for students and specialists in political science, philosophy and the humanities.GÇ¥ ' Masano Yamashita, University of Colorado Boulder


David Lay Williams is Professor of Political Science at DePaul University. He is the author of Rousseau’s Platonic Enlightenment (2007) and Rousseau’s ‘Social Contract’: An Introduction (2014), as well as co-editor of The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept (2015).   


Matthew W. Maguire is Associate Professor of History and Catholic Studies at DePaul University. He is the author of The Conversion of the Imagination: From Pascal through Rousseau to Tocqueville (2006) and Carnal Spirit: The Revolutions of Charles Péguy (2018).   


Ian Johnston is Emeritus Professor at Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia.