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The Social Contract [Paperback]

Jean Jacques Rousseau , G. D. H. Cole
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 2006
Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes, "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." This statement exemplifies the main idea behind "The Social Contract", in other words that man is essentially free if it weren't for the oppression of political organizations such as government. Rousseau goes on to lay forth the principles that he deems most important for achieving political right amongst people.

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Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) the French political philosopher and educationalist, is the author of A Discourse on Inequality, and Emile. Maurice Cranston was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and wrote and published widely on Rousseau, including two volumes of biography. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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MAN was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Social Contract by Rousseau June 26 2004
Format:Paperback
This work attests to the application of human freedoms within the
context of organizational structures and governmental institutions . The author explains how the general or collective
will intervenes when it is proper to do so. In addition, the will
is believed to be omnipotent. In the long run, states tend to act in ways that promote self-preservation and perpetuation.
Governments are divided into democracies, monarchies, royalties
and in other organizational frameworks consistent with accomplishing a variety of missions. The State is far removed
from the family. Nevertheless, it is charged with promulgating
laws and conventions agreeable to the general or collective will.
This work is an important contribution to comparative governmental organizations and structures. It explains the
applicable rationale for implementing political distinctions
of virtually every variety and type.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Rousseau's treatise on the nature of people and their government has left a lasting imprint on political discourse. Though at times passionate and persuasive, most of the short book was simply too vague for Rousseau's semantic games to be indisputable, and sometimes even comprehensible. Some of his ideas are simply wrong, such as the "noble savage", while others quite clearly debatable, such as the social contract itself. I, for one, would fear to live in Rousseau's ideal world, where every right I have is only mine so long as the majority (who never can be wrong) wills it.
Whether you agree with him or not, plowing through Rousseau's 150 pages is a necessity for anyone who wants to carry on high-level political discourse.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Piece of History... April 26 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a valuable historical document, because it shows us the thinking that led up to the French Revolution. Rousseau wrote: "Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains." What Rousseau means by this is that Man is born free in the State of Nature - it is society, government, and urban life that are the corruptive forces. Without those things, Rousseau argues, man would exist in peaceful co-habitation. What is striking to the modern reader about this claim is how blatantly wrong it is. Rousseau was trying to refute Thomas Hobbes who wrote that the State of Nature is the same as the State of War. Apparently Hobbes got the better of the argument because, as soon as the French Revolution took effect, peaceful liberty went out the window in favor of the Reign of Terror.
But, back to Rousseau. He claims that, even though men in nature peacefully co-exist, it is more beneficial for them to come together to form a society. Thus they SHOULD come together and form a Social Contract. The ideal contract for Rousseau would entail the individual GIVING UP ALL HIS RIGHTS on entering the contract with the understanding that he will get them all back from the Sovereign. Who is the Sovereign? Well, for Rousseau, the Sovereign is the People. If Rousseau's Ideal State were an organism, it would be a large one-celled organism with no differentiation. This is very much unlike Hobbes' Leviathan, with the Sovereign at the head and each part assigned its individual task. For Rousseau, only the SOCIETY AS A WHOLE has the right to govern.
Of course, this system is incredibly unwieldy, that is why - in Rousseau's world - there are a whole bunch of little city-states, like ancient Athens. HERE COMES THE SCARY PART.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Influential and interesting book March 17 2003
By M. B. Alcat TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Deeply influential book, "The Social Contract" is a "must read" for anybody interested in the history of political ideas, or even in history. It had a big influence on the French Revolution, and in many movements after it that considered that the individual owes everything to the state.
After reading this book you will be astounded by the insight that Rousseau (1712-1778) showed. He explains us, among other things, the reason for the formation of political society, and the origin of the social contract.
I believe this is a good book to start a study on political ideas. It is simple and well written, it has had an important political impact and can make you curious enough to know more. If you are interested, read also a book about the history of political ideas (for example the one written by George Sabine), because it can guide you to other interesting books, and can give you a deeper insight into the ideas, circumstances and life of Rousseau.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Intellectual Jan. 8 2003
Format:Paperback
Jean Jacques Rousseau is truly a great intellectual.His Discourses and The Social Contract are some of the best in Enlightenment thinking. In the Discourses Rousseau exalts the "noble" savage free from the corrupting influence of modern civilization. He believes that civilization has corrupted man from his original, yet ignorant state. I found the Discourses to be a little flighty and unrealistic. The Social Contract was a different story altogether. This is a monumental work. In it Rousseau shows his vast knowledge of the Roman Republic and Empire and the reasons for it's rise and collapse. Rousseau also denounces monarchy and aristocracy as forms of government and exalts republicanism. He also decries the power of organized religion in the oppression of mankind. With his "General Will" theory of the social contract he shows true brilliance. A great buy.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Alexis de Tocqueville's Nemesis
'The tyranny of the majority' - a brilliant phrase coined by the author of 'Democracy In America' and a brilliant chink in the armour of Rousseau's societal vision. Read more
Published on May 12 2003 by Mr. M. P. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good introduction to Rousseau
Rousseau's ideas are well known. The introduction to this edition by the late Professor Maurice Cranston is very good. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Logical if not Inspiring
This highly quotable book has a lot of fundamental democratic principles - though many seem borrowed. This text, at least in translation, is hardly lively or personal. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2002 by Yan Timanovsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Relations among human systems
Let's be brief: The Social Contract is, I strongly believe, an objective and deep description of what Rousseau sees as human systems, i.e. Read more
Published on June 28 2001 by Yann Truong
2.0 out of 5 stars Romanticism is dead... Long live Romanticism!
200 years can't make a bad idea good. (Heck, Christianity has proved that 1700 years can't make a bad idea good) Rousseau bogs himself down in the same contradiction that has... Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2000 by "quantanephilim"
3.0 out of 5 stars A thunderstorm that clears the air...but passes...
Rousseau's "Contract Social" has originated many false beliefs that are, though sometimes unwittingly, still even entertained today, such as the "Noble Savage",... Read more
Published on May 4 2000 by TheIrrationalMan
5.0 out of 5 stars one of humanities greatest literary achievements
Elucidating the fundamental tenets of social welfare and humanitarianism which have yet to be achieved in most of the world, Rousseau�fs �gSocial Contract�h remains one of... Read more
Published on April 17 2000 by George Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant ideas regarding a model society
Inspired by the unfair treatment of France by their king, J.J. Rousseau wrote this book and ideology based on the equality of men. Read more
Published on Dec 23 1997
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