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This article focuses on one dimension of the interplay of national decline and urban corruption in Rousseau's thought -- what I call Rousseau's analysis of the moral economy of the modern city. It is perhaps fitting that E.P.Thompson has used the concept of ‘moral economy’ to describe a popular consensus embedded in patterns of deeply rooted assumptions, belief and conduct among the urban poor in eighteenth-century England. Food riots, rooted in a belief in the customary practice of sale of food at fair prices even when production was low, were a response to prices designed to achieve the greatest profit the market allowed.