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The Genevan republican background to Rousseau's Social Contract

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Abstract:

This essay takes up an old matter in the study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's political thought: the question of the Genevan republican background to the Social Contract. Its purpose is to lay to rest the persistent notion that Rousseau's debt to Genevan republican ideas in the Social Contract is spun in the main of myth and nostalgia. Indeed, I seek to demonstrate that Rousseau was intimately acquainted from an early age with the principles and real practices of the city-republic's distinctive brand of republican politics, and that this Genevan background is reflected clearly, importantly, and in great detail in the Social Contract.

Keywords: Calvinism; Democracy; Democratic theory; Eighteenth Century; General Will; Geneva; People; Popular Movements; Religion; Republican theory; Republicanism; Revolution; Rhetoric; Rousseau; Social Contract

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: John Carroll University.

Publication date: 1993-04-01

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