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The role of public opinion in Rousseau's conception of property

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For many readers, Rousseau's views on property represent the most ambiguous and contradictory aspect of an already undeveloped economic theory. In this paper, I re-examine this popular criticism from the standpoint of the philosopher's well-known critique of public opinion to argue that property is a more consistent and systematically articulated concept in Rousseau's writings than may appear. I argue that opinion, rather than private property, poses the greatest danger to self-made law and that the narrowness and peculiarity of its political threat demonstrates Rousseau's restrictions against private wealth to be less comprehensive than many believe.

Keywords: Amour-propre; Corsica; Luxury; Opinion; Property; Rousseau; Vanity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Politics, University of Chicago.

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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