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Rousseau's Failure to Build a Free Society and the Premises of Freedom

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Rousseau's scheme for a free society is essentially an attempt to solve the conflict between private and general interest. As human nature is historical this conflict can be solved in a way that would create a "good" nature and constitute freedom. Rousseau's notion of historicity is actually based on the primacy of labor: Labor, as a unique human activity, is the origin of human history. Private property, the basis of private interests, and the existing State, said to realize the common interest, have developed as unintended, or unasked-for, as-if natural results of labor. Rousseau was not fully aware of the magnitude of his discovery as to the primacy of labor. Therefore he failed to suggest a modification of labor – or even its abolition – as a way of creating a better human nature, in which activities subject to interests would disappear along with the unasked-for nature. Instead he sought to impose the purified general interest on humans, thus abolishing the "inferior" private interests. This imposed freedom – and no freedom can be imposed – testifies to Rousseau's failure to theoretically suggest a real transformation of human history in which a new mode of productive activity would constitute the basis of good, free society.
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Keywords: ABOLITION OF LABOR; FREEDOM; GENERAL INTEREST; HISTORICAL NATURE; LABOR; PRIMACY OF LABOR; PRIVATE INTERESTS; PRIVATE PROPERTY; STATE; UNASKED-FOR RESULTS OF LABOR

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, edited by authorisation of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), is an international, peer-reviewed journal, first published in 1907. It features original articles on philosophical research on legal and social questions, covering all aspects of social and legal life.
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