Founding and re-founding: a problem in Rousseau's political thought and action

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

The foundation of political societies is a central theme in Rousseau's work. This is no surprise coming from a man who was born into a people who had their own celebrated founder and foundations, and immersed himself in the writings of classical republicans and the quasi-mythical histories of ancient city-states where the heroic lawgiver played an important and legitimate role in political foundations. However, Rousseau's propositional political writings (those written for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland) have been accused of being unsystematic and running the spectrum from conservative and prudent to radical and utopian. It is this seeming incongruence which is the subject of this thesis. In particular, it is argued that this confusion is born out the failure to recognize a systematic distinction between "founding" and "re-founding" political societies in both the history of political thought, and Rousseau's own work (a distinction in Rousseau which has rarely been noted, let alone treated to a study of its own). By recognizing this distinction one can identify two Rousseaus; the conservative and prudent thinker who is wary of making changes to established political systems and constitutional foundations (the re-founder), and the radical democrat fighting for equality, and claiming that no state is legitimate without popular sovereignty (the founder). In demonstrating this distinction, this thesis examines the ancient concept of the lawgiver, the growth and expansion of the idea leading up to the eighteenth century, Rousseau's own philosophic writings on the topic, and the differing political proposals he wrote for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland. The thesis argues that although there is a clear separation between these two types of political proposals, they remain systematically Rousseauvian.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Cite this

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title = "Founding and re-founding: a problem in Rousseau's political thought and action",
abstract = "The foundation of political societies is a central theme in Rousseau's work. This is no surprise coming from a man who was born into a people who had their own celebrated founder and foundations, and immersed himself in the writings of classical republicans and the quasi-mythical histories of ancient city-states where the heroic lawgiver played an important and legitimate role in political foundations. However, Rousseau's propositional political writings (those written for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland) have been accused of being unsystematic and running the spectrum from conservative and prudent to radical and utopian. It is this seeming incongruence which is the subject of this thesis. In particular, it is argued that this confusion is born out the failure to recognize a systematic distinction between {"}founding{"} and {"}re-founding{"} political societies in both the history of political thought, and Rousseau's own work (a distinction in Rousseau which has rarely been noted, let alone treated to a study of its own). By recognizing this distinction one can identify two Rousseaus; the conservative and prudent thinker who is wary of making changes to established political systems and constitutional foundations (the re-founder), and the radical democrat fighting for equality, and claiming that no state is legitimate without popular sovereignty (the founder). In demonstrating this distinction, this thesis examines the ancient concept of the lawgiver, the growth and expansion of the idea leading up to the eighteenth century, Rousseau's own philosophic writings on the topic, and the differing political proposals he wrote for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland. The thesis argues that although there is a clear separation between these two types of political proposals, they remain systematically Rousseauvian.",
author = "Hill, {Mark John}",
year = "2015",
language = "English",

}

Founding and re-founding: a problem in Rousseau's political thought and action. / Hill, Mark John.

2015.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

TY - THES

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AU - Hill, Mark John

PY - 2015

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N2 - The foundation of political societies is a central theme in Rousseau's work. This is no surprise coming from a man who was born into a people who had their own celebrated founder and foundations, and immersed himself in the writings of classical republicans and the quasi-mythical histories of ancient city-states where the heroic lawgiver played an important and legitimate role in political foundations. However, Rousseau's propositional political writings (those written for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland) have been accused of being unsystematic and running the spectrum from conservative and prudent to radical and utopian. It is this seeming incongruence which is the subject of this thesis. In particular, it is argued that this confusion is born out the failure to recognize a systematic distinction between "founding" and "re-founding" political societies in both the history of political thought, and Rousseau's own work (a distinction in Rousseau which has rarely been noted, let alone treated to a study of its own). By recognizing this distinction one can identify two Rousseaus; the conservative and prudent thinker who is wary of making changes to established political systems and constitutional foundations (the re-founder), and the radical democrat fighting for equality, and claiming that no state is legitimate without popular sovereignty (the founder). In demonstrating this distinction, this thesis examines the ancient concept of the lawgiver, the growth and expansion of the idea leading up to the eighteenth century, Rousseau's own philosophic writings on the topic, and the differing political proposals he wrote for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland. The thesis argues that although there is a clear separation between these two types of political proposals, they remain systematically Rousseauvian.

AB - The foundation of political societies is a central theme in Rousseau's work. This is no surprise coming from a man who was born into a people who had their own celebrated founder and foundations, and immersed himself in the writings of classical republicans and the quasi-mythical histories of ancient city-states where the heroic lawgiver played an important and legitimate role in political foundations. However, Rousseau's propositional political writings (those written for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland) have been accused of being unsystematic and running the spectrum from conservative and prudent to radical and utopian. It is this seeming incongruence which is the subject of this thesis. In particular, it is argued that this confusion is born out the failure to recognize a systematic distinction between "founding" and "re-founding" political societies in both the history of political thought, and Rousseau's own work (a distinction in Rousseau which has rarely been noted, let alone treated to a study of its own). By recognizing this distinction one can identify two Rousseaus; the conservative and prudent thinker who is wary of making changes to established political systems and constitutional foundations (the re-founder), and the radical democrat fighting for equality, and claiming that no state is legitimate without popular sovereignty (the founder). In demonstrating this distinction, this thesis examines the ancient concept of the lawgiver, the growth and expansion of the idea leading up to the eighteenth century, Rousseau's own philosophic writings on the topic, and the differing political proposals he wrote for Geneva, Corsica, and Poland. The thesis argues that although there is a clear separation between these two types of political proposals, they remain systematically Rousseauvian.

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