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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Division of Labour, The Politics of the Imagination and The Concept of Federal Government
 9789004420335, 9004420339

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Information
Title Page
Copyright Page
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations Used in Footnotes and a Note on Citations
Chapter 1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Marvellous in Life
1 The Power of Prose
2 Rousseau and Burke
3 An Elusive System
4 The Problem of Unity
5 A Cumulative Process
6 The Mystery of Federalism
Chapter 2 The Fénelon Problem
1 The Many Dimensions of Reform
2 Rousseau and Montesquieu
3 Markets, Politics and Reform
4 Rousseau and the Fénelon Problem
Chapter 3 The Division of Labour and the Political Economy of the General Will
1 Population and Subsistence Goods
2 Perfectibility, Autonomy and the Idea of a Federal Government
3 The Social Contract
4 Gradated Promotion and the General Will
5 Taxation and Representation
6 The Federal Dimension of Rousseau’s Thought
Chapter 4 The Politics of the Imagination
1 The Language of Signs
2 The Origins of the Imagination
3 The Genealogy of Love
4 The Imagination and the Social Contract
Chapter 5 Conscience and the Structure of Federal Government
1 A Simulacrum of Virtue
2 The Origins of Conscience
3 The Power of Enchantment
Chapter 6 Rousseau’s Legacy
1 Theodicies and Their Properties
2 From Metapolitics to Civil Society
3 Theories of the Political State
4 Lorenz von Stein
5 Rudolf von Jhering
6 The Concept of Sovereignty
7 Otto von Gierke
8 Epilogue: the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Problem in Historical Context
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau

History of European Political and Constitutional Thought Series Editors Erica Benner (Yale University) Cesara Cuttica (Université Paris 8) László Kontler (Central European University) Mark Somos (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law)

volume 2

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/​hepct

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau The Division of Labour, the Politics of the Imagination and the Concept of Federal Government

By

Michael Sonenscher

LEIDEN | BOSTON

Cover illustration: Du contrat social by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Its subject matter is symbolised by an image of a cat (thanks to Chris Brooke for pointing this out to me). The Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data is available online at http://​catalog.loc.gov LC record available at http://​lccn.loc.gov/2019050955​

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/​brill-​typeface. issn 2589-​5 966 isbn 978-​9 0-​0 4-​3 9214-​4 (hardback) isbn 978-​9 0-​0 4-​4 2033-​5 (e-​book) Copyright 2020 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-​free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Contents

Preface vii Acknowledgments xiv Abbreviations Used in Footnotes and a Note on Citations xv

1

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau and the Marvellous in Life 1 1 The Power of Prose 1 2 Rousseau and Burke 4 3 An Elusive System 9 4 The Problem of Unity 14 5 A Cumulative Process 17 6 The Mystery of Federalism 21

2

The Fénelon Problem 26 1 The Many Dimensions of Reform 26 2 Rousseau and Montesquieu 33 3 Markets, Politics and Reform 43 4 Rousseau and the Fénelon Problem 47

3 The Division of Labour and the Political Economy of the General Will 51 1 Population and Subsistence Goods 51 2 Perfectibility, Autonomy and the Idea of a Federal Government 65 3 The Social Contract 72 4 Gradated Promotion and the General Will 74 5 Taxation and Representation 80 6 The Federal Dimension of Rousseau’s Thought 84 4

The Politics of the Imagination 86 1 The Language of Signs 86 2 The Origins of the Imagination 93 3 The Genealogy of Love 100 4 The Imagination and the Social Contract 112

5

Conscience and the Structure of Federal Government 115 1 A Simulacrum of Virtue 115 2 The Origins of Conscience 118 3 The Power of Enchantment 126

vi Contents 6

Rousseau’s Legacy 141 1 Theodicies and Their Properties 141 2 From Metapolitics to Civil Society 149 3 Theories of the Political State 156 4 Lorenz von Stein 159 5 Rudolf von Jhering 163 6 The Concept of Sovereignty 166 7 Otto von Gierke 168 8 Epilogue: the Jean-​Jacques Rousseau Problem in Historical Context 176

Bibliography 179 Index 197

Preface Many of the most familiar characterisations of the political thought of Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau rely on condensed or truncated approaches to what, in fact, was a large, complicated and incomplete philosophical system, comparable in ambition and scale to those associated with Kant and Hegel. This is a book about how Rousseau came to identify the components of that system and an examination of what was involved in his long struggle to turn its largely implicit structure into something more analytically and logically explicit. Although Rousseau himself set out something like an executive summary of his published works in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris of 1763 (described in ­chapter 5 below), it still skated over large parts of the content of the whole system and ended on a characteristically stylish but intractably enigmatic note. An overexcited summary of that content would be to say that this is a book about how Rousseau invented advertising, imagined bitcoin and redefined the politics of public opinion or, more recklessly, to say that this is a study of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau as the first theorist of the politics of charisma and the first advocate of the idea of a blockchain. None of these claims looks particularly compatible with the standards of historical evidence usually required for a contextual history of political thought. Part of the point of this book, however, is to suggest that they do still capture something resonant, not only in Rousseau’s half-​buried moral and political system, but also for its bearing on thinking about politics now. As will be shown in what follows, Rousseau was a theorist of a federal system of government, and there is good reason to think that there is still something to be learned about what that term might mean, not only in the context of Rousseau’s time, but also in our own. The concept of a context is a slippery one, at least as it applies to the history of ideas. It has as much to do with the historicity of a problem as the historicity of an author’s intentions, meanings or concepts. Getting the problem right, by trying to meet the standards of historical evidence required to make sense of a bounded set of difficulties, dilemmas and possibilities, can sometimes make a big hermeneutical difference to getting an author right, whether in terms of intentions, meanings or concepts. This book is about a problem that now seems to belong to another age because the world seems, for a very long time, to have managed to live with social inequality and political centralisation without having fallen to pieces. In another sense, however, it is a problem that is still very much alive because it is not clear how the world has managed to live with a combination of social inequality and political centralisation without having fallen to pieces. The resulting uncertainty about whether the problem is an

viii Preface old one, a new one or even a real one is, it could be claimed, mainly an effect of successive formulations of the many more limited and immediate solutions that have been given to one or other aspect of the problem and how, cumulatively, the lengthening sequence of more limited solutions has come to obscure the underlying continuity of the problem itself. This is why the history of political thought is worth doing and why doing the history of political thought calls as much for dealing with problems in context as with ideas in context. This is a book about both. It is, in the first instance, a product of a feeling of surprise and curiosity provoked by two characterisations of Rousseau’s thought that I came across several years ago. The first was made in a book entitled Natural Rights by a nineteenth-​ century Scottish historian of political thought named David George Ritchie. “Rousseau’s distinction of ‘the general will’ from ‘the will of all’ ”, Ritchie wrote there, “and his seemingly mystical idea of the common self (moi commun), are anticipations of the political theories of the great German idealists. Kant, Fichte, and Hegel are disciples of Rousseau in a truer sense than those Jacobin Puritans, Robespierre and St. Just, by whom Rousseau has too frequently been compared.”1 The second characterisation is shorter because it was simply a footnote in the book published in 1936 by the now more famous German and American historian of political thought Leo Strauss on The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. “It is”, Strauss wrote in that note, “thus not a matter of chance, that la volonté générale [meaning the general will] and aesthetics were launched at approximately the same time.”2 The mixture of surprise, curiosity, and excitement produced by these two quite cryptic pronouncements was caused less by the connection between Rousseau and German idealism made by both Ritchie and Strauss because there were, particularly before the two World Wars, many acknowledgments of the reception of Rousseau’s thought in the German speaking parts of Europe.3 It was caused instead more by the sense that both Ritchie and Strauss had noticed –​or were simply more familiar with –​something that was once taken to 1 David G. Ritchie, Natural Rights. A Criticism of Some Political and Ethical Conceptions (London, Macmillan, 1895), p. 51. See too his characterisation of Rousseau, Kant and Fichte in his Darwin and Hegel and Other Philosophical Studies (London, Macmillan, 1893), pp. 220–​23. 2 Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes. Its Basis and Its Genesis (Oxford, oup, 1936), p. 161, footnote 2. Many of the most seminal academic discussions of Rousseau’s thought have been brought together in John T. Scott (ed.), Jean-​Jacques Rousseau. Critical Assessments of Leading Political Philosophers, 4 vols. (London and New York, Routledge, 2006). 3 For two relatively recent examinations of the reception of Rousseau’s thought in the German speaking parts of Europe, see David James, Rousseau and German Idealism (Cambridge, cup, 2013) and Herman Jaumann (ed.), Rousseau in Deutschland (Berlin, de Gruyter, 1995).

Preface

ix

be interesting and important in Rousseau’s thought but was no longer visible in the many, largely late twentieth-​century, studies of Rousseau that I knew. Despite the coincidental similarity of the subject of natural rights in the titles of their two best-​known books, both Ritchie and Strauss’s characterisations of Rousseau seemed to indicate that there was something more to his thought than the assorted concepts of natural rights, the general will, civil religion, or even the idea of a social contract itself. The next question was to try to identify what that something was and, by extension, to try to work out how what Ritchie called “the seemingly mystical idea of the common self” (and here, the word “seemingly” is important) was connected to what Strauss, in a book about Hobbes, described as the relationship between Rousseau, “la volonté générale, and aesthetics”. As time has gone by, I have come to think that the connection was based on what, in the eighteenth century, was then a rather unusual concept of a political society, even though the concept in question has, at least in one sense, become very much more familiar. It is, simply, a federal concept of political society. In the eighteenth century, it was a concept that was used in a Swiss context and, although it can sometimes be forgotten, Rousseau grew up in what is still called Switzerland, even though there is now also a Swiss state. As more time has gone by, and as the distinction between a Swiss Land and a Swiss state is designed to suggest, I have also come to think that a federal concept of political society is a lot more elusive and unusual than it seems.4 It is not as easy as it looks to decide whether the differences between, for example, a federal state and a unitary state, or a unitary state with a federal government as against a federal state with a unitary government, are mainly verbal or really substantive. Each is, minimally, a unit made up of other units. Each can house several different types and levels of office and accountability, but are still sufficiently integrated to remain externally independent but internally interdependent. One alternative is a more bounded definition, as in a modern republic, a federal republic, a monarchical republic, a bourgeois republic, a pluralist republic or, as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay called it in 1788 in numbers 51 and 62 of The Federalist, a compound republic.5

4 For a helpful starting point on the distinction between a Land and a state in the context of Switzerland, see Jonathan Steinberg, Why Switzerland? (Cambridge, cup, 1976), pp. 34–​35, 63–​64, although the distinction permeates the whole book. 5 On a compound republic, see Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, The Federalist [1788], ed. George W. Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis, Liberty Fund, 2001), pp. 270, 320. On a modern republic, see Biancamaria Fontana (ed.), The Invention of the Modern Republic (Cambridge, cup, 1994). On a pluralist republic, see David Runciman, Pluralism and the Personality of the State (Cambridge, cup, 1997). On a federal republic, see Murray

x Preface The common name is consistent enough, but it is less clear whether the proliferating range of adjectives refers to a number of different things or helps to disguise a more uniform range of fundamentally similar attributes. Nor, in the light of these somewhat imprecise differences, is it easy to decide how much these distinctions have to do with the relationship between sovereignty and government, the state and the market, the public and the private, centralisation and decentralisation, or any of the other binaries that, at first sight, seem to provide a basis for an answer.6 The difficulty in deciding on the right answer also has a considerable bearing on the earlier question about the sources of stability under conditions of inequality and political centralisation because, in several different guises, that earlier question about stability was the eighteenth century’s question. The further difficulty is then to decide whether, in the light of subsequent intellectual developments, it is an old question that has now been given a twenty-​first century answer, or whether, instead, it is the eighteenth century’s answer that has now been forgotten. Together, these add up to two good reasons to find out more about the political thought of Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau because Rousseau’s thought is a very good starting point for trying to identify what the respective attributes of states, unitary states and federal states might be. It could even be the case that it offers the richest and most theoretically elaborated theory of federalism available in the history of political thought. Rousseau produced almost all his major works in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. In purely chronological terms, they followed Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws (as the English translation of his De l’esprit des lois was originally entitled), published in 1748, and, soon after Rousseau’s death in 1778, they were followed by the publication of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s three great Critiques, of pure reason, practical reason and judgment. In more analytical terms, Rousseau’s publications came to be seen to contain an alternative to the two conceptions of government and the two ways of thinking about political stability with which the thought of Montesquieu and Kant was often associated. The first, associated

Forsyth, Unions of States: The Theory and Practice of Confederation (Leicester, Leicester UP, 1981); Olivier Beaud, Théorie de la fédération (Paris, puf, 2007). 6 For helpful ways in to the public-​private distinction, see Stanley I. Benn and Gerald F. Gaus (eds.), Public and Private in Social Life (London, Croom Helm, 1983); Jeff Weintraub and Krishan Kumar (eds.), Public and Private in Thought and Practice: Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy (Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 1997); Maurizio Passerin d’Entrèves and Ursula Vogel (eds.), Public and Private. Legal, Political and Philosophical Perspectives (London, Routledge, 2000); and Raymond Geuss, Public Goods, Private Goods (Princeton, pup, 2001).

Preface

xi

with Montesquieu, was the concept of monarchy, or the rule of one, while the second, associated with Kant, was the concept of polyarchy, or the rule of many. Both concepts had a long history in European thought but both subsequently came to refer to versions of monarchy and polyarchy that differed considerably from earlier usage because both, in Rousseau’s intellectual wake, began to be associated with the concept of a new and rather different type of republic. This type of republic was a kind of synthesis of monarchy and polyarchy. It is now better known as a federal republic. This, it could be said, was Rousseau’s legacy. During the several generations that spanned the careers of David Ritchie and Leo Strauss, the many different types of dualism –​between sovereignty and government, government and opposition, public and private, states and markets, centralisation and decentralisation –​that have come to be seen as a feature of modern political societies, irrespective of whether they are federal or unitary, were once associated with Rousseau. This is a book about what that claim once meant and, in a more muted sense, what it could mean now. The account that follows is an organised sequence of developments of a number of apparently small, but intriguingly thought-​provoking, details of Rousseau’s thought which, I think, have tended to be overlooked or neglected by many far better Rousseau scholars than I am. The first is a claim about the imagination and its apparent ability to endow a general idea with a particular feeling. The second is a claim about the feeling of concern for one’s own well-​being that Rousseau called amour-​de-​soi. It was, Rousseau emphasised, a feeling common to all living beings but one that has a particular importance to humans because, while humans do not have the instincts that enable animals to take care of themselves, they do, apparently, have a natural love of order and, by extension, a sense of justice. To Rousseau, both these feelings were part of amour-​de-​soi and he went to some lengths to try to explain how they work. The third detail is a claim about the natural quality of the feeling of shame and, by extension, a question about how that feeling could be reconciled with Rousseau’s better-​known description of humans as naturally solitary, silent, sentient creatures with no initial involvement with others. The final detail is a claim that Rousseau made about what he called human perfectibility and a further set of questions about its bearing on the relationship of industry to agriculture and, more broadly, to the many, under-​examined, predictions of revolution that Rousseau scattered over almost all his published works. Fuller descriptions of all these, as well as many other, aspects of Rousseau’s thought can, and will, come later. Here, it is enough to suggest that understanding these details and fitting them into a more comprehensively integrated account of Rousseau’s thought has the effect of making it possible not only to see what Ritchie and Strauss could have had in mind in making their respective

xii Preface assessments, but also to understand rather more of what Rousseau himself, quite early in his intellectual career, called his grand sad system. Piecing together the components of that system also has the effect of explaining the continuing significance of Rousseau’s thought in the line of nineteenth-​century German political thought with which both Ritchie and Strauss were familiar. If, as is well known, that line included Kant, Fichte and Hegel, it also included several individuals who are now less well known, like Lorenz von Stein, Rudolf Jhering and Georg Jellinek. Jellinek, in an otherwise fairly conventional essay, produced a striking characterisation of Rousseau’s thought towards the end of a comparison between Rousseau and Hobbes which he published in 1891.7 After describing some of the similarities between the two, Jellinek noted how well Hobbes’s political thought lent itself to the idea of a monarch as the first servant of the state as it had been proposed by the eighteenth century’s most famous absolute sovereign, Frederick ii of Prussia. Given the similarities, Jellinek pointed out, the same idea should also have been applicable to Rousseau’s thought, but it was not easy to see how it could. If, as was clearly the case with Rousseau, the sovereign was democratic, it was –​and still is –​not easy to see how or why a people can ever be a servant of a state, even its own state, as readily and seamlessly as a single individual. At best, the answer seems likely to require a great deal of smoke and mirrors, with a large number of metaphors about representation coming into play. At worst, it seems to entail aligning Rousseau’s thought either with Ritchie’s Jacobin Puritans or with the charge of totalitarianism that became one of the leitmotifs of early twentieth-​century Rousseau studies. One, glib, answer would be civics, but it has never been clear what civics actually involves or where and why whatever it does involve has been most likely to occur.8 Much of the content of this book has been supplied by the range of questions about the relationship between unity and multiplicity or singularity and plurality implied by Jellinek’s comparison between Rousseau and Hobbes. Some of the questions were actually raised and answered by Rousseau himself. Others owed more to the staggered reception of a number of Rousseau’s earlier answers because several of both the questions and answers were taken up and addressed only after the posthumous publication of some of Rousseau’s 7 The essay has recently been edited and translated, with a helpful editorial introduction, as “La politica dell’ assolutismo e del radicalismo. Hobbes e Rousseau”, in Sara Lagi (ed.), Georg Jellinek. Storico del Pensiero Politico (1883–​1905) (Florence, Centro Editoriale Toscano, 2009), pp. 53–​70. 8 For a retrospectively illuminating illustration of the problems, see Dennis F. Thompson, The Democratic Citizen (Cambridge, cup, 1970).

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xiii

previously unknown works, like the Essay on the Origin of Languages, the Plan of a Constitution for Corsica, the Considerations on the Government of Poland and, even, his Confessions. In this sense, Rousseau’s thought had an afterlife that made it possible to integrate a number of previously unrecognised subjects into the established framework of his thought. Here, two subjects came to have a particular significance. One was the subject of money, while the other was the subject of the law. While the first has not been a particularly prominent feature of Rousseau studies, the second has been associated mainly with Rousseau’s concept of the general will.9 It is less clear, however, what the general will might be, or how the rule of law might work, under the aegis of a federal system. Here, the key to understanding the relationship between money, the law, the general will and a federal system was supplied by the concept of civil society. Although the name came from Hegel, the concept came from ­Rousseau. What follows is, in part, designed to show what Rousseau’s moral and political thought begins to look like in the light of the addition of these subjects. It is also, more cautiously, designed to suggest that recovering rather more of Rousseau’s thought, both from his own texts and in the light of those produced by some of his more acute nineteenth-​century critics and commentators, is still a thought-​provoking basis for trying to get a better understanding of the origins and nature of what, variously, has come to be called a modern republic, a bourgeois republic, a democratic republic, a federal republic or, simply, democracy. 9 For two helpful recent collections on Rousseau and the law, see Alfred Dufour, François Quastana and Victor Monnier (eds.), Rousseau, le droit et l’histoire des institutions (­Geneva, Schulthess, 2013) and Giovanni Lobrano and Pietro Paolo Onida (eds.), Il principio della democrazia, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social (Naples, Jovene, 2013)

Acknowledgments I am grateful to the trustees of the Leverhulme Trust for the award of a senior research fellowship which enabled me not only to do the research involved in this book, but also to lay the foundations of a larger, still ongoing, project on the ancients, the moderns and the emergence of modern political ideologies in nineteenth-​century Europe. I am also indebted both to the Provost and Fellows of King’s College, Cambridge for the many different resources that they have made available to me over the years and to the Institut des Etudes Avancées, in Lyon, for a productive year and a wonderful environment. Thanks to Graham Clure, Béla Kapossy, Aline-​Florence Manent, Isaac Nakhimovsky, Stephen Sawyer, Steven Vincent and Richard Whatmore for giving me the opportunity to present parts of the content of this book at seminars at the University of Lausanne, the Institute of Historical Research in London, Yale University, North Carolina State University, the American University in Paris, and the University of St Andrews. A  full list of everyone who has helped me to write it would be longer than the book itself. I do, however, have a particular debt to Graham Clure, Jared Holley, Isaac Nakhimovsky, and Lucian Robinson both for reading earlier drafts of the whole text and for the clarity, precision and generosity of their critical comments. I am grateful too to Richard Tuck for conversations which, despite comprehensive differences on absolutely everything, have always been a pleasure and an education. At different times, Jenni Caisley, Charlotte Johann, Martin Ruehl, Diana Siclovan, Hanna Weibye, and Sam Zeitlin have given me invaluable help on German language texts and many fascinating insights into political and legal thought in nineteenth-​century German-​language publications. Richard Bourke, Christopher Brooke, Edward Castleton, John Dunn, Tom Hopkins, Béla Kapossy, Duncan Kelly, Agnieszka Niedzwiecka, David Runciman, Paul Sagar, Céline Spector, Gareth Stedman Jones and Richard Whatmore have always been willing to answer a question or suggest a better approach. Elizabeth Allen has kept me going in more ways than she knows. I am, finally, very grateful to László Kontler and his editorial colleagues for including this work in the book series History of European Political and Constitutional Thought, and to Ester Lels, Ivo Romein and Arjan van Dijk at Brill for their speed, efficiency and kindness in producing the book. As should be clear, the failings and faults in this book are all my own.

newgenprepdf

Abbreviations Used in Footnotes and a Note on Citations Abbreviations Used in Footnotes cup CW

Cambridge University Press Collected Writings (as in Rousseau, Collected Writings, followed by the volume and page numbers) oup Oxford University Press pmla Publications of the Modern Language Association svec Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (the abbreviation was the title of an annual series, published by the Voltaire Foundation, Oxford, with each issue numbered according to the year to which it belonged, as in, e. g. svec 2004: 04, meaning the fourth issue of svec published in 2004, and, where no subsequent pagination is indicated, this means that the issue in question was a single monograph). UP University Press

A Note on Citations In quoting translated passages from Rousseau’s texts, I have usually indicated the source as Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Collected Writings, 14 vols., ed. Christopher Kelly, Roger D. Masters, Philip Stewart, et. al. (Hanover, New Hampshire and London, University Presses of New England, 1987–​2007) and, in the relevant footnote, have added the title, volume number and pagination of the work in question. This edition gives helpful cross-​references to the standard French-​language edition of Rousseau’s works, namely Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Œuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin & Marcel Raymond, 5  vols. (Paris, 1958–​96). When it seemed to be appropriate, I  have also added the French original to the relevant footnote. References to these two, currently standard but soon to be superseded, editions have been abbreviated to CW and OC in the footnotes. Occasionally, I have modified translations in the light of earlier, often near contemporary, English versions when it seemed to me that they captured the meaning of the French more effectively and I have signalled this at the relevant places. Full details of other editions of Rousseau’s works that I have used are available in the Bibliography.

chapter 1

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau and the Marvellous in Life 1

The Power of Prose

Whatever else he was, Jean-​Jacques Rousseau was a good writer. He had an unusual ability to find a form of words that could bring together two, apparently incompatible, ideas or subjects and turn them into a single striking image, or a luminous symbol of some larger, more complicated argument. In keeping with his lifelong interest in music and how, for example, music is somehow, mysteriously, able to convey silence, his prose could sometimes suggest far more than his words seemed to say. “The first man”, he wrote, “who, having fenced off a plot of ground, took it into his head to say this is mine was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars and murders; what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared by someone who, uprooting the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellows, beware of listening to this imposter; you are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all, and the earth itself to no-​one.”1 This was not exactly how the origins of private property had been described by Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Samuel Pufendorf or John Locke, Rousseau’s great seventeenth-​century predecessors in the study of natural jurisprudence. Substantively, however, they had not actually said anything that was particularly different. All of them claimed that there was some kind of relationship between human imperfection, the origins of private property and the origins of the state. But Rousseau could turn something ordinary into something that could look mysterious and magical simply by way of the power of his prose. Without the existence of private property, he seemed to imply, human history might have followed an entirely different course. Even the existence of private property did not, however, entirely foreclose on humanity’s future because the same sort of hidden possibility seemed, curiously, also to apply to a property-​based world. “Man”, Rousseau wrote famously, “is born free and yet is everywhere in chains.” A sentence later, however, the assertion was 1 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality [1755], in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Collected Writings, 14 vols., ed. Christopher Kelly, Roger D. Masters, Philip Stewart, et. al. (Hanover, New Hampshire and London, University Presses of New England, 1987–​2007), vol. 3, p. 43. I have slightly modified the translation. Subsequent references to this edition, which also provides cross references to the French originals, will be to Rousseau, CW, followed by the volume and page numbers.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020 | DOI:10.1163/9789004420335_002

2

CHAPTER 1

qualified by the addition of mystery and an intimation of magic. “How did this change occur? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? I believe I can answer this question.”2 Rousseau’s answer was interesting, because it had a great deal to do with the law. From one perspective, the law can protect private property by securing it positively, meaning that it will secure something that belongs to someone. From another perspective, however, the law can protect private property by securing it negatively, meaning that it will punish those who take something that does not belong to them. “In this right,” as Rousseau put it, “one respects not so much what belongs to others as what does not belong to oneself.”3 Here, the force of the law applies not so much to property, or its owners as such, as to those who violate the law itself. This, substantively, was Rousseau’s position. It meant that the distribution of property was not legally entrenched, but that property itself was still legally secure. To many of his contemporaries, however, this way of presenting something familiar as something strange was simply a “paradox” and the term soon came to be used as a signal of something about Rousseau’s thought that was held to be inconsistent, overstated or incredible. Rousseau himself was well aware of the problem and was increasingly, but also despairingly, alert to the way that the quality of his writing could sometimes hide the clarity of his thinking and mask the real point of what he was trying to say. Looking back, some twenty or more years later, to the time in the late summer of 1749 when he had walked from Paris to Vincennes to visit his friend Denis Diderot in the fortress in which Diderot had been imprisoned, he could still remember how it had been this dangerous gift that had shaped the sequence of events that led to the composition of the prize-​essay that made him famous. The essay that Rousseau wrote was an answer to a question advertised publicly by the Academy of the French provincial city of Dijon on whether, as a near contemporary English translation put it, “the re-​establishment of the arts and of the sciences had contributed to the improvement of morals.”4 Rousseau read the advertisement on his way to Vincennes and, he recalled, was struck by 2 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract [1762], in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 131. 3 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 142. It would be interesting to find out how far this distinction was carried through into the discussions of possession and property by Savigny and his successors in the nineteenth century. For a helpful way in, see James Q. Whitman, The Legacy of Roman Law in the German Romantic Era (Princeton, Princeton UP, 1990). 4 See the title page of The Celebrated Discourse of J.J. Rousseau which Obtained the Prize of the Academy of Dijon upon the Following Question, Proposed by the Same Academy, “Has the Re-​ establishment of the Arts and of the Sciences contributed to the Improvement of Morals?” (London, 1779).

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3

a moment of inspiration when he imagined what the austere Roman republican consul Gaius Fabricius would have said about the unthinking complacency of the question. He would have said, Rousseau continued, putting the words very eloquently into Fabricius’s mouth (the procedure in classical rhetoric was called a prosopopeia), that, far from purifying morals, the restoration of the sciences and arts had in fact ruined them. Later, when he described his vision to Diderot, Diderot encouraged him to use the imagined speech as the core of his entry. “He exhorted me to give vent to my ideas and to compete for the prize. I did so, and from that instant I was lost. All the rest of my life and my misfortunes were the effect and consequence of that instant of aberration.”5 The anecdote captures something of the bleakly rueful insight into the unforeseen consequences of apparently trivial events that was characteristic both of Rousseau’s own self-​descriptions and of his various accounts of the endlessly surprising patterns of human history. It hints too at the mixture of innocence and culpability visible in one of the most famous stories that Rousseau ever told. The story in question is now usually associated with France’s last eighteenth-​ century Queen, Marie Antoinette, and the origins of the French Revolution, but it was, in fact, first published as an episode in Rousseau’s Confessions. There, long before the remark came to be associated with Marie-​Antoinette, Rousseau described “a great princess” reacting to the news that “the peasants had no bread” by saying “let them eat cake” (or, in the original, qu’ils mangent de la brioche).6 Writing, in short, was both the making and the unmaking of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau. He made the point himself in his final, posthumously published, work, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, a relentlessly obsessive imaginary conversation between a Frenchman and someone named “Rousseau” about whether the beliefs and opinions attributed by the public to someone named “Jean-​ Jacques” were, in fact, true.7 Something like the same point, but with a more intriguingly suggestive assessment of the relationship between the writing and the thinking was made by the Scottish philosopher David Hume in a conversation that was later described in 1790 by the Whig politician, Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. “Mr Hume told me”, Burke wrote, that he had from Rousseau himself the secret of his principles of composition. That acute, though eccentric observer, had perceived that to strike and interest the public, the marvellous of the heathen mythology had 5 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Confessions [1783], in Rousseau, CW, vol. 5, pp. 294–​95. 6 Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 5, pp. 225. 7 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques [1780], in Rousseau, CW, vol. 1.

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long since lost its effect; that the giants, magicians, fairies and heroes of romance which succeeded, had exhausted the portion of credulity which belonged to their age; that now nothing was left to a writer but that species of the marvellous which might still be produced, and with as great an effect as ever, though in another way; that is, the marvellous in life, in manners, in characters and in extraordinary situations, giving rise to new and unlooked-​for strokes in politics and morals.8 On Hume’s terms, credulity, or an innocent willingness to trust or to suspend disbelief, had no recognisable or authoritative place in a disenchanted world. The phrase itself belongs to the twentieth-​century German political thinker Max Weber, but the proto-​Weberian sense of the whole passage chimes readily with Burke’s own, now better-​known, diagnosis of the modern condition. As he claimed in the same Reflections on the Revolution in France, immediately after describing how he had once seen Marie Antoinette “glittering like the morning star” when he had visited Versailles, “the age of chivalry” had gone and had given way to that “of sophisters, economists and calculators”. It meant, Burke concluded, that “the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.” 2

Rousseau and Burke

Rousseau’s diagnosis was not particularly different. “The people of antiquity”, he wrote in 1764 in his Letters from the Mountain, “are not proper models for modern policy”. Although the age of antiquity was certainly not the age of chivalry, the results of its disappearance were still recognisably similar. In both cases, comparison indicated a loss, not a gain. In the republics of the ancient world, Rousseau wrote, slavery had given time to those who were free to take part in public meetings and democratic decision-​making. But the absence of slavery and the modern division of labour required “other maxims” and other arrangements and, in particular, an institutional distinction between sovereignty and government that was unavailable, and largely unnecessary, in ancient democracy.9 In terms of this comparison, it was Rousseau, rather than Burke, who first emphasised the gulf that had opened up between the ancients and the moderns. Its existence, he wrote in the same passage in the Letters 8 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to the Event, 7th edn. (London, 1790), p. 253. 9 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Letters from the Mountain [1764] in Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, 9th Letter, p. 293.

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5

from the Mountain, was particularly relevant to the subject of democracy. “The democratic constitution”, he claimed, “has been hitherto very poorly examined. All those who have treated this subject were either ignorant of it, too little interested in it, or interested to misrepresent it. None of them has sufficiently distinguished the sovereign from the government, the legislative power from the executive. There is no other mode of government in which these two powers are so separate, and in which they have been so much confounded, by the affectation of writers.” Some, he continued, “imagine that a democracy is a government in which the whole people is magistrate and judge” while others “do not see liberty except in the right to elect one’s leaders and (being subject only to princes) believe that the one who commands is always the sovereign.” None of this, Rousseau implied, was quite the case. But, he concluded, once the correct distinctions (between sovereignty and government and between the legislative and executive) had been recognised and established, the “democratic constitution is certainly the masterpiece of the political art; but the more admirable the mechanism of it, the less it belongs to common eyes to penetrate into it.”10 Here too Rousseau suggested rather more than his words seemed to say. On his terms, one of the implications of the modern distinction between sovereignty and government was that much of the active side of ordinary political life would now be in the hands of the government, not the sovereign. A second implication was that, alongside the distinction between sovereignty and government, there would also be a further set of distinctions between the legislative and the executive and, in addition, the public and the private and this would mean that, in the modern world, the private sphere of work, industry and domestic life would be the basis of the public sphere of government, law and the state.11 Rousseau drove the point home, still in the same passage of the Letters from the Mountain, by citing a pseudo-​Latin proverb –​in libertate labor, in servitute dolor –​which he borrowed from a book about the government of Poland that had been published a few years earlier by the Polish king Stanislas Leszczynski. Work (labor), the proverb stated, was to freedom as was

10 Rousseau, Letters, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, 8th Letter, p. 257. I have modified the translation in light of the contemporary translation in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Miscellaneous Works, 4 vols. (Edinburgh, 1774), vol. 3, pp. 226–​27. 11 For a helpful way in to the subject see Christopher Kelly and Eve Grace (eds.), Rousseau on Women, Love and Family (Hanover, New Hampshire, University Press of New England, 2009)  and, for earlier discussion, Judith Still, Justice and Difference in the Works of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau (Cambridge, cup, 1993)  and Nicole Fermon, Domesticating Passions: Rousseau, Woman, and Nation (Hanover, University of New England Press, 1997).

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pain (dolor) to servitude. “We must take our choice,” Rousseau wrote, quoting the Polish king, “and those who cannot put up with the work will have to find repose only in servitude.”12 One of the implications of this somewhat surprising Rousseau-​Burke comparison is that it was Burke who, not entirely paradoxically, was clearly the more politically sanguine. The genuinely grim quality of Rousseau’s political thought was certainly not lost on some of his later readers, particularly during the period of the French Revolution. When, in the autumn of 1792, discussion turned to the subject of the form of government to be adopted in the recently established first French republic, Rousseau’s thought initially appeared to offer little guidance.13 According to a later account of a dinner-​table conversation among the Girondin leaders in the French National Convention, adopting Rousseau’s “dreadful system” amounted to opting for the destruction of cities, the restoration of slavery and the formation of a confederation of small states.14 And this, according to the man who denounced them, the self-​styled “citizen of the world”, Anacharsis Cloots, was exactly what Brissot, Roland, and the Girondins were prepared to do. The reported conversation among the Girondin leaders seems to have picked up the description of the difference between ancient and modern politics that Rousseau made in his Letters from the Mountain without, however, paying attention to the use that Rousseau also made in the same text of the pseudo-​Polish proverb about the relationship between political liberty and human industry (a point that Rousseau made again in his Considerations on the Government of Poland).15 This aspect of Rousseau’s thought, with its focus on 12 Rousseau, Letters, in Rousseau, CW, 9, 9th Letter, p. 293. 13 On the uses to which Rousseau’s thought was put during the period of the French Revolution, see Michael Sonenscher, Sans-​Culottes: An Eighteenth-​Century Emblem in the French Revolution (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2008). 14 The conversation was described by the Girondin, François Buzot, as reported in F. P. B***, De L’Équilibre des Trois Pouvoirs Politiques, ou Lettres au Représentant du Peuple Lanjuinais, sur son opinion de diviser le Corps législatif en deux sections (Paris, An III/​1795), pp. 96–​7. For further details see Marie-​Jeanne Roland, Appel à l’Impartiale Postérité par la Citoyenne Roland, femme du Ministre de l’Intérieur; ou recueil des écrits qu’elle a rédigés, pendant sa détention (Paris, 1795), p. 116. 15 “Le repos et la liberté me paraissent incompatibles; il faut opter.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne, in Rousseau, OC, vol. 3, p.  955. For a slightly different translation, see Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 170. For further occurrences of the phrase in Rousseau’s works, together with the correct identification of its provenance, see the editorial note in Rousseau, OC, vol. 3, p. 1744, note 1 (it is worth noting, however, that the note overlooks Rousseau’s own emphasis on travail and the relationship between work and freedom).

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industry, interdependence and the division of labour –​and its insistence on the real differences between ancient and modern political economies –​has, until quite recently, largely disappeared from modern Rousseau studies.16 Much the same applies to Rousseau’s strongly historical treatment of what would now be called aesthetics, with its frequently overlooked emphasis upon the ancient, rather than the modern, character of public opinion and the sources of its power. A similar level of oversight still informs Rousseau’s abiding insistence on the imminence of revolution. “We are”, he announced in his Emile in 1762, “approaching a state of crisis and the age of revolutions”, because, he added in a note, it was “impossible for the great monarchies of Europe to last much longer”.17 It was a claim that he repeated in the Considerations on the Government of Poland, written some ten years after the publication of Emile. “I see”, he wrote in its second paragraph, “all the states of Europe rushing to their ruin. Monarchies, republics, all those nations with all their magnificent institutions, all those fine and wisely balanced governments have fallen into decrepitude and threaten soon to die”.18 Burke’s prognosis was not dissimilar. “In a word”, he wrote in the Annual Register of 1772, soon after the French government had used the royal army to clamp down on a long and bitter conflict between the royal ministry and the kingdom’s high courts of appeal, if we seriously consider the mode of supporting great standing armies, which becomes daily more prevalent, it will appear evidently that nothing less than a convulsion, that will shake the globe to its centre, can ever restore the European nations to that liberty by which they were once so much distinguished. The western world was the seat of freedom, until another, more western, was discovered; and that other will probably be

16

17 18

See now, Istvan Hont, Politics in Commercial Society:  Jean-​Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 2015); Denis Rasmussen, The Problems and Promise of Commercial Society:  Adam Smith’s Response to Rousseau (University Park, Pennsylvania, Penn State UP, 2008); Charles L.  Griswold, Jean-​Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith: A Philosophical Encounter (London, Routledge, 2017); Maria Pia Paganelli, Dennis C. Rasmussen and Craig Smith (eds.), Adam Smith and Rousseau: Ethics, Politics, Economics (Edinburgh, Edinburgh UP, 2018). Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or on Education [1762], ed. Christopher Kelly and Allan Bloom, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Book iii, p. 343. Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland and on its Planned Reformation [1782], ed. Christopher Kelly and Judith Bush, in Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 170. I have also used the translation given in Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and other political writings, ed. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge, cup, 1997), p. 178.

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its asylum when it is hunted down in every other part. Happy it is, that the worst of times may have one refuge still left for humanity.19 Eighteen years later, in 1790, Burke carried over the logic of his warning about public debts and standing armies into his instantly famous analysis of the probable consequences of the French Revolution, but with Britain, not America, now standing as the “one refuge still left for humanity.” There is something instructive about this somewhat unexpected parallel between Rousseau and Burke because it helps to highlight something genuinely problematic in Rousseau’s moral and political thought. This is the question of how its various moral, economic and political components fitted together. Independently of the enthralling quality of their prose, the similarities between Rousseau and Burke had more to do with a joint apprehension of the future than with a shared anticipation of its likely content. Behind Burke there was Britain, with both an intricate system of mixed or balanced government, and a cluster of moral, historical and philosophical questions about its origins and nature, that supplied much of the content and direction of his whole intellectual life. The difference meant that where Burke’s vision of the future was recognisably like his present (and, largely for this reason, was readily compatible with his nineteenth-​century rebranding as the great fountainhead of British conservativism), it is genuinely unclear what kind of moral and political vision can, even now, be associated with Rousseau. Although Rousseau’s caution towards the political conflicts that took place in his native city of Geneva over much of his own lifetime has begun to become better known, his public response to what happened there, notably in his Letters from the Mountain, fell far short of the rhetorical ferocity of Burke’s reaction to the French Revolution.20 Although he made it clear that his allegiances were with the more democratic side of the conflict, his public stance favoured maintaining the 19

20

The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics and Literature for the Year 1772 (London, 1773), p.  79. For evidence of Burke’s authorship, see Sir James Mackintosh, “The Administration and Fall of Struensee”, originally published in the Edinburgh Review (1826) and republished in James Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Works (London, 1851), p. 470. The spelling and punctuation have been modernised. On Burke’s politics, and his later incarnation as a conservative, see, helpfully, Martin Loughlin, “Burke on Law, Revolution and Constitution”, Giornale di Storia Costituzionale, 29 (2015), pp. 49–​60; Emily Jones, “Conservatism, Edmund Burke, and the Invention of a Political Tradition, Historical Journal, 58 (2015), pp. 1115–​39; Edmund Burke and the Invention of Modern Conservatism (Oxford, oup, 2017); and, comprehensively, Richard Bourke, Empire and Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2015).

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republic’s established constitutional provisions. Privately, and in keeping with his endorsement in Emile of transferable skills and geographical mobility, he encouraged his Genevan political allies to emigrate rather than face the risks of what he took to be pointless political resistance. The Social Contract, he also wrote privately, had nothing to do with modern France, still less with the existing French monarchy. It had been written for Geneva and was designed to address its very particular moral and political problems.21 Ultimately, it would seem, the similarities between Burke and Rousseau were more superficial than substantive, generated less by the putatively overlapping content of their conceptual resources than by a common concern with the possible consequences of nearly fifty years of global war, beginning with the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740, continuing into the Seven Years War from 1756 to 1763, then into the Russo-​Turkish War of 1768 to 1774, and culminating with the War of American Independence and beyond. Burke’s response to the modern world’s potential for disaster is not hard to see. It is more difficult to identify Rousseau’s response or see what he thought might lie on the far side of the impending age of crisis and revolution that he predicted. It is not, in fact, particularly easy to see whether, if it really was to run its course, he thought that there would be anything left at all. 3

An Elusive System

Rousseau was nearly twenty years older than Burke (he was born in 1712; Burke in 1729)  and, it could be claimed, was more affected by the burdens of uncertainty than the younger man, not only because Burke had the intellectual benefit of direct exposure to the thought of David Hume and Adam Smith, but also because he continued to cleave quite firmly throughout his adult life to a robust but flexible tradition of Anglican political theology, from Samuel Clarke and Joseph Butler to Edmund Law, Josiah Tucker and William Paley. Rousseau on the other hand was more of a sceptic and his initial moral and political resources were more limited. This was not only because he was largely

21

On Rousseau and political conflict in eighteenth-​century Geneva, see Richard Whatmore, Against War and Empire:  Geneva, Britain and France in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, Conn. Yale UP, 2012)  and, more recently, Whatmore, ‘ “A Lover of Peace More than Liberty”? The Genevan Rejection of Rousseau’s Politics’, in Engaging with Rousseau, ed. Avi Lifschitz (Cambridge, cup, 2016), pp. 1–​16. See, however, Michael D. Mendham, “A Lover of Peace or a Vile Insurgent? Rousseau, Geneva, and the Right to Revolution, ca. 1762–​1768”, History of Political Thought (forthcoming, 2019).

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self-​educated, but also because, beyond the confines of a number of different versions of Calvinism, Geneva simply had fewer intellectual resources to offer, particularly when Rousseau was young. This combination of circumstances meant that Rousseau’s development as a thinker took place almost entirely outside of Geneva. Although he was Swiss, his intellectual formation was largely French. It owed almost everything to his increasingly painful involvement in the shifting constellations of Parisian salon society and to the intensely competitive friendships that it housed. Salon society introduced Rousseau to Voltaire, Diderot and d’Alembert, but it also added a stinging moral charge to the chorus of attacks on his personal reputation by circulating the news that he had abandoned his own children. Bridging the many dimensions of the gap between his artisanal origins (his father had been a watchmaker) and his later circumstances meant that much of Rousseau’s intellectual life was a constant struggle to try to keep up and a recurrent process of trying to adjust the brilliance of his initial insights to the qualifications and corrections that new knowledge often seemed to bring. As with his acknowledgment of how the power of his prose could interfere with the accessibility of his thought, Rousseau was well aware of the effects of this constant process of adjustment. Towards the end of his Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, the initially hostile French protagonist in the conversation with “Rousseau” reported that he had begun to see that “Jean-​Jacques’s” books followed “a certain order which it was necessary to find in order to follow the chain of their content. I believed I saw that this order was the reverse of their order of publication, and that going backward from one principle to the next, the author reached the first ones only in his final writings.”22 As the Frenchman could now see, the books that were usually attributed disparagingly to someone named Jean-​Jacques actually contained “things that were profoundly thought out, forming a coherent system which might not be true but which offered nothing contradictory”. Rousseau’s real message, the conversation implied, was to be found in his late works and the retrospective light that they threw on his earlier works. Those earlier works, he now wrote, had been largely critical, with a focus on destroying “that magical illusion which gives us a stupid admiration for the instruments of our misfortunes.” But their largely negative and critical content still made it necessary to address the fact that, as 22

“J’avais senti dès ma première lecture que ces écrits marchaient dans un certain ordre qu’il fallait trouver pour suivre la chaine de leur contenu. J’avais cru voir que cet ordre était rétrograde à celui de leur publication et que l’auteur remontant de principes en principes n’avait atteint les premiers que dans ses derniers écrits.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Rousseau, juge de Jean-​Jacques [1782], in Rousseau, OC, i, p. 933. Rousseau, CW, i, p. 211.

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11

Rousseau put it, “human nature does not go backward” and that it was never possible “to return to times of innocence and equality once they have been left behind.”23 The question of the relationship between a critical early Rousseau and a more constructive later Rousseau does not need much rehearsal. It also leaves unanswered the further question of how the switch occurred and whether, in conceptual terms, it involved adding to or subtracting from what had already been written. Rousseau’s own description could, of course, be taken to be no more than a straightforward assertion of authorial consistency or evidence that, in gradually working out and revising his ideas, he had simply come to repudiate some of his earlier positions. It is, however, worth taking Rousseau at his word. If, as he claimed, his early publications were designed mainly to uncover the real foundations of what he called “the instruments of our misfortunes”, meaning, more literally, the real foundations of property, inequality and political society, it was still the case that, once they were there, they could not be wished away. The implication is that there was a positive side to Rousseau’s thought that was predicated on the reality of property, inequality and political society and, it could be added, one that was also compatible with his announcement at the beginning of the Social Contract that, although mankind was born free but everywhere in chains, it was still possible to find a way to make those chains legitimate. Trying, however, to use the later works as a guide to the earlier works is not straightforward. In Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, Rousseau’s newly enlightened French protagonist appeared to assert that almost everything that Rousseau had written was relevant. But the process is complicated firstly by the fact that some of Rousseau’s works were written long before they were finally published, while others were never published at all. The best-​known example of this type of chronological discrepancy was the Essay on the Origin of Languages which was published in 1781 but was originally drafted, it is now generally agreed, in 1754 and 1755 as part of Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, the second –​and more notorious –​of the two entries that he submitted in sequence to the two prize-​essay competitions put on by the Academy of Dijon. A comparable delay affected the Considerations on the Government of Poland, which Rousseau began to write in the early 1770s, but which was also published only in 1781 as part of the posthumous, Geneva edition, of his collected works. An even longer lapse of time occurred with Rousseau’s

23 Rousseau, Rousseau, juge de Jean-​Jacques, in Rousseau, OC, i, pp. 930, 934–​35. Rousseau, CW, i, pp. 209, 213.

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Plan of a Constitution for Corsica, which was drafted even earlier, some two or three years after he published the Social Contract in 1762, but was discovered in manuscript only in 1821 and published finally only in 1861. There were, in addition, at least three works that Rousseau either referred to in published notes or summarised in his Confessions, but never published at all (and, it should also be remembered, even the Confessions were initially published only in posthumous instalments). The best-​known of these undertakings was a potentially large but abandoned work to which Rousseau, echoing the titles of the famous Roman law compilations made under the emperors Justinian and Gaius, gave the title of Political Institutes. There was also a work to which Rousseau gave the name La morale sensitive, a phrase which is hard to translate because it was designed to indicate something like an oxymoron, with a sense-​based starting point giving rise to a non-​sense based outcome. The same paradox applied to the idea of something material generating something immaterial, like morality, or, as Rousseau put it in another rendition of the same counter-​intuitive amalgamation of the physical and the moral, Le matérialisme du sage, or “the wise man’s materialism”.24 The title alone is worth highlighting because, in another guise, “the wise man’s materialism” could, plausibly, be called “German idealism”.25 Sometime before he died, Rousseau summarised the content of what he had written in his Confessions before going on to claim, alarmingly, that the manuscript had been stolen, probably by Denis Diderot in collusion with Diderot’s friend Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, because in Rousseau’s now unbalanced judgment they had become his two most deadly enemies. Finally, there is a tantalising note in Rousseau’s Social Contract in which he announced that he was planning to write about the subject of federations, mainly in the context of relations between states because, as he put it in the note, “this subject is altogether new, and its principles have yet to be established.”26 Many years later, at the time of the French Revolution, a royalist noble named the comte d’Antraigues claimed that he had actually read the work in manuscript, but there is no real evidence of its existence. It now seems likely that the text that d’Antraigues described was in reality yet another unpublished manuscript, this time Rousseau’s summary –​and assessment –​of

24

For a recent, Rousseau-​inspired, overview of the problems, see Gérard Bensussan, Les deux morales (Paris, Vrin, 2019). 25 Kant’s “metaphysical system”, according to an early nineteenth-​century commentator, “is only a material idealism”: see The Aesthetic Letters, Essays and the Philosophical Letters of Schiller, translated, with an introduction, by J. Weiss (Boston, 1845), p. xxi. 26 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, bk. 3, ch. 15, p. 194, note*.

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a plan for perpetual peace which had been written much earlier in the eighteenth century by the abbé de Saint-​Pierre.27 The combination of the time-​lags and the status of the unpublished works adds to the difficulty of establishing some sort of priority among Rousseau’s late works as a basis of the somewhat circular procedure of deciding which of them throws more light on those that came earlier. But the real difficulty is still the problem that one of Rousseau’s best readers, the early twentieth-​century German philosopher Ernst Cassirer, called the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau.28 The problem is that if Rousseau was right to say that his later works throw fresh light on his earlier works, it is still the case that, irrespective of the dates and status of his whole output, the relationship between the content of the two bodies of work still seems to be deeply problematic. On the one side there was the story about pride, property, inequality, despotism and revolution that Rousseau presented in the first two Discourses. On the other side, there was a story about political society, elected government, the rule of law and the sovereignty of the general will that Rousseau set out in the Social Contract and then went on to summarise, clearly and concisely, in Emile. As Cassirer emphasised, the real Jean-​Jacques Rousseau problem was that it was not clear how to get from the first story to the second without either jettisoning parts of the first or adding more to the second. From this perspective, Rousseau’s claim about using his later works to throw light on the earlier work looks either like an exercise in bad faith, because it was designed to conceal a fundamental lack of coherence in his thought, or was in fact a call for a far more demanding exercise of reconstruction than it might seem. For Cassirer, as he indicated in the title (“The unity of the work of Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau”) of the shorter, French version of his article that he gave as a public lecture in Paris on 27 February 1932, perhaps even before the

27 28

See Grace Roosevelt, “Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, the Count d’Antraigues and the International Social Contract Tradition”, History of Political Thought, 30 (2009), pp. 97–​110. This was the original title of Cassirer’s article, “Das Problem Jean-​Jacques Rousseau”, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 41 (1932), pp. 177–​213, 479–​513, but it was published in an English translation by Peter Gay as The Question of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau (New  York, Columbia University Press, 1954). On Cassirer’s reading of Rousseau, see Jean Ferrari, “Cassirer, lecteur et interprète de Jean-​Jacques Rousseau”, in Michael Esfeld and Jean-​Marc Tétaz (eds.), Généalogie de la pensée moderne (Frankfurt/​Lancaster, Ontos Verlag, 2004), pp.  137–​52; Laetitia Simonetta, “Le Rousseau de Cassirer”, Astérion, 18 (2018), pp. 1–​17. See too Cyrus Hamlin and John Michael Krois (eds.), Symbolic Forms and Cultural Studies: Ernst Cassirer’s Theory of Culture (New Haven, Yale UP, 2004), especially, and despite its description of Rousseau’s thought, pp. 244–​62.

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publication of the German article, the problem was soluble.29 Subsequently, most major Rousseau scholars have echoed his claim, even if they have diverged very considerably both from one another and from Cassirer himself in what the solution might be. For Cassirer, the unity in question was formed by a sort of secular theodicy, meaning a claim that something that seemed to be bad and incompatible with one or other of the attributes of the divinity, like omnipotence, goodness or justice, would in reality turn out to be good, either because what seemed to be bad was really a blessing in disguise or because the real cause of the misfortune was something human, not divine. In Cassirer’s version of the idea, the unity of Rousseau’s thought was formed by a theodicy made up of the loss of the physical independence of the natural state but offset by the gain of the moral autonomy of the political state, with the problematic character of human society forming the fulcrum on which the switch from the physical to the moral –​and from a human aggregation to a ­Rechtsstaat –​ had taken place. From this perspective, the message of Rousseau’s early works could be reconciled with those that came later because, as another great Rousseau scholar was to put it, the misfortunes produced by human society were, ultimately, “blessings in disguise.”30 In this neo-​Kantian reading, what mattered was human reason and, as Cassirer went to some lengths to show, a growing human ability to find ways to combine, but also keep separate, moral insights and the rule of law. 4

The Problem of Unity

Despite many more detailed differences, Cassirer’s claim about the unity of Rousseau’s thought is still the dominant feature of Rousseau scholarship. Some two generations after the publication of Cassirer’s original article, a parallel version of much the same type of argument, but one now centred on the emotions rather than on reason, came to be applied to Rousseau’s treatment of the subjects of pride, amour-​propre and patriotism as the basis of a similarly comprehensive and comparably historicist interpretation of his thought. Here, the switch from amour-​de-​soi to amour-​propre –​and from individual isolation to political society –​was described as the source of the civic motivation and 29 30

Ernst Cassirer, “L’unité dans l’œuvre de Jean-​Jacques Rousseau”, Bulletin de la société française de philosophie, 32 (1932), pp. 46–​66. This was the title given to the English translation of Jean Starobinski, Le remède dans le mal (Paris, Gallimard, 1989)  when it was published as Blessings in Disguise, or, The Morality of Evil (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1993).

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moral commitment required to establish and maintain social justice.31 More recently, the same interest in the positive effects of amour-​propre has again been presented as a theodicy, reinforced this time less by neo-​Kantian discussions of the idea of a Rechtsstaat than by the comparable effects of more recent recognition theory.32 For other scholars, however, the question of the unity of Rousseau’s thought has taken second place to its final moral and political message. In some cases, the message in question was generated by Rousseau’s insight into the opacity of the emotional cloud generated by amour-​propre, the division of labour and the psychological interdependence that they brought in their wake and, in the light of this, by Rousseau’s abiding search for an emotionally, but also democratically, transparent alternative.33 In others, the message was generated by Rousseau’s engagement with the natural jurisprudence of the seventeenth century, not only because of the tension between morality, legality and justice that Rousseau inherited from the political thought of Grotius, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Locke but also, and in a more problematic sense, because of the relationship of their conceptions of the democratic origins of political sovereignty to Rousseau’s own very sharp distinction between sovereignty and government and to his very careful treatment of how, in practice, to put sovereignty and government together.34 Although neither of these two broad interpretations paid much attention to the question of the unity of Rousseau’s thought, both took it largely for granted. Finally, for yet others, the subjects of both the unity and the final message were more deeply problematic, either because of Rousseau’s initial insight into the radical indeterminacy of individual personality or because of the possibility of some genuinely intractable incompatibility between language and the idea of a genuinely autonomous

31

32 33 34

See N. J. H. Dent, Rousseau (Oxford, Blackwell, 1988); N. J. H. Dent, A Rousseau Dictionary (Oxford, Blackwell, 1992) and N. J. H. Dent and Timothy O’Hagan, “Rousseau on Amour-​ Propre”, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplement 72 (1998), pp. 57–​74. For a fine recent examination of the same distinctions, see Avi Lifschitz, “Adrastus versus Diogenes. Frederick the Great and Jean-​Jacques Rousseau on self-​love”, in Avi Lifschitz (ed.), Engaging with Rousseau: Reaction and Interpretation from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (Cambridge, cup, 2016), pp. 17–​32. Frederick Neuhouser, Rousseau’s Theodicy of Self-​Love. Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition (Oxford, oup, 2008). Jean Starobinski, J. J. Rousseau: La transparence et l’obstacle (Paris, 1971). Compare Robert Derathé, Jean-​Jacques Rousseau et la science politique de son temps (Paris, puf, 1950) and his earlier Le rationalisme de Jean-​Jacques Rousseau (Paris, puf, 1948) to Richard Tuck, The Sleeping Sovereign: The Invention of Modern Democracy (Cambridge, cup, 2015).

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subject.35 On both these interpretations, Rousseau seemed, long before Nietzsche, to have established that social life was a process without a subject. From either point of view, the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau began –​and might, inconclusively, also have ended –​with the possibility that human society has no independent, or perhaps even identifiable, moral foundations. This schematic survey ought to be enough to show that, irrespective of their individual merits, almost every claim about the unity of Rousseau’s thought has involved a step upwards in the overall level of analytical sophistication and conceptual precision. Looking for consistency rather than inconsistency, and approaching Rousseau’s works as a sustained effort to try to get things right rather than a more disreputable attempt to hide what went wrong, has been a far more fruitful way of reading Rousseau –​from Cassirer and Strauss to Derathé, Starobinski, Derrida and Rawls –​than simply annotating and commenting on the undeniably real differences to be found among his texts. If reading Rousseau has to come down to a binary choice between trying to find a chimerical unity or succeeding in finding a more predictable inconsistency, a good case could be made to opt nonetheless for the first. There is, however, a third way. Its starting point is that the subject-​matter of Rousseau’s thought was, simply, difficult. This is because what was at issue in that subject-​matter amounted to two, apparently incompatible, problems rather than one. Both were already visible in Rousseau’s prize-​winning essay on the arts and sciences which, when it was published early in 1751, was the essay that first made him famous. There, however, Rousseau’s strong focus on the more morally unsavoury aspects of intellectual competition made it easy to overlook the more deep-​seated problems of disenchantment and scepticism that, together, amounted to the other side of the legacy of the fourteenth-​ century revival of learning or, as it came to be called in the nineteenth century, the Renaissance. The first problem, as Hume informed Burke, was that what had been marvellous in earlier times, or in other societies, had given way to a disenchanted world. Whatever else it was, human life was now, simply, human, with no externally supplied sources of social integration or political cohesion. The second problem was that it was, and still is, hard to make sense of how the many different components of a modern political society actually fit together. The two problems were at once quite closely connected but also pulled quite strongly against one another, if only because, as Hume recognised, complexity could have the effect of acting as a solvent on credulity. The result was a 35

Compare Leo Strauss, “On the Intention of Rousseau”, Social Research, 14 (1947), pp. 455–​ 87, to Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris, Minuit, 1967), translated as Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1974).

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deep-​seated political conundrum in which the complexity of modern political societies raised a question mark against the salience of the marvellous, but the eclipse of the marvellous raised a question mark against the sources of social integration and political motivation under modern conditions of complexity.36 The tension between complexity and credulity has become, as has often been said, most famously by Max Weber, one of the hallmarks of the modern condition. Rousseau, it could be said, was one of the first to see some of its implications. Although, as he later acknowledged, the more moralistic side of his first Discourse made it less analytically powerful than his later publications, its underlying argument established a pattern that Rousseau continued to follow in all his later publications. Something that seemed to be positive would turn out to be negative, but these negative effects could, somehow, become the basis of something that would still be positive. In this sense, the real Jean-​Jacques Rousseau problem was, in keeping with Hume’s anecdote, how to find a way to combine political complexity with political motivation without undermining the initial idea of individual political choice. Over time, it could be said, the problem turned into Tocqueville’s problem and Nietzsche’s problem and then into Weber’s problem. It began, however, as Rousseau’s problem. 5

A Cumulative Process

Some of Rousseau’s works, notably the two Discourses, highlighted the several dimensions of inequality –​between the rich and the poor, the propertied and the propertyless, and the powerful and the powerless –​that political societies usually seem to house. Others, notably the Social Contract, singled out the several types of formal distinction –​between sovereignty and government, between laws and decrees, and between the general will and particular wills –​ that political societies also seem to require. Yet others, including his polemical attack on Diderot’s friend Jean Le Rond d’Alembert over the question of establishing a public theatre in Geneva, as well as the two quasi-​fictional works, Julie, or the New Héloïse and Emile, emphasised a further set of distinctions –​ between men and women, the public and the private, the political and the economic, and the civic and the domestic –​that seem to be as relevant to the 36

The problem, refracted through the thought of Nietzsche and Weber, formed the basis of Leo Strauss’s famous essay on Rousseau, “On the Intention of Rousseau”, reprinted in Eve Grace and Christopher Kelly (eds.), The Challenge of Rousseau (Cambridge, cup, 2013), pp. 123–​46. See too, in the same collection (pp. 147–​67), Victor Gourevitch, “On Strauss on Rousseau”.

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inner life of political societies as are their constitutions to their institutional structure. Finally, a number of Rousseau’s later works, notably Emile, but also his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, the Considerations on the Government of Poland and Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, contain a series of summaries or recapitulations of his earlier works that often amplify or clarify an earlier concept or claim. Setting all these subjects and distinctions alongside one another, but now within a broader framework formed by the tension between the increasing presence of complexity in human arrangements and the decreasing presence of the marvellous in human life, begins to reveal or to suggest something more like the real measure of the problem that Rousseau faced. Thinking through its ramifications and implications was, as Rousseau himself indicated, likely to be cumulative and incremental, with a growing number of substantive additions injecting a longer sequence of smaller steps into a system which, as he put it, “might not be true” but still “offered nothing contradictory.” Adopting this cumulative approach to Rousseau’s texts makes it possible to avoid a largely sterile choice between a chimerical unity and an empirical inconsistency. The key initial move is to see that Rousseau very rarely dropped a subject from his arguments or changed its initial interpretation. What he did instead was to add several further layers of understanding and interpretation to how that particular subject had earlier been treated. One example of this procedure is already well known. It centres on Rousseau’s treatment of the emotion of pity. Initially, the emotion played a prominent part in the argument of the second Discourse, where Rousseau singled it out to explain how a single, solitary, silent creature, like a human with absolutely no social ties, could still feel something towards someone else’s suffering. Here, Rousseau emphasised the self-​centred quality of the feeling. Just as a horse would rear up if it accidentally crushed something living, so someone would respond to someone else’s pain by trying to put an end to the distress caused by the sight or sound of the suffering. In later publications, however, Rousseau gave the feeling a more strongly other-​directed quality, with pity now presented as something more like compassion, or as a response not to one’s own, but to someone else’s, distress. The difference, however, was not a product of inconsistency, or a revision of an earlier view. Instead, it was a product of Rousseau’s examination of the transformation of human capacities under the aegis of the combined processes of language formation, cultural acquisition and population migration that he described in the posthumously published Essay on the Origin of Languages. Pity in its first guise was natural. But pity in its second guise was acquired, or

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artificial.37 The second was not a substitute for the first, but was simply the same emotion, now equipped with an additional dimension and with an additional explanatory foundation of that acquired capability. The same type of procedure is apparent in Rousseau’s treatment of many other subjects and concepts. Here, it is enough to mention only three. The first, and one of the most important, is the subject of love, because, like pity, it could be either self-​centred or self-​denying. Love in the first sense could take the form of either amour-​de-​soi or amour-​propre, meaning a love of either one’s own physical health and wellbeing or of one’s social status and self standing. Love in the second sense, however, could be quite different from both these self-​centred aspects of love not only because of its other-​directed orientation but also because, as Rousseau seems to have noticed quite early in his intellectual career, humans appear to have a mysterious ability to love something other, or more, than other human beings because they are also able to love something like a country, a flag or a song. The second subject, which Rousseau also seems to have noticed quite early in his career, is that the human diet seems to exhibit something analogous to these various forms of emotional promiscuity. Just as people seem to be able to love anything, including things that are inanimate, they also seem to be able to eat and drink anything, from maize to meat and from milk to blood. The third subject, which Rousseau also seems to have noticed at about the same time, is that humans have an ability to have real feelings about things that are general ideas or abstract concepts, like justice, freedom, humanity or god. All three subjects made a brief appearance in Rousseau’s second Discourse, but all of them took an entirely understandable conceptual second place to the subjects of property, inequality and power. There is, therefore, both in the light of Rousseau’s treatment of pity and of the possibility that his treatment of subjects like love, food or feelings followed a similar logic, a prima facie case for taking Rousseau at his word and for thinking that his later treatment of certain subjects helps to clarify –​or to enrich –​ his earlier treatment of the same subjects. Doing this means taking seriously his claim that, looking back, he could see that he had started as he ended, with the same subjects and, as his inquiries progressed, with the same ability to turn answers into questions and further answers into deeper questions. As will be shown in what is to come, the link between the questions and the answers was supplied largely by the subject of the imagination and, more substantively, by Rousseau’s long, and increasingly meticulous, exploration of the idea that the 37

For helpful discussion of this difference, see Laurence D. Cooper, pp. 96–​99 and, more recently, Ryan Patrick Hanley, Love’s Enlightenment. Rethinking Charity in Modernity (Cambridge, cup, 2017), pp. 66–​103.

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imagination actually had the power to envelop most of human life. This too was not a matter of substituting one thing for another, but of adding further layers to what began initially as brute reality. Kant, famously, called Rousseau the Newton of the moral universe.38 One interpretation of the phrase would be to highlight the sheer brainpower required to piece together the bewildering intricacies of the interplay between human reason, human emotions and human life. Another interpretation, however, would be to highlight the marvellous qualities of the intricacies themselves. This interpretation would mean that, just as Newton had added a new explanatory dimension to the otherwise ordinary behaviour of a falling apple, so Rousseau was able to cast a luminously informative aura over the ordinary banalities of everyday life. In this sense, the language of what Rousseau, in several of his later publications, came to call “the language of signs” was intrinsically demotic. His real insight was to identify the marvellous in the ordinary and how it would always occur. Most of this book is about how Rousseau applied this incrementally cumulative and increasingly precise analytical procedure to the subject of politics. Taking this procedure as a starting point makes it possible to throw a new and different light both on the broad character of Rousseau’s political thought and on at least three of his best-​known and, retrospectively, most alarming political statements. The first was made in the Social Contract, where Rousseau announced that the one precondition of a contractual political association was that “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the entire body, which means nothing other than that he will be forced to be free” because, he explained, this was the one precondition that was needed to give force to the principle of majority rule that would underlie the entire edifice of subsequent political choices and decisions.39 The second statement was made in Rousseau’s Confessions where he announced that he had come to see “that everything depended radically on politics and that, from whatever aspect one considers it, no people would ever be anything other than what it was made into by the nature of its government.” This, he continued, meant that the level 38

Immanuel Kant, “Fragmente aus Kants Nachlass”, in Immanuel Kants sämtliche Werke, ed. G. Hartenstein, 8 vols.(Leipzig, 1867–​68), vol. 8, p. 630. On the relationship between Kant and Rousseau, see Richard Velkley, Freedom and the End of Reason: On the Moral Foundation of Kant’s Critical Philosophy (Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 1989); “Freedom, Teleology, and Justification of Reason:  On the Philosophical Importance of Kant’s Rousseauian Turn”, in Herbert Jaumann (ed.), Rousseau in Deutschland: Neue Beiträge zur Erforschung seiner Rezeption (Berlin, De Gruyter, 1995), pp. 181–​95; and, more recently, his “Transcending nature, unifying reason: on Kant’s debt to Rousseau”, in Oliver Sensen (ed.), Kant on Moral Autonomy (Cambridge, cup, 2013), pp. 89–​106. 39 Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. 1, ch.7, in Rousseau, CW, 4, p. 141.

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of virtue, enlightenment and wisdom of a people would, ultimately, be determined by the nature of its government.40 The third statement appeared in the Plan of a Constitution for Corsica where Rousseau set out three ways to think about the relationship between a nation and its government under conditions of economic and social change. The first way was to establish and enforce a rigid set of constitutional provisions to keep the relationship stable. The second was “to form the government for the nation”, leaving the government to change as the nation changed, but exposing the nation to the risk that it would have no leverage over the possible types change that might arise on the side of the government. The third way, Rousseau announced, was “to form the nation for the government” because, he explained, this would have the merit that “everything” would change “at an even pace and the nation, dragging the government along by its force”, would maintain “the government when it maintains itself and make it decline when it declines. The one is always suited to the other.”41 6

The Mystery of Federalism

All three pronouncements can be taken, as has frequently been done, to be symptomatic of the proto-​totalitarian character of Rousseau’s thought.42 Taken sequentially, however, they can instead be taken to be indicative of its increasingly federal character. Much of the argument of this book is designed to explain why, historically and analytically, this latter interpretation makes more sense than the former. It does so, according to the argument to be set out here, because Rousseau came to see that a federal system would work in a way that is rather like the international balance of power, with change in one part of the system generating pressure for change in one or more of its other parts, but with the initiative for change usually coming from one or other of its internally decentralised components rather than a single centralized power. This, clearly, would be the case in an international system because it would, by definition, not be a world state. But the same idea could also be applied to a federal system, particularly if it was able to maintain a strong distinction between government and sovereignty and, in addition, if the sovereign was not a person but a single general will. Building division into domestic politics could, 40 Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, 5, p. 340. 41 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Plan for a Constitution for Corsica [1764] in Rousseau, CW, vol. 11, p. 123. 42 For a wide-​ranging overview of the reception of Rousseau’s thought, see Céline Spector, Au prisme de Rousseau: usages politiques contemporains (Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 2011).

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in the long term, supply a framework for different types of electoral system and the recurrent changes in the political balance produced by electoral politics, organised interests and competitive ballots.43 The same similarity between the internal and external properties of a multistate system applied to the problematic subject of setting out to promote reform while still being able to maintain stability. As with the international balance of power, producing change within a framework made up of several discrete parts meant using information supplied by a number of different sources and, by extension, relying on a correspondingly broader range of comparisons, calculations and evaluations to make the appropriate political choices and decisions. The key initial idea in this parallel between a federal system and the balance of power was made very early in the eighteenth century and arose from a claim that there were two, not one, ways to change the political balance.44 The first way involved adopting the Machiavellian politics of grandezza to set out to expand abroad. The second, however, involved concentrating on expansion at home by relying on growing productivity, prosperity and population to change the political balance as strongly and decisively as expansion abroad. As Rousseau began to show, a federal system lent itself very well to this type of parallel between the mechanisms underlying international politics, domestic politics and the politics of reform, just as it lent itself equally well to the distinction that he also made between the idea of an elected government and a sovereign general will. From this perspective, the division of humanity into many different nations and states had a surprisingly positive dimension. The possibility that this was the case raised a further, more intriguing, question about whether the old, originally theological, concept of a general will applied, normatively, to humanity as whole or, more causally, to a world made up of separate, potentially competitive, sovereign states. This was the question that lay at the heart of Rousseau’s growing estrangement from Diderot. Where Diderot supported the first position, Rousseau endorsed the second. This, by implication, meant that, for Diderot, there was only one general will. For Rousseau, however, the general will would not have this unitary quality. In one setting it would be 43

44

This suggests why, in a note, Emmanuel-​Joseph Sieyès wrote that one of the underlying principles of his concept of a representative system was what he called “electicism”: see Emmanuel-​Joseph Sieyès, Political Writings, ed. Michael Sonenscher (Indianapolis, Indiana, Hackett, 2003), p. x. On these subjects, see the fine recent studies by Gregory Conti, Parliament the Mirror of the Nation: Representation, Deliberation and Democracy in Victorian Britain (Cambridge, cup, 2019) and William Selinger, Parliamentarism: From Burke to Weber (Cambridge, cup, 2019). The argument can be found in François de Salignac de la Mothe-​Fénelon, “Sentiments on the balance of Europe” in Two Essays on the Balance of Europe (London, 1720).

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general, but in another it would be particular. Situating the resulting argument in this context makes it easier to see why it became so bitter. It was, fundamentally, an argument about whether a divided world was also a better world and, if so, where –​or even whether –​the limits to the division could be found. Much more can and will be said both about the intellectual origins and about the more detailed ramifications of this characterisation of the origins and nature of a federal system. Here, it is enough to say that it is, at the least, a good enough reason to give a measure of initial credence to Rousseau’s claim about the backward but cumulative relationship between his earlier and later works. There is also an initial clue to the cogency of the claim in the content of two of Rousseau’s later, most didactic works, the Plan of a Constitution for Corsica and the later Considerations on the Government of Poland. In both, the apparently sinister idea of forming the nation for the government meant, in reality, dividing both Corsica and Poland into an ascending hierarchy of differently sized political and administrative units. The resulting institutional structure was then designed to become the basis, firstly, of an elaborate electoral system which Rousseau called a system of gradated promotion (promotion graduée) and, secondly, of a fiscal and financial system based on a fiat currency. In all these respects, and in keeping with Rousseau’s insistence on understanding the various parts of his work retrospectively, the later constitutional specifications throw a different light both on the character and location of the general will and on the scale and scope of governmental power. From both points of view, forming the nation for the government meant, in fact, creating a federal political system. The properties of a federal system are notoriously hard to define.45 Once, a federal system was taken to be an alliance among states. Now, however, it has come to be seen as a unitary state with a federal system of government. It is not clear, however, what makes a federal system of government a federal, rather than a decentralised, differentiated, or regional, system of government. In German, the difference is usually registered as one between a Staatenbund and a Bundesstaat, although here too it is not clear what makes the latter different from 45

For two of the best discussions of the subject, see Murray Forsyth, Unions of States: The Theory and Practice of Confederation (Leicester, Leicester UP, 1981) and Olivier Beaud, Théorie de la fédération (Paris, puf, 2007). See too Sergio Fabbrini (ed.), Democracy and Federalism in the European Union and the United States:  Exploring Post-​National Governance (London, Routledge, 2005); Michael Burgess and Alain-​G. Gagnon (eds.), Federal Democracies (London, Routledge, 2010); and Olivier Beaud, “The issue of majority in a federal system:  constituent power and amendment of the federal compact”, in Stéphanie Novak and Jon Elster (eds.), Majority Decisions. Principles and Practices (Cambridge, cup, 2014), pp. 56–​76.

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a decentralized state. Long after Rousseau’s death, the difficulty was highlighted in a famous passage of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. “The human understanding”, he wrote there, “more easily invents new things than new words, and we are thence constrained to employ a multitude of improper and inadequate expressions.” When several nations form a permanent league, and establish a supreme authority which, although it has not the same influence over the members of the community as a national government, acts upon each of the confederate states in a body, this government, which is so essentially different from all others, is called a federal one. Another form of society is afterwards discovered, in which several peoples are fused into one single nation with regard to certain common interests, although they remain distinct, or at least only confederate, with regard to all their other concerns. In this case the central power acts directly upon those whom it governs, whom it rules, and whom it judges, in the same manner as, but in a more limited circle than, a national government. Here, the term of federal government is clearly no longer applicable to a state of things which must be styled an incomplete national government. A  form of government has been found out which is neither exactly national nor federal. But no further progress has been made and the new word which will one day designate this novel invention does not yet exist.46 The rest of this book is about the light thrown by Rousseau’s moral and political thought on that missing word and the name that it was expected to give to something that was neither national nor federal, but was still unequivocally real. There is, of course, no mystery about what the word in question was supposed to designate. It was, simply, the world as it is, with its states, laws and governments, and the myriads of human activities that they have now come to house. Rousseau, famously, used two enigmatic terms to refer to this combination. One was the general will, while the other was the will of all. This book is about Rousseau’s attempt to describe how the combination worked and, in its final chapter, about how Rousseau’s attempt was once received. One way of describing what this involved is to refer again to the ambiguity of Hume’s description of Rousseau’s enterprise. On one interpretation, modern political 46

Alexis de Tocqueville, De la démocratie en Amérique [1835–​42], 2 vols., ed. Harold Laski (Paris, Gallimard, 1951), Part  1, ch. 8, pp.  160–​61. I  have used the translation in John Stone and Stephen Mennell (eds.), Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy, Revolution, and Society (Chicago, U. of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 68.

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societies are complex organisations with no room for the spontaneous social cohesion that was once supplied by the fairies, giants, magicians and heroes of earlier times. Here, what was required to fill the moral void was what Rousseau, or Hume, called the marvellous in life. On another interpretation, however, the complexity of modern political societies disguised a more deep-​seated simplicity, one that had to be seen before it could be believed. On this interpretation, there was no void to fill because, like gravity, the marvellous in life was already there.

chapter 2

The Fénelon Problem 1

The Many Dimensions of Reform

The idea that the balance of power could be changed from within, by way of economic growth rather than by territorial expansion, began with François de Salignac de la Mothe-​Fénelon, archbishop of Cambrai, in the early eighteenth century. At the heart of the idea was the vista of a peaceful and prosperous world that was offered by this reversal of focus of the competitive drive. Generating resources at home meant freeing up resources abroad, resulting in a more general reduction of the pressure to compete for commercial advantage or to dominate the supply of scarce goods at one end or the other of the productive cycle. But if the objective was clear, the way to reach it was far more obscure. Thinking through the many causal possibilities involved in generating economic growth raised a host of complicated questions both about sequences and mechanisms and about their real-​world applicability and potential consequences which, despite all the obvious differences, are still alive today. The complexity of the problem made it hard to see, then as much as now, how to translate the idea of peaceful conquest into a determinate set of policies that would ensure that prosperity at home did not turn into empire abroad.1 Fénelon wrote a pamphlet dealing specifically with the idea, but the broader problem of translating the goal into a policy was raised more fully in the comprehensive programme of reform that he set out in his best-​selling prose epic The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses published initially in 1697 and then in full in 1715, the year that Louis xiv died.2 Here, the details of what Fénelon proposed to do to reform the fictitious kingdom of Salentum, a thinly disguised version of modern France, matter less than the more deep-​seated problem of political action and its consequences that his plan entailed. This problem is best described as the Fénelon problem because it was a corollary of the original goal that Fénelon had in mind. It can be summarised initially in Fénelon’s own words. “Bear in mind, Telemachus”, he wrote towards the end

1 The phrase can be associated readily with both the title and content of Sidney Pollard, Peaceful Conquest: The Industrialisation of Europe (Oxford, oup, 1981). 2 On Fénelon and the balance of power, see his, “Sentiments on the balance of Europe”, in Anon., Two Essays on the Balance of Europe (London, 1720).

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020 | DOI:10.1163/9789004420335_003

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of his eponymous book, “that there are two things that are pernicious to the government of peoples and to which no remedy is almost ever supplied. The first is an unjust and excessively violent authority among kings; the second is luxury, which corrupts manners.” The former, Fénelon went on to explain, was “exposed to a fatal overthrow” because of the potentially precarious nature of over-​centralised power, while the latter would “poison a whole nation” once the drive for wealth and status had taken hold.3 Both these pernicious aspects of government, Fénelon warned, had interacted with one another to produce something like the state of modern France and this, as he went on to show over much of the content of The Adventures of Telemachus, was why both required correction. The Fénelon problem began with a recognition that the two problems were quite closely connected but were not obviously jointly soluble. Trying, on the one hand, to decentralise government could have the effect of entrenching luxury because decentralisation was likely to give the rich and powerful more opportunities to add to their already considerable economic and social advantages. Trying, on the other hand, to counter the effects of luxury could have the effect of reinforcing centralisation because only a very powerful government was likely to be able to take on the rich and win. The two aspects of the problem appeared to compound one another, with more decentralisation seeming to open a door to more inequality, but with more inequality seeming to open a door to more centralisation. Nor was the problem peculiar to any single form of government. The unity that could be associated with monarchy appeared to magnify the risks of centralisation, just as the multiplicity that could be associated with democracy appeared to magnify the risks of inequality. Aristocratic or mixed forms of government simply seemed to reinforce both sides of the dilemma. No matter how they were composed, every form of government seemed to be unable to deliver a programme of reform that could eliminate inequality without requiring centralisation or eliminate centralisation without importing inequality. The real problem, therefore, was that trying to deal with one side of the relationship between centralisation and inequality ran the risk of magnifying the other. In this sense, the Fénelon problem was similar in character to the problem of the relationship between credulity and complexity that Hume was later to associate with Rousseau and the idea of the marvellous in life. In that case, more complexity meant less credulity, but less credulity also meant less of the

3 François de Salignac de la Mothe-​Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses [1699/​1715], edited and translated by Patrick Riley (Cambridge, cup, 1994), bk. 17, pp. 296–​97.

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moral and political motivation required to cope with complexity itself. In the case of the Fénelon problem, the same perverse effects applied to the relationship between centralisation and inequality. The two problems were, in fact, connected in more than a purely formal sense because the first, inequality-​ centralisation problem was, as Rousseau was to show in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, a problem about the initial foundations of political society, while the second, credulity-​complexity problem was a problem about its subsequent course of development. Together, they seemed to imply that the existence of political society could, in the long run, turn out to be self-​ defeating unless a radical solution was applied to this compound cluster of related problems. But the solution itself was not self-​evident. From one perspective, it would have to come from within because this was the only sphere in which states and governments could exercise meaningful control over their own affairs. From another perspective, however, the solution had to come from without because, for the opposite reason, this was the only sphere that fell outside the control of states and their governments and could, therefore, limit the political risks of a centralised programme of comprehensive reform. Although the two perspectives were not fundamentally incompatible, it was still not easy to see which came first or which mattered most. There was, in short, a sequencing problem produced by the overlap between the initial problem and the two further, apparently unrelated, but fundamentally more irreconcilable problems that lay at the heart of the Fénelon problem. Growth at home, Fénelon asserted, had the ability to change the international balance of power and, by doing so, to reduce the range and number of causes of conflict. But, at least on his premises, promoting growth at home meant dealing with the related problems of inequality and centralisation by rebalancing the relationships between urban and rural society and between the industry and agriculture that they housed respectively. The way towards a stable and potentially more peaceful world looked, therefore, as if it had to run through a radical and comprehensive programme of domestic social and political reform. This, certainly, was the message of Telemachus itself and it remained a message that continued to have its supporters all the way through the eighteenth century. “One day” in 1793, wrote a former member of the French Convention in 1795, Robert Lindet (the member of the French revolutionary government’s Committee of Public Safety who was responsible for overseeing the workings of the maximum imposed on the price of cereals and other subsistence goods) was giving a carefully prepared speech to the French Convention. “Robespierre, who was sitting beside me, said to me ‘that man there (meaning Lindet)

The Fénelon Problem

29

is the Fénelon of the revolution’ ”.4 Whether or not Robespierre really did say it, the remark was clearly intended to be a compliment. Others were less convinced. “Louis xiv, for all his despotism and wars, never did as much damage as the counsel of the good Fénelon, the apostle of virtue and human well-​being, would have done”, wrote the French political economist Jean-​Baptiste Say in the third decade of the nineteenth century.5 Rousseau’s approach to the problem was different. For Fénelon, reform began at home, but its effects would be transmitted abroad. For Rousseau, the sequence was the opposite. Reform would be transmitted from abroad, but its requirements would be implemented at home. In part, the difference arose because, as Rousseau was to show in his comments on a plan for perpetual peace published at about the same time that Fénelon produced his Telemachus, this time by one of Voltaire’s acquaintances, Charles Irénée de Castel, abbé de Saint-​Pierre, he did not think that the Fénelon problem could ever really be solved. There has always been a strange discrepancy in Rousseau studies between the Rousseau of the historiography of international relations who is usually described as a realist and the Rousseau of French literature who is usually described as a romantic or, sometimes, an admirer of the noble savage. Neither label actually fits, but the contrast is still quite illuminating. In part, the contrast began because Rousseau came to see that the more limited and partial solutions to which the Fénelon problem was susceptible had to come from without rather than within and also had to rely as much on economics as on politics. For Rousseau, the kingdom of Salentum that Fénelon described in Telemachus really was an imagined community. As Rousseau came to see it, the Fénelon problem was more specific, more deep-​seated, and more irreversible than even Fénelon himself had imagined because it was the real effect of a set of radical imbalances generated by the plasticity of human nature on the one side and the division of labour on the other. In this sense, Rousseau’s response to the Fénelon problem throws a 4 Michel-​Edmé Petit, Le procès des 31 mai et 2 juin, ou la défense des 71 représentants du peuple (n. p.  n. d., but Paris, 1795), p.  29. The anecdote appears in L.  Boivin-​Champeaux, Notices historiques sur la Révolution dans le département de l’Eure (Evreux, 1868), p. 161 and Amand Montier, Robert Lindet (Paris, 1899), pp. 72, 244, as well as in François Pascal, L’économie dans la terreur: Robert Lindet 1746–​1825 (Paris, spm, 1999), p. 365. None indicate its source in Petit’s pamphlet, which seems to have been signalled for the first time in an anonymous notice in Annales révolutionnaires, 4 (1911), p. 385. 5 Jean-​Baptiste Say, Mélanges et correspondance d’économie politique, ed. Charles Comte [1834], reprinted in Jean-​Baptiste Say, Cours complet d’économie politique pratique (Paris, 1843), p. 666. For a detailed examination of Fénelon’s presence in eighteenth-​century French thought, see Albert Chérel, Fénelon en France au xviiie siècle (Paris, 1916).

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different –​and somewhat bleaker –​light on the claim about the unity of his thought made nearly a century ago by Ernst Cassirer. Where Cassirer took both the problem and Rousseau’s solution to it to be a problem about the existence of society, with the loss of natural independence giving rise to a problem of social interdependence which, ultimately, could be solved by means of a social contract and the rule of law, Rousseau’s own formulation of the problem was more comprehensively pessimistic, not only because he had little confidence that it could be solved by the kind of centralised programme of reform set out in Telemachus, but also because he took the problem to be far more deep-​ seated than was usually assumed, even by Fénelon and his followers. With Rousseau, the problem was not society, but the division of labour. Society, as he emphasised both in the description of the self-​sufficient households of the region of Neuchâtel near his native Geneva which he incorporated into his Letter to d’Alembert, and in his more generic image of the time in simple societies when the local heads of households would meet beneath the village oak to discuss and decide on matters of common importance, could have several separate but stable components. He had, accordingly, no hesitation in applauding the best-​selling account of the life of a self-​sufficient Swiss peasant published by a Swiss physician named Johann Caspar Hirzel in 1761 under the title of The Rural Socrates. “However astonishing the hero of your book may be”, he informed Hirzel in 1764, “to my eyes, its author is no less so. There are many more respectable peasants than scholars who respect them and dare to say so. Happy the country where there are Kliyoggs who cultivate the land and Hirzels who cultivate letters.”6 Much the same type of arrangement was a feature of the household at Clarens established by Monsieur and Madame de Wolmar that Rousseau described in his Julie or the New Heloise, published in the same year as Hirzel’s Rural Socrates and with a now far-​more famous endorsement of the idea of self-​sufficiency. It was, he wrote, a model of “the taste for work, order, moderation, and all that can render sweet and charming to reasonable people the enjoyment of a modest estate, as wisely preserved as it has been honestly acquired.”7 For Rousseau, the real problem began with the division of labour because, he argued, the development of the division of labour would generate an irreversible bias towards the dominance 6 Rousseau to Hirzel, 12 Sept. 1764, in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Correspondance complète, ed. R. A. Leigh, vol. 22, p. 46. On Hirzel and “the rural Socrates”, see Paul H. Johnstone, “The Rural Socrates,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 5 (1944), pp. 151–​75; and Sonenscher, Sans-​Culottes, p. 111. 7 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Julie or the New Héloïse [1761], in Rousseau, CW, 6, Part 5, Letter ii, pp. 432–​455 (p. 455 for the passage quoted here).

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31

of manufacturing industry and this in turn ruled out the idea of a reversion to the type of balanced economy that Fénelon and his admirers endorsed. In this sense, Cassirer’s account of the unity of Rousseau’s thought was radically incomplete. On Rousseau’s terms, establishing a Rechtsstaat was no more than the first step towards a properly functioning federal system of government and a real integration of economics with politics. Getting the full measure of Rousseau’s response to the Fénelon problem calls in the first instance for a summary account of three earlier attempts to engage with its intractable quality. These, in chronological order, were: firstly, an elaborate system of debt-​based finance devised by the Scottish financial projector, John Law; secondly, a fashion-​based system of economic growth promoted by, among many others, Voltaire; and, thirdly, a two-​sector system of trade and industry advocated, uniquely, by Montesquieu. To some degree, the chronology matters because all three attempts were replies to one another. It matters too, and in a more direct sense, because Rousseau’s response to the Fénelon problem followed on chronologically, but also critically, from what, for him, was the most recent of the attempts to address it, namely the one set out in 1748 in Montesquieu’s enigmatic The Spirit of Laws. Although all three of the replies to Fénelon differed substantially from one another, they all shared a common concern with causation and, more specifically, with the idea that the unintended consequences of an event or a development could be more powerful or durable than any that had been intended. The best-​known example of this idea was the claim, originally made against Fénelon himself, that private vices were in fact public benefits, which was put forward in the early eighteenth century by an Anglo-​Dutch pamphleteer named Bernard Mandeville in his poem The Fable of the Bees, and its accompanying commentary.8 If this was the case, and private vices really were public benefits, then the Fénelon problem was simply a chimera. This, of course, was exactly what Mandeville went on to claim because, he argued, the problematic combination of centralisation and inequality that lay at the core of Fénelon’s jeremiad was readily soluble, at least on certain political conditions. Although the combination was a real menace to an absolute government and the type of monarchy that existed in France, there were other political systems, in Britain or the Netherlands, in which political representation could be combined with political centralisation to block, or at least manage, the divisive effects of inequality. 8 Credit for noticing the Mandeville-​Fénelon dialogue goes to Istvan Hont, “The Early Enlightenment Debate on Commerce and Luxury”, in Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler (eds.), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-​Century Political Thought (Cambridge, cup, 2006), pp. 377–​ 418.

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Mandeville’s claim, with its comparative evaluation of the governments of Britain and France as the basis of his assessment of their future prospects, established the framework in which the Fénelon problem came to be discussed over much of the eighteenth century. In one, largely French setting the problem seemed to present a real dilemma. But in another, largely Dutch or English setting and under the aegis of the type of political system that Mandeville himself commended, the problem seemed far less menacing. In this type of political speculation, a great deal hung on causation or, more fully, on the various evaluations and assessments of the causal properties of different types of political system that were made by the time, in the middle of the eighteenth century, that Rousseau first encountered the thought of Montesquieu. By then, Law’s system had come and gone; Voltaire had effectively patented the idea of fashion as the key to French cultural and commercial domination, while Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees had been translated into every major European language. As a young man, Rousseau had written a poem on the silk industry of Lyon that loosely endorsed the views of all three. On its terms, the Fénelon problem had begun to look largely like a fantasy. But, as Rousseau’s engagement with Montesquieu began to develop, the evaluation began to change. It did so mainly because of Montesquieu’s noticeably less sanguine assessment of the prospects for British civil and political liberty under the renewed conditions of war and debt that began with the War of the Austrian Succession between 1741 and 1748. “As all human things have an end”, Montesquieu wrote in one of the two famous chapters on the English constitution that he published in The Spirit of Laws, “the state we are speaking of will lose its liberty, will perish. Have not Rome, Sparta and Carthage perished? It will perish when the legislative power shall be more corrupt than the executive”.9 In Montesquieu’s hands, the combination of war and debt gave the Fénelon problem a new lease of life. It could now be connected to a range of further, more or less, general problems which, standardly, did not end well. In one guise, the combined problems of inequality and centralisation seemed to entail a clash between the moneyed and the landed interests. In another guise, they seemed to entail a clash over foreign policy. In a third guise, they seemed to entail a clash between the tax-​raising powers of the legislature and the spending powers of the executive. Whether taken jointly or severally, the many dimensions of the Fénelon problem, now in association with what, in Britain, came to be known as “Montesquieu’s prophecy”, meant that Rousseau’s 9 Montesquieu, SL, bk. xi, ch. 6, pp. 161–​2. On this subject, and Montesquieu’s so-​called “prophecy” about Britain’s future, see Michael Sonenscher, Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution (Princeton, pup, 2007), pp. 44–​47.

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engagement with Montesquieu became, through Montesquieu himself, an engagement with most of the intellectual life of the first half of the eighteenth century and, in particular, with its recurrent, often theologically inspired, fascination with the subject of causation and the many possible futures that the Fénelon problem continued to suggest. 2

Rousseau and Montesquieu

Rousseau’s engagement with Montesquieu was considerable and critical. It was matched too by a high level of intellectual respect. His private reaction to the news of Montesquieu’s death in 1755 (“He did not need so long a life to be immortal, but he should still have lived eternally to be able to instruct peoples of their rights and their duties”) was characteristically eloquent but also unusually generous, perhaps because of his real familiarity with the intricacies of Montesquieu’s thought.10 Soon after the publication of The Spirit of Laws, he had been taken on as a research assistant on a project to refute Montesquieu’s book that was funded by a rich royal tax-​farmer named Claude Dupin. His work for Dupin was complemented by research on a further project, a history of women planned, but never completed, by Dupin’s wife.11 There are good 10

11

“Il n’avait pas besoin d’une si longue vie pour être immortel; mais il eût du vivre éternellement pour apprendre aux peuples leurs droits et leurs devoirs.” Rousseau to Jean Perdriau, 20 Feb. 1755, in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Correspondance complète, ed. R. A. Leigh, 52 vols. (Oxford and Geneva, Voltaire Foundation, 1966–​92), vol. 3, p. 98 (henceforth Rousseau, CC, ed. Leigh, followed by the volume and page numbers). On this, still relatively uncharted, phase of Rousseau’s intellectual life, see Angela Hunter, “The Unfinished Work on Louise-​Marie-​Madeleine Dupin’s Unfinished Ouvrage sur les Femmes”, Eighteenth-​Century Studies, 43 (2009), pp. 95–​111; Eileen Hunt Botting, “The Early Rousseau’s Egalitarian Feminism: A Philosophical Convergence with Madame Dupin and ‘The Critique of the Spirit of the Laws’ ”, History of European Ideas, 43 (2017), pp. 732–​ 44; Terence E. Marshall, “Poetry and Praxis in Rousseau’s Emile”, in John C. McCarthy (ed.), Modern Enlightenment and the Rule of Reason (Washington DC, Catholic University of America Press, 1998), pp. 187–​212 (at p. 211, note 99); Robert Shackleton, “Montesquieu, Dupin and the early writings of Rousseau”, in S. Harvey, M. Hobson, D. J. Kelley and S. S. B. Taylor (eds.), Reappraisals of Rousseau (Manchester, Manchester U. P. 1980), pp, 234–​ 49; Michel Launay, “Le Discours sur les sciences et les arts: Jean-​Jacques entre Mme Dupin et Montesquieu”, in Michel Launay (ed.), Jean-​Jacques Rousseau et son temps (Paris, José Corti, 1969), pp. 93–​103; Anicet Sénéchal, “Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, secrétaire de Mme Dupin, Annales de la société Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, 36 (1963–​65), pp.  173–​290; Jean-​ Pierre Le Bouler and Catherine Lafarge, “Catalogue topographique partiel des papiers Dupin-​Rousseau dispersés de 1951 à 1958”, Annales de la société Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, 39 (1972–​77), pp. 243–​80.

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reasons to think that Rousseau’s engagement with Montesquieu was genuinely formative. Although it is not clear whether he worked on the two projects with the Dupins in tandem or in sequence, it is still very unlikely that he could have failed to notice the centrality of the subjects of women and marriage, along with property and inheritance, to the complicated causal processes that, according to Montesquieu, had come to separate the republics and empires of the ancient past from the monarchies and free states of the modern age. Rousseau set out his own assessment of Montesquieu’s thought in a famous passage in Emile. The true principles of political right [Rousseau’s eighteenth-​century English translators usually translated his term droit politique as “the law of politics”] have not yet been established and, I presume, they never will. Grotius, the master of this science, is but a child, and what is worse, he is reprehensible for his insincerity. When I hear this writer’s praises sounded so high, and Hobbes loaded with infamy, I can see that these two authors are very little understood. The truth is, their principles are exactly the same and vary only in the expression. There is likewise a difference in their method. Hobbes builds his system on sophisms, and Grotius his upon the poets; in everything else they agree. The only modern capable of creating this great and useless science was the celebrated Montesquieu. But he avoided entering into a discussion of the principles of the law of politics or political right; he was content with treating of the positive law under established governments; and there is nothing in the world more different than these two sciences.12

12

“Le droit politique est encore à naître, et il est à présumer qu’il ne naîtra jamais. Grotius, le maître de tous nos savants en cette partie, n’est qu’un enfant, et, qui pis est, un enfant de mauvaise foi. Quand j’entends élever Grotius jusqu’aux nues et couvrir Hobbes d’exécration, je vois combien d’hommes sensés lisent ou comprennent ces deux auteurs. La vérité est que leurs principes sont exactement semblables; ils ne diffèrent que par les expressions. Ils diffèrent aussi par la méthode. Hobbes s’appuie sur des sophismes, et Grotius sur des poètes; tout le reste leur est commun. Le seul moderne en état de créer cette grande et inutile science eût été l’illustre Montesquieu. Mais il n’eut garde de traiter des principes du droit politique; il se contenta de traiter du droit positif des gouvernements établis; et rien au monde n’est plus différent que ces deux études.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile [1762], Bk. V, OC, iii, p. 505. I have used the contemporary English translation, Emile, pp. 202–​3. See also Rousseau, Emile, ed. Launay, p. 600.

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Anyone, Rousseau continued, wanting “to make healthy judgments about existing governments” had, unlike Montesquieu, to unite the two subjects because, he stated, it was “necessary to know what ought to be in order to judge soundly of what is.” This, however, gave rise to a further difficulty because it was not obvious that any individual would have an interest in doing either. Identifying the sources of the appropriate individual motivation and, by doing so, clarifying both “the principles of political right” and “the positive right of established governments” meant, Rousseau wrote at the end of this compressed set of assessments, finding answers to the questions “What importance does it have for me? and, What can I do about it?”13 Rousseau had already made the same point in a more muted way in the Social Contract, whose subtitle, “the principles of political right” (or principes du droit politique), referred to exactly the same problems of political morality and political motivation which, in Emile, he said that Montesquieu had failed to address. As Rousseau put it in the Social Contract itself, Montesquieu had failed to see that a real measure of virtue was a requirement of every type of legitimate government, whether royal or republican, because every type of government had a relationship to the use and abuse of sovereign power. A “certain celebrated author”, he wrote, had “laid down virtue as the principle of a republic”. For want, however, of making the necessary distinctions, this noble genius was led into frequent mistakes, as well as lack of precision, for not having observed that, the sovereign authority being everywhere the same, the same principle ought to apply to every well constituted state, albeit to a greater or lesser degree according to the form of the government.14 13

14

“Celui que veut juger sainement des gouvernements tels qu’ils existent est obligé de les réunir toutes deux: il faut savoir ce qui doit être pour bien juger de ce qui est. La plus grande difficulté pour éclaircir ces importantes matières est d’intéresser un particulier à les discuter, de répondre à ces deux questions: que m’importe? Et qu’y puis-​je faire?” Rousseau, Emile, ed. Richard (Paris, Garnier, 1964), p. 585. Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or On Education [1762], edited and translated by Alan Bloom (Basic Books, New York, 1979), Bk, 5, p. 458; Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk 5, p. 649. “Voilà pourquoi un auteur célèbre a donné la vertu pour principe à la république; car toutes conditions ne sauraient subsister sans la vertu: mais faute d’avoir fait les distinctions nécessaires, ce beau génie a manqué souvent de justesse, quelquefois de clarté, et n’a pas vu que l’autorité souveraine étant partout la même, le même principe doit avoir lieu dans tout état bien constitué, plus ou moins, il est vrai, selon la forme du gouvernement.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract or Principles of Political Right, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, Bk. iii, ch. 4, p. 174. OC, p. 404. I have slightly modified this and the following passages in the light of the 1791 English translation. On Rousseau and Montesquieu, see too Christopher Kelly, “Rousseau and the Illustrious Montesquieu”, in Eve Grace and Christopher Kelly (eds.), The Challenge of Rousseau (Cambridge, cup, 2013), pp. 19–​33.

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Although Rousseau had no hesitation in writing in Emile that it was unnecessary to look further than The Spirit of Laws to find out about how moeurs (manners) were connected to government, his own position was consistent with the initial proposition that manners were not morals because manners (or moeurs) arose for social and historical reasons, while morality required motivation and choice.15 Ultimately, the distinction came to centre on the difference between virtues like generosity, courage or fortitude, which were recognised and maintained by interpersonal evaluation, and the one virtue that also required the power of the state, namely the peculiar virtue of justice. Montesquieu had gone to unusual lengths, in The Spirit of Laws, to explain why this was the case.16 As Rousseau presented him, therefore, Montesquieu stood above Grotius and Hobbes in the long quest to establish “the great and useless science” of political right (droit politique). Although he did not set out his reasons for making the judgment, it is possible to suggest two. The first was Montesquieu’s unusual description of the system of government that he called monarchy and, more particularly, the striking account of its origins and nature that he supplied, mainly towards the end of The Spirit of Laws. The second was Montesquieu’s distinction between two forms of trade, one which he called trade based on economy and the other which he called trade based on luxury. Together, these two aspects of Montesquieu’s thought throw a new light on the Fénelon problem because they indicated, firstly, that the politics of reform did not have to rely on a centralised political agency and, secondly, that it would be the economy rather than politics that would be the load-​bearing element of the whole reforming process. To some of his eighteenth-​century readers, Montesquieu also gave the politics of reform a further, somewhat surprising, but readily identifiable, outcome. This was because in The Spirit of Laws he set out two different models of monarchy and gave a hint that, if the two models were to be joined together, they could add up to a third, as yet unspecified, form of government. The first model corresponded to Montesquieu’s official definition of monarchy. “Intermediate, subordinate and dependent powers”, he wrote in the book ii, ­chapter 4, of his epigrammatic masterpiece, “constitute the nature of monarchical government, 15

16

“Les rapports nécessaires des mœurs au gouvernement ont été si bien exposés dans le livre de l’Esprit des lois, qu’on ne peut mieux faire que de recourir à cet ouvrage pour étudier ces rapports.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, ed. Michel Launay (Paris, Garnier-​ Flammarion, 1966), bk. 5, p. 613. See the description of the historical sequence that Montesquieu set out in Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 139–​46.

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that is, of the government in which one alone governs by fundamental laws”, before adding, almost immediately, “the most natural intermediate, subordinate power is that of the nobility”.17 The second model appeared in two famous chapters of The Spirit of Laws (book xi, c­ hapter 6 and book xix, c­ hapter 27) devoted to an examination of the English constitution. To some of Montesquieu’s eighteenth-​century readers, putting the two models of monarchy alongside one another and thinking about them both in the light of the distinction that Montesquieu made between trade based on luxury and trade based on economy raised the possibility of a transition from monarchy of the first kind to monarchy of the second kind, but with some of the features of first model remaining alive in the second. Montesquieu’s first model of monarchy was the product of a long chain of unintended consequences centred upon the tiny strips of land, known as the salus, that were said to have adjoined the mud and wattle huts of the Germanic peoples responsible for the invasion and conquest of Roman Gaul. The distinctive feature of these strips of land was that to ensure that ownership of both the land and its associated dwelling space did not pass from one household to another when a woman married, women were not allowed to inherit a salus. In a brilliant demonstration of how history could be seen as a series of unintended consequences, Montesquieu used the final chapters of The Spirit of Laws to show how, over the course of time, the salus had become the basis of France’s famous Salic laws, the laws governing the succession to the French throne. The process started, he claimed, when the Franks, the most important of the pastoral Germanic peoples who overran Roman Gaul, began to adopt a more settled way of life in the territory that they occupied. Along with their settlements came landed property and, in conjunction with its fixed quality, came more stable arrangements surrounding the trials by combat, or feuds, which were the usual way by which the Germans settled their disputes. Gradually, as Montesquieu proceeded to show, property, feuds and inheritance combined to become monarchy in its modern guise. The transformation involved several steps. First, the rules that applied to trials by combat became more durable when they came to be enforced by local warrior leaders. Secondly, since rule enforcement called for power and 17

Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws [1748], ed. Anne Cohler, Basia Miller and Harold Stone (Cambridge, 1989), Bk. 2, ch. 4, pp. 17–​18. For most citations, I have usually preferred the original English translation by Thomas Nugent, reprinted as Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, ed. Franz Neumann (New  York, Hafner Publishing Company, 1949)  which, in subsequent notes, will be referred to as Montesquieu, SL, followed by book, chapter and page numbers.

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authority, responsibility for enforcing these rules came to be attached to the ownership of a fief, meaning possession of the judicial power granted by the Frankish kings to their military followers. Over time, this responsibility gradually became hereditary, initially among male kin, and then by, way of substitutions and entails, along a single line of descent running from one first-​born male to the next. As fiefs became hereditary, they also became a form of indivisible property which, in keeping with the customs governing the inheritance of the salus, passed from one generation to the next solely in the male line. Gradually, this form of succession turned into a fully developed system of primogeniture and what had begun as a feud, or a form of trial by combat, turned slowly into the feudal system. When Hugues Capet became king of France and the Capetian dynasty replaced France’s Merovingian kings, the inheritance of property was grafted on to the inheritance of the French throne. The power to judge, which had once been the chief attribute of the Frankish kings, became the prerogative of the nobility, while military leadership, which was once the responsibility of nobles, passed into the hands of the king. It took several hundred years for the two parts of the political system that Montesquieu called monarchy to fall into place.18

18

This way of thinking about the connection between these aspects of Montesquieu’s thought and the concept of representative government was once more widespread than it was to become in the twentieth century. For one example, see Antoine Augustin Cournot, Considérations sur la marche des idées et des événements dans les temps modernes, 2 vols. (Paris, 1872), vol. 1, p. 91: “Quand Montesquieu a dit que ‘ce beau système avait été trouvé dans les bois’ il a pu dire vrai, en ce sens que les tribus germaniques avaient dû effectivement contracter dans les bois ou dans les éclaircies des bois, aux temps de leur vie nomade ou semi-​nomade, ces gouts d’indépendance personnelle et de cantonnement, associés à des coutumes de clientèle ou de vasselage volontaire, qui leur ont rendu insupportable la vie citadine, la tradition romaine, et ont poussé à la démolition des dynasties barbares qui voulaient continuer ou reprendre cette tradition. Mais il fallait être sorti des bois, et même avoir subordonné le droit personnel au droit réel, les institutions politiques aux institutions domaniales, pour aboutir à la féodalité et par suite au système représentatif, tel que les modernes l’ont conçu.” The same concern with the legacy of the Germanic invaders of Roman Gaul was a feature of political thought in the German-​speaking parts of Europe in the nineteenth century, from the rival interpretations of Hegel and Savigny to Edouard Gans and beyond. For helpful ways in to the subject, see Whitman, The Legacy of Roman Law in the German Romantic Era; Olivier Jouanjan, Une histoire de la pensée juridique en Allemagne (1800–​1918) (Paris, puf, 2005); Henri Tronchon, “Une concurrence à la philosophie de l’histoire en France:  la philosophie du droit”, in [Anon.], Mélanges offerts à M. Charles Andler par ses amis et ses élèves (Strasbourg, 1924), pp. 371–​81; Claude Nicolet, “Rome et les conceptions de l’état en France et en Allemagne au xixe siècle”, in Wim Blockmans and Jean-​Philippe Genet (eds.), Visions sur le développement des états européens (Rome, Collection de l’Ecole Française de Rome, 171, 1993),

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The English system was quite different. It was similar to the original system of government of the Germanic peoples before they invaded Roman Gaul, at least as that system had been described by the imperial historian Tacitus in his On the Mores of the Germans. That system had been an authentically mixed system of government, with no subordinate, dependent, intermediate powers. In it, according to Tacitus, minor affairs had been left to the nobles, but matters of broader concern were the affair of the whole nation. “If”, Montesquieu wrote famously, “one wants to read the admirable work by Tacitus, On the Mores of the Germans, one will see that the English have taken their idea of political government from the Germans. This fine system was found in the woods.”19 As he went on to show, much the same type of arrangement appeared to have come back after the seventeenth-​century English revolutions. In this sense, and after the events of the seventeenth century and the disappearance of the vestiges of a feudal nobility, the modern English system of government reverted to something more like the original arrangements that Tacitus had described. It was often described positively in that way by several generations of radical political commentators who usually identified themselves with the Old Whig or Commonwealth tradition associated with thought of the seventeenth-​century English republican, James Harrington. Monarchy, on the other hand, was a product of what Montesquieu called “the corruption of the government of a conquering people” which, as he put it, “had formed the best form of government that has ever been imagined.”20 The difference between the two forms of government centred on the subject of intermediate powers. These were a feature of monarchy but were conspicuously absent from the English system. The difference made the English system of government far more centralised than monarchy as it was described in Montesquieu’s official definition. To favour liberty, he noted, the English had removed all the intermediate powers that had once formed their monarchy, leaving them exposed to the possibility of becoming “one of the most servile peoples on earth” if they were ever to lose that liberty. Montesquieu, notoriously, went on to suggest that this was a real possibility. “Abolish the privileges of the lords, the clergy and cities in a monarchy,” he wrote, “and you will soon have a popular state, or a despotic government”.21 From this perspective, the pp.  17–​44 and, particularly, Claude Nicolet, La fabrique d’une nation. La France entre Rome et les Germains (Paris, Perrin, 2003). 19 Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, De l’esprit des lois, ed. Victor Goldschmidt, 2 vols. (Paris, Garnier-​Flammarion, 1979), Bk. xi, Ch. 6, vol. 1, p. 304. 20 Montesquieu, De l’esprit des lois, ed. Goldschmidt, Bk. xi, ch. 8, vol. 1, p. 306. 21 Montesquieu, SL, bk. 2, ch. 4, p. 16; bk. 2, ch. 4, p. 19. “Les Anglais, pour favoriser la liberté, ont ôté toutes les puissances intermédiaires qui formaient leur monarchie. Ils ont bien

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real “palladium of English liberty” was now the jury system, not the more famous separation of powers, because the nature and composition of the decentralised English jury system meant that it was less exposed to domination by the royal executive than the more centralised legislature. But the curiously hybrid nature of the English system of government –​according to Montesquieu it was a republic disguised as a monarchy –​meant that it had no identifiable nature or underlying principle and no clear procedure for determining whether it was the royal or the republican character of the system that was expected to predominate. Many of Montesquieu’s more critical readers were quick to highlight the resulting ambiguity. Interestingly, however, Rousseau was not one. These differences were carried through into Montesquieu’s distinction between trade based on luxury and trade based on economy. Trade based on luxury was a feature of monarchy. This, in the first instance, was because the nobility in a monarchy was barred from commerce, at least in a direct sense. This prohibition gave rise to a dual economic system, with a non-​commercial nobility on one side and a commercial sector made up of the rest of society on the other. The resulting dualism was the initial reason why Montesquieu could claim that trade in a monarchy would be based upon luxury. It would have this quality because, although nobles were not directly involved in commerce, nobles were still considerable landowners and substantial consumers. This hybrid character, reinforced by an immense accumulation of privileges and prohibitions, meant that large swathes of economic life would be carried out by intermediaries from the commercial sector acting on behalf of the non-​ commercial sector, either by selling the products of the land or by supplying nobles with consumer goods. The result would be a substantial, durable and many-​sided demand for credit and, as a further corollary, higher levels of interest rates than in a fully commercial economy.22 Since the nobility would not participate actively in the market economy but would still consume goods supplied by the market, credit would be built into the economy in a durable and deep-​seated way. Nobles would extend credit to the merchants responsible for marketing the products of their land, while merchants would extend credit to the noble consumers of manufactured goods. The multiple leads and lags built into the system would mean that monarchy would house a durable structural

22

raison de conserver cette liberté; s’ils venaient à la perdre, ils seraient un des peuples les plus esclaves de la terre”. Montesquieu, EL, in Montesquieu, OC, ed. Caillois, vol. 2, p. 248. On the importance of private credit in eighteenth-​century France, see Philip T. Hoffman, Giles Postel-​Vinay and Jean-​Laurent Rosenthal, Priceless Markets: The Political Economy of Credit in Paris, 1660–​1870 (Chicago, 2000), translated as Des marchés sans prix. Une économie politique du crédit à Paris, 1660–​1870 (Paris, ehess, 2001).

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41

demand for private credit. Interest rates would, therefore, be relatively high and this in turn would force active participants in the market economy to aim for higher profits than those required by the lower rates of interest of a system of trade based on economy. Under these conditions, and with private credit a key component of economic life, both domestic and foreign trade would have to rely upon innovation, fashion and the pricing strategies of the product cycle to be able to grow and prosper. Despite its complexity, this dual structure was, according to Montesquieu, actually more compatible with the commercial and financial imperatives of the modern world than its apparently more commercial English counterpart. This, he claimed, was because it housed a system of rule that could accommodate the modern sources of both power and prosperity by insulating the parts of government that were connected to power from the parts of society that were connected to prosperity in ways that had not been available to the ancients and were not now available to the English. Here, what mattered was not the goods themselves but the underlying supplies of capital and credit together with the different types of pricing policy that they favoured. Trade based on economy involved dealing in goods with a high turnover and a low unit profit, while trade based on luxury involved dealing in goods with a low turnover and a high unit profit. The former, Montesquieu claimed, was suitable for republics while the latter was suitable for monarchies. This difference, he went on to explain, had little to do with either the forms of government themselves or with the more or less egalitarian distributions of wealth that they housed, but had more instead to do with the supply and availability of capital. In a one-​ sector economy, where commerce was open to anyone (as was the case in trading republics like Venice or Holland, but also in Britain), capital could move relatively easily between different sectors of the economy. Other things being equal, the relatively integrated capital market meant that the supply of capital for trade or manufacturing industry would be relatively high and rates of interest would be correspondingly low. Under these conditions, it made economic sense to borrow large amounts of money at relatively low rates of interest and rely on the high levels of turnover produced by a stable demand for goods that were widely and regularly consumed to generate substantial returns from low unit profits on a high aggregate turnover. The opposite set of conditions applied under a monarchy. There, relying on high turnover and low unit profits made no economic sense. Conditions prevailing in a monarchy favoured high profits on a low turnover, or exactly the kind of background conditions that fitted the development of trade based upon luxury. Under the aegis of a monarchy, the combination of a two-​sector economy and the built-​in demand for private credit meant that private, not public,

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credit would become basis of state finance. Montesquieu first made the point by highlighting the way that private credit, typified by the medieval invention of the bill of exchange, had drawn a line under one form of predatory power politics. Governments could no longer simply seize wealth when they needed it because financial instruments like bills of exchange meant that wealth was no longer exposed to this form of predatory power. “We are beginning to be cured of Machiavellism and will recover from it every day”, Montesquieu announced. “More moderation has become necessary in the councils of princes. What would formerly have been called a master-​stroke in politics would now, independently of the horror it might occasion, be simply the greatest imprudence.”23 The same applied to public finance. Levying a tiny tax (a proto-​Tobin tax, it could be said) on each of the myriads of transactions supported by private credit would, Montesquieu claimed, allow governments to tap as substantial a pool of funds as could be met by public debt. Since private credit was built into the economic life of the type of monarchy that fitted Montesquieu’s specifications (because its nobility owned large amounts of property but were prohibited from trading) and since a tax on private credit would generate a cash reserve, rather than a public debt, power would be tied to prosperity far more strongly than it was in Europe’s presently most developed state, Great Britain.24 There, the risks of public debt would have to be managed, with more or less long term success. Monarchy, at least on Montesquieu’s official specification, was, apparently, able to circumvent the problem. But the picture that Montesquieu presented of monarchy, with its social inequality, venal offices, conspicuous consumption, property-​based hierarchy, spurious lineages and false honour, was neither morally attractive nor politically compelling. In Fenelonian terms, it was a prime case of the need for reform. But, at least on Montesquieuian terms, the English alternative was no better. Although it was possible to make a case that both types of monarchy were able to meet the competitive commercial and military imperatives thrown up by 23

24

“On a commencé à se guérir du machiavélisme, et on s’en guérira tous les jours. Il faut plus de modération dans les conseils. Ce qu’on appelait autrefois des coups d’état ne serait aujourd’hui, indépendamment de l’horreur, que des imprudences”. Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, De l’esprit des lois [1748], bk. 21, ch. 20, in Montesquieu, OC, 2 vols., ed Roger Caillois, vol. 2, p. 641. For the translation I have slightly modified the modern edition of the eighteenth-​century translation by Thomas Nugent, introduced by Franz Neumann and published as The Spirit of the Laws, 2 vols. (New York, Hafner, 1949), vol. 1, p. 366. On the importance of private credit in Montesquieu’s concept of monarchy, see the new preface, entitled “Fashion’s Empire”, to Michael Sonenscher, Work and Wages:  Natural Law, Politics, and the Eighteenth-​Century French Trades [1989] (Cambridge, cup, 2011).

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the modern world, both also ran the risk of failure, either because of the very high level of inequality in the case of a monarchy or because of the absence of intermediate powers in the English system of government. The first exposed a monarchy to capture by a predatory court nobility, while the second exposed its English counterpart to capture by a predatory royal executive. Both types of government seemed to lead to a dead end. 3

Markets, Politics and Reform

There was, however, a third way, also suggested by Montesquieu. This amounted to using the leverage supplied by the two-​sector economy that was a feature of his official definition of a monarchy to turn its less morally acceptable or politically viable parts into something more like an English-​style system, but with a greater focus on virtue and merit, while at the same time retaining the initial division between a commercial and a non-​commercial sector. In this way of thinking about reform, the process would be indirect rather than direct and would rely on taxation and markets rather than legislation and politics. Here, since one part of the society was more commercial than the other, the assets of one part of society could be made to grow more quickly than the other, so that over time most, if not all, of the accumulated legacy of inequality could be made to disappear. The strategy amounted, in short, to a radical separation of the two parts of the Fénelon problem. Two different conceptions of how to implement this strategy were set out in the period that followed the publication of The Spirit of Laws. It is important to describe them both because both had a real bearing on Rousseau’s political thought and, subsequently, on the further continuation of Montesquieu’s intellectual legacy in the political thought of Hegel and his follower Edouard Gans.25 Getting the measure of Rousseau’s ambition and what it implied thus 25

On Gans and the subject of the royal succession, see his Histoire du droit de succession en France au Moyen Age (Paris, 1845)  and, more broadly, Norbert Waszek and Myriam Bienenstock (eds.), Chroniques françaises:  un hégélien juif à Paris 1825, 1830, 1830:  Eduard Gans (Paris, Cerf, 1993); Michael H.  Hoffheimer, Edouard Gans and the Hegelian Philosophy of Law (Dordrecht and London, Kluwer, 1995); Warren Breckman, “Edouard Gans and the Crisis of Hegelianism”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 62 (2001), pp. 543–​64. On the early nineteenth-​century German interest in Montesquieu’s legacy, see Jean-​Marie Moeglin, “ François Guizot historien: à propos de la réfutation des thèses de Karl August Rogge dans l’Histoire de la civilisation en France”, in Florence Bourillon, Philippe Boutry, André Encrevé and Béatrice Touchelay (eds.), Des économies et des hommes. Mélanges offerts à Albert Broder (Paris, Editions Bière, 2006), pp. 475–​86 ; and his

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calls initially for getting a measure of the two grand causal systems, or systems of political economy, that emerged in Montesquieu’s wake. The first of these systems was the ambitious programme of free trade, a single tax on rental income and a legal despot that was given the name of Physiocracy, or the rule of nature, by its supporters. In this system, the rule of nature referred, in the first instance, to agriculture and the production of the goods required to support human life. It also, however, referred to human needs and, in particular, to the ordinary human need for food and drink. Physiocracy grew out of the initial insight that the rhythms of these two aspects of nature and natural life were different. Where agriculture followed the regular rhythms of the seasons, human needs were daily, recurrent and urgent. To the supporters of Physiocracy, putting the two together by way of the combination of free trade and a single tax was designed to become the basis of a self-​sustaining process of economic redistribution. Taxing what the economists called the net product, or the rental income of the landowners, also meant setting real human needs above the vagaries of human desires for non-​essential consumer goods. In the resulting causal sequence, the demand for subsistence goods from a commercial sector made up of the urban and manufacturing parts of society would, in the first instance, maintain the real level of returns to the non-​commercial landowning sector. But the single tax on income from landed property would, in the second instance, set a ceiling on the level of returns to the non-​commercial sector and this, over time, would skew the distribution of income towards its commercial counterpart. As a result, the income of the urban and manufacturing sector would rise, as too would that of the productive rural and largely agricultural sector, but there would a relative fall in the income of the landowning and rentier class. Gradually, in this causal sequence, the market would solve the apparently intractable quality of the Fénelon problem by separating the problem of centralisation from the problem of inequality. The second type of implementation strategy was inspired by public debt and, more particularly, by the enduring fascination exercised on a significant number of later political thinkers by the early eighteenth-​century Scots financier, John Law. In this strategy, Montesquieu was sometimes taken to be a covert follower of the seventeenth-​century English republican, James Harrington, because the scenario that, in the eyes of some, could be extrapolated from The Spirit of Laws seemed to be unusually close to Harrington’s maxim that the balance of political power would follow the balance of the distribution “Le ‘droit de vengeance’ chez les historiens du droit au moyen âge (xix-​xx siècles)”, in Dominique Barthélemy, François Bougard and Régine Le Jan (eds.), La Vengeance (Rome, Ecole Française de Rome, 2006), pp. 101–​48.

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of property. Although Montesquieu was quite explicit in expressing his hostility to Law’s system and his doubts about the real-​world relevance of Harrington’s thought, some of Montesquieu’s readers still took his comments to be designed to hide the real scenario that he envisaged. This scenario –​and the process of redistribution that it would entail –​appeared to be what a combination of public debt and Montesquieu’s two-​sector concept of monarchy would be able to deliver. Here, the initial mechanism responsible for generating the process would be a state’s ability to borrow money. The funds raised would be lent to purchasers of small amounts of property and part of their future income would boost the flow of tax revenue to cover the cost of paying interest on the original public debt. Since interest payments would be secured by the ownership of land, while the new owners of land would have a strong incentive to increase the levels of their income to reduce the burden of their debts, investors in this type of scheme would have a relatively high level of income and security over the lifetime of their loan. As with Physiocracy, the gradual transfer of resources from one sector to the other, would give rise to a gradual redistribution of resources and a gradual reduction of inequality. Here too, the two sides of the Fénelon problem would be separated. Both scenarios also provided an opportunity to eliminate the less morally attractive side of Montesquieu’s official version of monarchy by abolishing the tens of thousands of legal, fiscal or administrative venal offices and by putting something different in their place. The range of these alternative arrangements was, potentially, extensive. Monarchy, on Montesquieu’s official definition, owed its internal organisation to property and inheritance but it was not difficult to see that it could keep something like the same type of hierarchical structure and pyramidal shape under the aegis of other types of institutions and arrangements. Substituting office and election for property and inheritance could produce an office-​based or electorally generated hierarchy made up of a number of different subordinate, dependent and intermediate powers, with a strong emphasis on organised administration and internal accountability. This type of outcome could come in several variations. The new administrative hierarchy could be based on tenure of office and length of service, as in an army. Or, it could be based on a system of public education and examinations, as in China with its mandarins. Alternatively, it could be based on several different electoral systems, with different types of eligibility to vote or be elected according to the office to be filled. Finally, but no less importantly, it could be based on different units, like counties, departments, regions or provinces, with different spheres of responsibility and different types of elected officials. In all these ways, an elective, office-​based version of Montesquieu’s concept of

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monarchy could, as James Madison seems to have recognised, turn out to be quite similar to a federal system. An English-​style separation of powers, on the other hand, could be reinforced by an English-​style party system and a more durably open, but still English-​style, system of public life. Nor, unlike a monarchy, would it need the type of inheritance-​based inequality that, on Montesquieu’s official definition, formed the most natural of the intermediate powers that gave a monarchy its nature. In the absence of intermediate powers, the differences involved in a party system could, instead, be based on different types of property, some fixed and landed, others moveable and commercial. In this sense, reforming the version of monarchy that Montesquieu endorsed would also be compatible with another variation on the idea of a two-​sector economy. This time, however, the distinction between the commercial and non-​commercial sectors would correspond more clearly to a distinction between private activities and public institutions. In either case, the two models and their reformed counterparts could be played off against one another, with the attributes of the one appearing to offer a way to correct the shortcomings of the other. The importance of commerce in the English system appeared to call for more of the attributes of monarchy as the way to neutralise the English system’s otherwise dangerous potential for moral minimalism, social fragmentation and political paralysis. Inversely, the scale of inequality in a monarchy appeared to call for more of the attributes of the English system as the way to neutralise monarchy’s potential for social envy, over-​centralisation and excessive state power. A political system that combined some of the attributes of monarchy with some of the attributes of the English system of government would complement the different types of dualism represented by the overlapping distinctions between the commercial and the non-​commercial on the one side and between the public and the private on the other. Rousseau, it should be acknowledged, merely began the process of describing the component parts of this alternative and of explaining how, under democratic political conditions, it would be able to reconcile the requirements of continuity with the imperatives of accountability. The full version –​or several versions –​of that alternative entailed establishing a system that could integrate rival political parties within a hierarchy of more uniformly authoritative legislative and executive institutions while, at the same time, keeping party politics separate from the system of legal, fiscal and other types of administration on the one hand and, on the other, leaving them open to both the more-​or-​ less informal and intermittent presence of lobbies, factions and interest groups and the broader, but fluctuating, pressures of public opinion. It meant, put summarily, building on what was there rather than reverting to what was past.

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This, ultimately, was what came to differentiate Rousseau’s political thought from the two most comprehensive programmes of reform produced by his contemporaries and, instead, came to ensure that his political thought became the starting point of the further versions of modern political, administrative and financial systems produced by Sieyès, Kant and Hegel. 4

Rousseau and the Fénelon Problem

At first sight, it may seem odd to place Rousseau’s political thought in a context formed initially by the two grand causal systems that emerged in the wake of the publication of Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws. The point of the contextual claim is not, however, to discuss the extent to which Rousseau followed either of these two systems. It is clear that he did not. But the sheer ambition of both systems, together with the fact that they were not the only ones on offer (Mably and Helvétius, for example, offered two more) makes the question of Rousseau’s own approach to the Fénelon problem all the more intriguing. The eloquence of his indictment of inequality needs no rehearsal. But the alternative that he envisaged is less easy to identify. The aim of the rest of this book is to piece together its components and, in particular, the combination of sovereignty and government and the public and the private that this involved. Rousseau was not like any of Montesquieu’s other intellectual heirs because he was more of a sceptic than either the advocates of Physiocracy or the later supporters of John Law. But his thought was still redolent of the same interest in trying to find unseen connections between origins and outcomes that was one of the features of Montesquieu’s intellectual legacy. The development of that legacy was protracted and complex, mainly because of the scale of the ground that Montesquieu covered and the leads and lags involved in the later reception of his thought. The most pronounced of the lags centred on Montesquieu’s unusual treatment of public and private credit and on the relationship between Montesquieu and the French translations of some of the works of Law’s largely Jacobite followers, notably the Scottish political economist Sir James Steuart and his Aberdeen University follower, William Ogilvie, the author of an Essay on the Right of Property in Land. This meant that, at least in the Francophone world, much of the interest in Law and in the more positive properties of public debt developed only after Rousseau’s death. Although Rousseau’s own monetary theory was not as remote as it might seem from the idea of a state-​ backed or fiat currency that is usually associated with Law and his system, it was still largely invisible to his contemporaries because his most detailed

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discussion of the subject of money and its functions was set out in his late, unpublished, Plan of a Constitution for Corsica, which came to light only in the nineteenth century. There is no reason, however, to think that Rousseau’s more general assessment of Law and his followers was any different from his more explicit assessment of Physiocracy. His engagement with the advocates of Physiocracy began with an invitation which he received in the autumn of 1766, at the height of his tribulations in England and his public quarrel with David Hume, from the marquis de Mirabeau, the father of the more famous French revolutionary leader, encouraging him to return to France and stay on one of Mirabeau’s landed estates near Paris.26 After a delay of six months, Rousseau accepted the invitation, travelling to Mirabeau’s country house at Bignon in the spring of 1767. It soon became clear, however, that the invitation was not entirely disinterested. On 9 June, Rousseau (replying, he said, to a passing word from his host) wrote Mirabeau a forthright letter, explaining that he would never, under any circumstance, publish or read anything (even the marquis’ own works) likely to reawaken his “extinct ideas” concerning politics.27 Mirabeau was not discouraged. He returned to the charge on 18 June, sending Rousseau his most recent work, the Eléments de la philosophie rurale (Elements of rural philosophy), accompanied by the work of another economist, Pierre Paul Le Mercier de la Rivière’s recent Natural and essential order of political societies.28 Rousseau succumbed. But he did not succumb in quite the way that Mirabeau hoped. On 26 July, he sent Mirabeau a long report on what, he stated, had been an extremely painful experience.29 He had, he said, never been able to understand the “évidence” that was the basis of the economists’ system of legal despotism and nothing in Le Mercier de la Rivière’s work had seemed less self-​evident than the chapter dealing with the subject. Like the abbé de Saint-​Pierre’s system, Rousseau wrote, the concept of évidence seemed to assume that human reason had a continuous capacity for perfection. But that assumption was groundless or, at best, could be maintained only by considering natural and political laws in abstraction. In any particular government, made up of a variety of different

26

27 28 29

Mirabeau to Rousseau, 27 October 1766, in Rousseau, CC, ed. Leigh, vol. 32, pp. 72–​87. On the whole episode, see Jean Fabre, “Le Marquis de Mirabeau, interlocuteur et protecteur de Rousseau”, in [Anon.], Les Mirabeau et leurs temps. Société des Etudes Robespierristes (Paris, 1968), pp. 71–​90 and Reinhard Bach, “Rousseau et les physiocrates: une cohabitation contradictoire”, Etudes Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, 11 (2000), pp. 9–​82. Rousseau to Mirabeau, 9 June 1767, in Rousseau, CC, ed. Leigh, vol. 33, p. 126. Mirabeau to Rousseau, 18 June 1767, in Rousseau, CC, ed. Leigh, vol. 33, pp. 158–​60. Rousseau to Mirabeau, 26 July 1767, in Rousseau, CC, ed. Leigh, vol. 33, pp. 238–​46.

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elements, the self-​evident character of the laws of nature would necessarily disappear. No system of rights and obligations deduced from the self-​evident character of the natural order could be more than a fair-​weather arrangement, doomed to collapse when its interlocking system of reciprocities was placed under strain. What, Rousseau asked Mirabeau rhetorically, would happen to your sacred rights of property in periods of great danger or extraordinary calamity, when available revenue was no longer sufficient and the legal despot was forced to have recourse to the ancient maxim, salus populi suprema lex esto, and recognise that the supreme law, independently of any moral principle, had to be public safety. The veil would fall, and the impersonal system of rule called legal despotism would become a real despotic power. There were, Rousseau continued, two problems in political theory. The first was like trying to square the circle in geometry and consisted of trying to find a form of government in which the rule of law would stand above the rule of men. The economists, he suggested, had come to believe that it was possible to find such a system of government in the self-​evident character of certain kinds of law. These latter might well exist in nature, but it did not follow that they existed in government. If they did, Rousseau argued, the laws in question would either have to be found in every type of government or there would in fact be none. The simple truth was that the laws that the economists envisaged did not exist. The old republican idea of a government of laws, not men, could not be found. The only real alternative to the existing political order, Rousseau concluded, was extravagantly bleak. My opinion it that it is necessary to pass to the opposite extreme and suddenly set man as far above the law as he can be, consequently establishing arbitrary despotism, indeed the most arbitrary that is possible. I would like the despot to be God. In a word I can see no middle ground between the most austere democracy and the most perfect Hobbism. For the conflict between men and laws, giving rise to a continuous internal war in the State, is the worst of all political states.30 This, Rousseau continued, was why a second problem in politics was to find in an arbitrary despotism a form of succession which is neither elective nor hereditary, or rather which is both the one and the other, so

30

Ibid., p. 240.

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that, as far as is possible, it could be certain of avoiding either a Tiberius or a Nero.31 But that “mad idea” was not something that he was prepared to pursue. He ended his letter by begging Mirabeau never to raise the subject of legal despotism again or send him any more books to read. In fact, however, the “mad idea” did not disappear from Rousseau’s concerns because it resurfaced in a far more positive sense in his posthumous Considerations on the Government of Poland. One indication of its later resonance can be found in the public debate that took place between Emmanuel-​Joseph Sieyès and the Anglo-​American radical Tom Paine in 1791, a debate in which Sieyès repeated almost verbatim Rousseau’s call to find a form of succession that was both elective and hereditary in the course of explaining why his own concept of monarchy was more compatible with liberty than what he called Paine’s concept of polyarchy.32 The continuity raises a question not only about the relationship between Rousseau and Sieyès, but also about that between Rousseau’s proposals for Poland and his earlier concept of political society in the Social Contract. Rousseau’s exchange with Mirabeau took place several years after the publication of the Social Contract, Emile, and Julie, the three books largely responsible for carrying his name to posterity. Appearances notwithstanding, he did not give up on politics. “Everything”, he wrote, looking back in his Confessions on the insight that had shaped his own intellectual development, “depended radically on politics”, and this, he continued, meant that “no people would ever be anything other than what it was made into by the nature of its government.”33 The claim chimes readily with Rousseau’s call, in his Plan of a Constitution for Corsica, to form the nation for the government and the idea of a federal system that it implied. The next chapter will be an examination of what Rousseau took the nature of that government to be. It should be clear by now that it was not going to be “the most austere democracy” or “the most perfect Hobbism.” It should also be clear that it would have to have something to do with Montesquieu and, in the light of Rousseau’s objections to Montesquieu, it would have to be something like Montesquieu, but would have to provide more space for morality and motivation. The aim of the next chapter is to explain why Rousseau insisted so strongly on both and why, as a result, his own approach to politics called as much for motivation as causation and relied as much on political morality as on institutional design. 31 Ibid., p. 240. 32 See Sieyès, Political Writings, ed. Sonenscher, p. 170. 33 Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, 5, p. 340.

chapter 3

The Division of Labour and the Political Economy of the General Will 1

Population and Subsistence Goods

If it was Montesquieu who gave the Fénelon problem a new lease on life, it was Rousseau who made it a real problem. This was because he appeared to be indifferent –​or flatly hostile –​to the whole range of suggested solutions, both direct and indirect, to the problem and its ramifications. Adding centralisation to inequality, he wrote, would eventuate in despotism and despotism, in turn, would precipitate violent revolution. This was the message of the Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes or, as the near-​contemporary English translation was entitled, A Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality among Mankind, that Rousseau published in 1755. There, although he used his own conceptual vocabulary to examine the nexus formed by the problems of centralisation and luxury that Fénelon had described, he was conspicuously silent about the comprehensive programme of reform that Fénelon had laid out in Telemachus. He was equally silent and, finally, overtly critical both in the Discourse on Inequality and in his later responses to Montesquieu and the advocates of Physiocracy, towards any more indirect or causally complicated programme of reform. As even a short summary will show, the unequivocal character of the direction of historical travel that Rousseau set out in 1755 left no room for doubt about its ultimate outcome. First, Rousseau wrote, there had been solitary, silent, sentient creatures, with no idea of a self and no social ties, placidly living in an eternal present, punctuated only by physical need. Then, there were a number of partly accidental, but partly necessary, developments that, cumulatively, had injected the continuity of personal identity into the ebb and flow of physical sensations and, concurrently, had begun to add a social dimension to human life. Two in particular –​ the acquisition of language and the experience of love –​were to have a durable significance, both in this account of inequality, and in Rousseau’s later works. With these developments, and with the gradual formation of society, humanity was poised to start out on its twin-​track path to oblivion. On the first track, meaning the physical side, there were possessions. Then, under the aegis of a misguided social contract and a defective legal system, possessions had turned

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020 | DOI:10.1163/9789004420335_004

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into property. Property had then become the basis of an escalating spiral of divisions  –​between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, and the rulers and the ruled –​which would culminate brutally in the final explosion. On the second track, meaning the spiritual side, there were, initially, no more than simple feelings or direct responses to physical sensations. Then, as the feelings in question acquired ever more elaborate dimensions of self-​ awareness, their growing range and variety became, paradoxically, ever more intensely self-​centred. Amour-​de-​soi, or a concern for one’s own physical well-​ being, was overlain by amour-​propre or a more reflective form of self-​love centred on recognition and status. The deadly logic underpinning the twin-​track path that Rousseau laid out was driven by its reciprocal character. Amour-​de-​ soi, it could be said, called for food; but amour-​propre called for cutlery, conviviality and conspicuous consumption. Physical needs were still there to be met, but now with the additional, reflexive, gloss supplied by the need to maintain self-​esteem. And, as the web of interdependence spread, so too did the gap between being and appearing to be and, as that gap widened, it opened up more and more opportunities for the multiple levels of deceit and self-​deceit that were now the real, but increasingly precarious, cement of society. It is not hard, in the light of this short summary, to see why Ernst Cassirer called his 1932 essay “The Jean-​Jacques Rousseau Problem” because it is difficult, even now, to see how Rousseau managed to get from this bleak diagnosis of the modern condition, published in 1755, to the content of the Social Contract, published less than seven years later, in 1762. Cassirer’s explanation, redolent of a century of German idealism, relied on the concept of a Rechtsstaat as the bridge that linked the initial problem to the eventual solution. A law-​based state, reinforced by a government armed with the moral authority and political legitimacy of the general will, would have the ability and power to neutralise and overcome the combined problems of inequality and centralisation. As Cassirer presented it, both in his original article and his later lecture, this really had been Rousseau’s solution. It is not clear that it really was. This is because it is not clear whether it had, in fact, solved the Fénelon problem. Cassirer’s conceptual vocabulary was, obviously, different from Fénelon’s, but it is still not easy to see what, fundamentally, would make a Rechtsstaat different from the type of virtuous royal sovereign that Fénelon singled out as the agent of reform. The former is certainly more complex than the latter, and its existence certainly depends more fully on election and accountability than on inheritance and continuity, but both forms of government still seem to have a single decision-​making centre, and both seem to presuppose a capacity for unity of purpose and organised action that raise as many questions as they answer about their combined origins,

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durability and consistency. In its original form, the Fénelon problem was a problem about centralised power and political risk. If the centre could not hold, things could fall apart. Adding the problem of inequality to the problem of centralisation threatened to make the problem worse because it injected a sequencing problem into an implementation problem. Opting to reduce centralisation threatened to magnify inequality, just as opting to reduce inequality threatened to magnify centralisation. Either option threatened to open a gap between legality and legitimacy or between authority and accountability, leaving the existing system with little ability to limit the threat of either political deadlock or political revolution. The message of Telemachus was that strong solutions required strong convictions, but left little to remain in their wake. If, as Cassirer claimed, the unity of Rousseau’s thought was given by the complementary relationship between a social contract and the rule of law, it is less clear whether it was a relationship that could bridge the gap between the second Discourse and the Social Contract without also having to put Fénelon’s reform programme in the place of the rule of law. The problem left open in Cassirer’s rendition of Rousseau was how, under conditions of radical economic and social division and the generalised mistrust that it could bring in its wake, it was still possible to think of a way to maintain the viability of the rule of law. If, in short, Cassirer’s presentation of the problem was unimpeachable, his presentation of the solution was less persuasive, either as guide to Rousseau or to thinking about politics and, particularly, politics under adverse conditions. Nor, it could be added, has subsequent Rousseau scholarship got much further in filling the gap. Instead, it has usually preferred one or other of two alternative approaches. One approach (associated with the interpretations of Rousseau made by scholars like Strauss, Derrida and Starobinski) has been to emphasise the intractability of the problem as, simply, a summary of the modern condition and, in this light, to argue for the need to address the problem on terms supplied by non-​Rousseauian sources, like the Greek pre-​Socratics, Nietzsche’s philosophy or Freud’s psychology. The other approach (associated with the interpretations of Rousseau made by scholars like Dent, Bernardi, Neuhouser, Spector and Tuck) has been to downplay the intractable quality of the problem by showing that some of the key components of Rousseau’s political thought, like the general will, amour-​ propre, virtue or conscience, actually lend themselves quite readily to a very modern combination of democratic politics, active citizenship and welfare provision. If, as Richard Tuck has argued most powerfully, the unity of Rousseau’s thought was given by a Hobbes-​inspired distinction between sovereignty and government on the one hand, and by a strong endorsement of electoral accountability and the principle of majority rule on the other, it is still difficult

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to explain why, without several further steps, minorities should defer to majorities or why 51 percent should trump 49 on matters of high moral principle, deep economic division, fierce social conflict or any other reason for intense political deadlock. Rousseau’s treatment of the subjects of inequality and centralisation was in fact more careful and precise than Cassirer –​and most later Rousseau scholars –​have noticed. His treatment of the two subjects was a product of his prior examination of two earlier subjects, the growth of population and the division of labour. Left to themselves, Rousseau argued, population growth and the development of the division of labour pointed unambiguously towards political disaster. Here, what was important for Rousseau was both the causal conjunction of the two processes and the absence of ambiguity of the outcome. It meant, in the first place, that there was no extra-​political solution to the problem. It also, in the second place, meant that it had no durable solution. This was why the idea of a Rechtsstaat was not the goal, but the starting point of politics. Like the idea of a nation as a daily plebiscite, Rousseau’s concept of a political society was relentlessly political, with no exit from politics and no non-​political end in sight. The endless quality of this version of the concept throws a different light on Rousseau’s assertion “that everything depended radically on politics and that, from whatever aspect one considers it, no people would ever be anything other than what it was made into but by the nature of its government”.1 One way of interpreting the passage is to focus on its proto-​ totalitarian undertone and on the idea of government policy and governmental agency as the means to close the gap between public affairs and private life. Another way, however, is to focus on its proto-​libertarian or individualistic undertone and on the idea of institutional design and individual autonomy as the means to widen the gap between public affairs and private life. The difference between the two interpretations –​and, by extension, the difference between politics as promise and politics as threat –​depends largely on Rousseau’s initial examination of the problematic relationship between population, subsistence goods and the division of labour. Rousseau did not have a price theory (the term did not exist in the eighteenth century). This, in part, was because his examination of the relationship between agriculture and industry was predicated upon more than the relationship between supply and demand on each side of the agriculture-​industry divide. The price relationship, he emphasised repeatedly, was complicated by the tax system and, more substantively, by the pressures imposed on the 1 Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, 5, p. 340.

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uncoordinated seasonal rhythms of agriculture and industry by the monetary imperatives and schedules of payment of the fiscal system. It was complicated further by the fact that agriculture and industry were not entirely separate from one another. If, as a French political economist named Jean-​François Melon had imagined a generation before Rousseau, agriculture was located in one state and manufacturing industry in another, it was not hard to see where ultimate power would lie. But the real world was different and the need to eat could interfere with price formation in perverse and unpredictable ways. Marginal shortfalls in the supply of subsistence goods could produce huge and sudden price increases, creating short-​term windfalls for some and misery for others. Recurrent oscillations between gluts and scarcity could have a more durably negative impact on agricultural production, generating a more deep-​ seated tension between population and subsistence goods. As Rousseau was to emphasise in his Considerations on the Government of Poland, the problem was usually said to have two, mutually exclusive, solutions. One was to adopt the political economy of modern Europe, with its money, trade, industry and taxation. The other was to opt for the type of commercial and cultural autarchy that he commended to the Poles. “Above all”, he warned, “do not attempt to unite these two projects; they are too contradictory. To want to reach both by a mixed procedure is to want to fail at both.”2 This mixed procedure had been Europe’s fate. Rousseau’s treatment of the subjects of population and the division of labour began relatively early in his writing career with the publication of his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality in the spring of 1755. In it, he made two small, but striking, observations whose implications were to resonate all the way through his later works. The first was that, unlike other living beings, humans can  –​and will  –​eat and drink almost anything. The second was that this dietary flexibility meant, in the long run, that the barriers to entry to the production of agricultural goods were, despite appearances, lower than the barriers to entry to the production of manufactured goods. Maize, mutton, mangoes or mushrooms are all food and the difficulties of producing one can be offset by the possibility of producing another. There is good reason to think, particularly in the light of the presence that these two insights came to have in his later writing, that Rousseau’s discovery of their implications was the main reason why, looking back on his intellectual development, he usually drew a line between his first and second Discourses. The argument of the first, with its

2 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland, in Rousseau, CW, 11, pp. 209–​10. On Jean-​François Melon, see Sonenscher Before the Deluge, pp. 111, 179–​81.

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emphasis on the competitive and self-​centred side of scientific discovery and artistic creativity, was largely moral. The argument of the second, however, was more firmly causal, however much its moral side still remained prominent. The difference in orientation began with the two observations about human diet and the relationship between agriculture and industry that Rousseau made in his second Discourse. It widened further because behind both observations lay the further subject of the imagination and the imagination’s ability to attribute the predicates of one subject to another, even though it appeared to have an entirely different nature or purpose. Water, for example, can quench thirst. But it can also irrigate fields, boil eggs, support ships, form boundaries or favour swimming. For Rousseau, it was this insight into the imagination and its properties that was the real starting point of his political thought. “In every animal”, he wrote early on in his second Discourse, “I see only an ingenious machine to which nature has given senses in order to revitalize itself and guarantee itself, to a certain point, from all that tends to destroy or upset it.” Humans undoubtedly had senses too, but animals also had instincts. The difference meant that animals would choose or reject things “by instinct” while humans made their choices “by an act of freedom.” This, Rousseau continued, meant that an animal “cannot deviate from the rule that is prescribed to it even when it would be advantageous”. Humans on the other hand had the ability to deviate from rules, often to their detriment. “Thus”, Rousseau concluded, “a pigeon would die of hunger near a basin filled with the best meats, and a cat upon heaps of fruits or grain, although each could very well nourish itself on the food it disdains if it was to make up its mind to try some”. Humans, however, could eat or drink themselves to death “because the mind depraves the senses and because the will still speaks when nature is silent.”3 Many years later, something like the same idea became the starting point of Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population of 1798 (Malthus, it is worth remembering, was heavily exposed to Rousseau’s thought through his father, Daniel, a lifelong admirer of the Citizen of Geneva).4 Malthus gave the idea a further twist by highlighting the difference between agriculture’s 3 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, pp. 25–​26. On discussions of this difference between humans and animals, see Emma Spary, “Political, Natural and Bodily Economies”, in Nicolas Jardine, James Secord and Emma Spary (eds.), Cultures of Natural History (Cambridge, cup, 1996), pp.  178–​96 and her “ ‘Peaches Which the Patriarchs Lacked’:  Natural History, Natural Resources and the Natural Economy in France”, in Margaret Schabas and Neil de Marchi (eds.), Oeconomies in the Age of Newton (Duke UP, London and Durham, 2003), pp. 14–​41. 4 On Rousseau and Malthus, see Sonenscher Before the Deluge, pp.  353–​54 and, more recently, Christopher Brooke, “Robert Malthus, Rousseauist”, The Historical Journal, 2019,

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propensity to grow arithmetically and population’s propensity to grow geometrically. But, while the loosely mathematical formulation certainly belonged to Malthus, the original idea belonged to Rousseau. Like the subjects of instinct and freedom, it was part of the subject matter of his second Discourse, where it became the basis of Rousseau’s unusual presentation of the origin and effects of the division of labour. What was unusual in his presentation of the subject, and the reason why it played so readily into the argument of Malthus’s later Essay, was that Rousseau rejected two of the more conventional ways of thinking about the attributes and properties of the division of labour. The first emphasised its potentially benign character, at least under conditions of genuine reciprocity. The second emphasised its inbuilt bias towards agriculture because, like every living being, humans needed to eat. It followed, at least on these premises, that promoting or restoring equality was a precondition of promoting or restoring a balanced economy, with agriculture supporting industry and with a productive rural economy supporting a growing manufacturing sector as the basis of rising prosperity and an equitable distribution of goods. Rousseau avoided both these characterisations of the division of labour, but still insisted upon its unavoidable character (the fact that he did later gave rise to a muted argument with Voltaire’s friend, the royal tax-​farmer Claude Adrien Helvétius, in which each accused the other of being a Platonist or, in other words, a supporter of the combination of occupational specialisation and political authority that was one of the features of Plato’s Republic). In Rousseau’s hands, the division of labour was at once more menacing and more promising. Initially, it was the menace that was the more prominent. “As long as men were content with their rustic huts”, Rousseau wrote in the second Discourse, “as long as they applied themselves only to tasks that a single person could do and to arts that did not require the cooperation of several hands, they lived in a free, healthy, good and happy condition”. But, “from the moment that one man needed the help of another, and as soon as they observed that it was useful for a single person to have provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, labour became necessary; and vast forests were changed into smiling fields which had to be watered with the sweat of men and in which slavery and misery were soon seen to germinate and grow with the crops.” Metallurgy and agriculture had produced “this great revolution” and had become the basis of a two-​sector economy, with an agricultural sector producing the resources required to feed both its own members and the members of its metallurgical pp. 1–​17: doi:10.2017/​S0018246X19000141. A further similarity can be found in the work of Malthus’s near contemporary, Jean-​Frédéric Herrenschwand, De l’économie politique moderne. Discours fondamental sur la population (London, 1786).

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counterpart. Iron and wheat, Rousseau concluded, had “civilized men and ruined the human race.”5 As is often the case with Rousseau, the brilliance of the prose can sometimes disguise the precision of the thought and, in this case, his careful examination of the subtle transformation of contingent conjuncture into causal determination. Here, the initial guiding thought was about the inbuilt bias towards manufacturing industry that, he claimed, the division of labour was likely to generate. The bias would occur, he argued, not only because land was more finite than labour or because agriculture and its rhythms were tied more directly to the seasonal cycle of nature, but also because these seasonal rigidities were not readily compatible either with the ebb and flow of the money and credit required to pay rent or taxes, or with the relatively low level of the barriers to entry to the agricultural sector that was caused by human dietary flexibility. At first sight, the argument seems counterintuitive. Since the agricultural sector was property based and produced food, it seemed to follow that the manufacturing sector would depend on the agricultural sector for its survival and prosperity, partly because demand for food would be daily and predictable while demand for manufactured goods would be intermittent and discretionary, and partly because increasing agricultural productivity to meet the subsistence needs of both the agricultural and non-​agricultural sector would take time. From this perspective, agriculture would have the advantage or, at least, could rely on its primary function to offset the flexibility of manufacturing industry. Rousseau clearly recognised the point. “Things in this state”, he wrote, “could have remained equal if talents had been equal, and if, for example, the use of iron and the consumption of foodstuffs had always been exactly balanced.”6 But he also saw that the pressure on the supply of subsistence goods to the metallurgical (or manufacturing) sector would force the producers of metallurgical goods to find new products, new markets and new terms of trade. All these possibilities were more readily available to this sector than to its agricultural counterpart. Human diet varied substantially in time and space, with the result that the barriers to entry to the agricultural sector were not as high as they seemed. Innovations were likely to be more varied and more frequent on the metallurgical side and this, in the longer term, was likely to make ease of entry more difficult for outsiders. As with many of Rousseau’s conjectural histories, the causal sequence began with an indeterminate starting point, but then acquired a more rigidly determinate direction of travel. Since there

5 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 49. 6 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 51.

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was nothing to maintain a durable balance between agriculture and industry, small shifts in the frequency of opportunities or obstacles could turn into more durable divisions. Rousseau set out the sequence concisely. “As soon as some men were needed to smelt and forge iron”, he wrote in the second Discourse, “other men were needed to feed them. The more the number of workers was multiplied, the fewer the hands there were engaged in furnishing the common subsistence without there being any fewer mouths to consume it; and since some needed foodstuffs in exchange for their iron, the others finally found the secret of using iron in order to multiply foodstuffs.”7 Some would work harder; others would act opportunistically; yet others would raise productivity. The productivity and flexibility of the manufacturing sector would, ultimately, turn the agricultural price-​makers into agricultural price-​takers and this would be how they remained. The uses of metals were multiple, while those of agriculture were few. Agricultural products were relatively stable and perishable; its cycles of production were relatively rigid and seasonal; and the level of individual demand for its products was relatively fixed. Something like the opposite applied to metallurgy. Its products could vary hugely; its cycles of production could be as flexible as its product range; and the level of individual demand for its products was more a matter of the depth of pockets than the size of stomachs. Once the division of labour had taken hold, Rousseau argued, agriculture would be subordinate to industry. In the long run, its subordinate position would be catastrophic because the combination of rising urban demand and limited rural supply would, ultimately, be the formula that would precipitate the final social explosion. Rousseau rehearsed the same argument more graphically in Emile. Initially, he focussed on the underlying causal mechanism and its basis in the imagination. In the natural state, he began, people were endowed solely with “the desires necessary to self-​preservation and the faculties sufficient to satisfy them.” In this state, “power and desire” were in balance. But the balance was precarious and began to fall away once the imagination was awakened. “It is imagination”, Rousseau emphasised, “which extends for us the measure of the possible, whether for good or bad, and which consequently excites and nourishes the desires by the hope of satisfying them.”8 Then, when power and desire were no longer in balance, the more immediate imbalance between industry and agriculture would start to take hold. “So long”, Rousseau wrote 7 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 50. Compare to Paul Sagar, The Opinion of Mankind. Sociability and the Theory of the State from Hobbes to Smith (Princeton, pup, 2018), pp. 153–​54, n42. 8 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 211.

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later in Emile, “as one knows only physical need, each man suffices to himself. The introduction of the superfluous makes the division and distribution of labour (la partage et la distribution du travail) indispensable. Although a man working alone earns only subsistence for one individual, a hundred men working in concert will easily procure, in the same time, subsistence for two hundred.” But, he continued, the returns to what he called “the natural arts” (meaning, as he wrote in an earlier draft, “agriculture, the pastoral art, hunting”) would be lower than those going to “the arts of industry” because the universal need to subsist meant that agricultural goods would have to be generally available and this in turn would mean that the barriers to entry to the production of agricultural goods would be relatively low. Agricultural goods would, therefore, be produced and consumed under conditions that did not apply to the market for more consumer-​oriented or more fashionable manufactured goods. “There is a public esteem attached to the different arts in inverse proportion to their real utility”, Rousseau wrote. “This esteem is calculated directly on the basis of their very uselessness, and this is the way it ought to be. The most useful arts are those which earn the least, because the number of workers is proportioned to men’s needs, and work necessary to everybody must remain at a price the poor man can pay.”9 The combination of human dietary flexibility and human subsistence needs meant, paradoxically, that under the conditions of the division of labour agriculture was bound to lose its advantage. On a purely physical basis, Rousseau continued, the arts ought to have followed an order based on “the relations of necessity which connect them, putting in the first rank the most independent and in the last those which depend on a greater number of others.” If this was the case, then agriculture would certainly have had the first rank. But, like all the arts, agriculture was “subject to the same inversion in men’s esteem.” The result was that “raw materials are used in crafts without honour and almost without profit, and that the more hands they pass through, the more labour increases in price and becomes honourable.”10 The division of labour also had the effect of raising the productivity of the manufacturing sector of the economy. While physical independence meant that production would be limited by consumption, social interdependence meant that “a hundred men working in concert will easily procure, in

9 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 333; OC, iv, p. 456 (see also pp. 114–​15, and p. 735, note 135 for Rousseau’s early draft of the passage in the Favre Manuscript of Emile). 10 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. iii, p. 336; OC, iv, 459.

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the same time, subsistence for double the number.”11 Industry, in short, would come to dominate agriculture. The inverted relationship between status and necessity generated by this situation also meant that, once the division of labour had taken hold, there would be no advantage to be gained from trying to escape from the conditions of physical interdependence that it had established. “According to this principle”, Rousseau wrote, again referring to the division of labour, “a man who wanted to regard himself as an isolated being, not depending at all on anything and sufficient unto himself, could only be miserable.” Once established, the division of labour ruled out self-​sufficiency. “For, finding the whole earth covered with thine and mine and having nothing belonging to him except his body, where would he get his necessities? By leaving the state of nature, we force our fellows to leave it, too. No one can remain in it in spite of others, and it would really be leaving it to want to remain when it is impossible to live there, for the first law of nature is the care of preserving oneself.”12 Rousseau’s assessment of the relationship between population and subsistence was surprisingly like the one now more usually associated with Malthus. But, where Malthus’s assessment of the relationship was shaped by his use of the concept of providence, Rousseau ruled out any appeal to the idea of providence. “If supreme justice is vengeful”, he wrote in Emile, “it is already vengeful in this life. You and your errors, Oh Nations, are its ministers. It uses the evils that you do to one another to punish the crimes that brought them upon you. It is in your insatiable hearts, tormented with envy, avarice and ambition, that, in the bosom of your false prosperity, vengeful passion punishes your heinous crimes. What need is there to look for hell in another life. It is already here, in the heart of the wicked.”13 Unlike Malthus, Rousseau was a sceptic, at least about dogma, with no interest in trying to show how divine providence could be involved in human affairs. In this sense, he really was an Epicurean. As he replied to Voltaire and his poem about the hugely destructive Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the question of why or whether a putatively benevolent and

11 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. iii, p. 333. I have modified the translation in the light of that given in Rousseau, Emilius and Sophia, or a New System of Education, 2 vols. (London, 1762), vol. 2, p. 63. 12 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. iii, p. 342; OC, iv, p. 466. 13 Rousseau, Emile, Bk. iv, in his Oeuvres complètes, ed. Bernard Gagnebin & Marcel Raymond, 5 vols. (Paris, 1958–​96), vol. 4, pp. 591–​2.

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omnipotent deity could allow evil to occur was simply beside the point.14 Humanity was responsible, all by itself. Rousseau’s assessment of the relationship between population and subsistence relied on a concept that he called perfectibilité, a word that appeared for the first time in his second Discourse and which Rousseau’s first English translator called “improvement” and which more recent translators have rendered as “the faculty of self-​perfection”, “the faculty of perfecting oneself” or “self-​improvement”.15 It is sometimes said that Rousseau coined the word to avoid the many theological complications that had come to be bound up with the subject of free will and its bearing on what, particularly in mid-​eighteenth-​ century France, was the intensely political subject of Jansenism. In this context, making a claim about free will could be taken to be a claim about whether, after the Fall, humans had the ability to maintain integrity and live virtuously and, if they did, whether this meant that their salvation or damnation was within their own power. Emphasising free will in this way not only raised a question mark against the scale and scope of divine justice (because it opened a door to the heresy of Pelagianism), but also appeared to offer considerable latitude to the use or abuse of royal power (which was why Jansenists were intensely suspicious of royal innovation and were all too ready to associate new legislation with arbitrary deviation from the fundamental laws of the kingdom). Rousseau’s concept of perfectibility was somewhat different. Although it relied on the idea of free will, it did not refer to the concept in quite the same sense that it was used in concurrent political and theological debate. There, free will was used to refer to a choice between two putative positives, like A or B.  In Rousseau’s usage, however, perfectibility referred less to an ability to choose than an ability to create and, by extension, to an initially imaginative ability to conceive of something new in place of something old. Perfectibility, he wrote, was “a faculty which, with the aid of circumstances, successively develops all the others and resides in us not only in the species but also in the individuals that compose it.”16 In this sense, perfectibility was the one quality that distinguished humans unequivocally from animals because it was the one 14

For the text, see Rousseau, The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings, ed. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge, cup, 1997) and, for an example of its later reception, Sonenscher, Sans-​Culottes, p. 417. 15 For commentary on the concept and its possible provenance, see the editorial note in Rousseau, OC, iii, pp. 1317–​19. 16 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, CW, 3, p. 26. For the variations in the translation, see Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, ed. G. D. H. Cole, J. H. Brumfitt; and John C. Hall (London, Dent, 1973), p. 54; Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, The Discourses and other early political writings, ed. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge, cup, 1997), p. 141.

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quality that captured the huge range of differences that could arise among humans, whether individually, collectively or over time, just as it also registered the stability and uniformity of the constitution and capabilities of animals. It was also, Rousseau wrote, connected to human freedom but in a way that had more to do with “the consciousness of this freedom” than with its elusive substance because, he added, the belief itself was enough to provide evidence of what he called “the spirituality” of the human soul. In this sense, perfectibility was the evidence of human freedom that the concept of freedom itself was unable to supply.17 It was, however, still the case that “this distinctive and almost unlimited faculty” was “the source of all man’s misfortunes” by “bringing to flower over the centuries his enlightenment and his errors, his vices and his virtues, and in the long run makes him his own and nature’s tyrant.”18 On Rousseau’s terms, freedom, or consciousness of freedom, was a precondition of perfectibility. But the opposite would also apply. Under conditions of constraint, like the relationship between population, subsistence goods and the division of labour, perfectibility was a precondition of freedom. This emphasis on the interplay, or dialectic, between the two formed the real link between the argument of the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and that of the Social Contract. It also meant, as Rousseau emphasised, that the concept of perfectibility had a double set of meanings.19 Applied to humanity or any other smaller collectivity, it referred to something mainly quantitative, like more knowledge, rationality, liberty or prosperity, independently of how they might be measured or defined. Applied to individuals, it referred to something mainly qualitative, like the ability to do maths, analyse chemicals, play music, write poetry or, more broadly, to substitute singularity and variety for uniformity and conformity. The two types of perfectibility were clearly different, but they could also be causally related. More knowledge could entail more diversity, or vice versa. Either or both types of perfectibility could be both a cause and effect of the development of the division of labour. The basis of this complex causal connection was a claim that a certain type of cultural or intellectual development would give rise to a capacity to counteract the initial cause of the development itself. And, since the effect would counteract its cause, it would also

17

The point is designed to give a more Kantian (and Rousseauian) twist to the examination of free will and perfectibility in David Gauthier, Rousseau, The Sentiment of Existence (Cambridge, cup, 2006), pp. 5–​6. 18 Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 26. 19 For further examination, see Michael Sonenscher, “Sociability, Perfectibility and the Intellectual Legacy of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau”, History of European Ideas, 41 (2015), pp. 683–​98.

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give rise to a new ability that had not originally been there. This, as Rousseau put it, was why perfectibility was a faculty responsible for the development of other faculties. This combination of both quantitative and qualitative improvement was what perfectibility implied. Both were predicated upon freedom, whether as a belief or as the absence of constraint. On Rousseau’s terms, freedom was to humans as instinct was to animals. The parallel meant that if the absence of instinct was a cause of human misfortune, the presence of freedom was the basis of human survival. The close relationship between freedom, perfectibility and survival added an extra significance to the maxim –​in libertate labor; in servitute dolor –​that Rousseau borrowed from the Polish king Stanislas ­Leszczynski. It meant, as Rousseau put it repeatedly, that work and society were indissoluble. “Man, in a state of solitude”, he wrote in Emile, “owing nothing to anyone, has a right to live as he pleases. But in a state of society, where he necessarily lives at the expense of others, he owes them the price of so much labour as will pay for his subsistence. This is without exception to rank or persons. To work is therefore the indispensable duty of social or political man. Rich or poor, strong or weak, every idle citizen is a knave.”20 Perfectibility was the key to human industry, but human industry was the key to managing the potentially damaging effects of perfectibility. Much of what was involved in this way of thinking about causation came from Rousseau’s examination of the properties of the human imagination and its curiously protean ability, described more fully in the next chapter, both to awaken and to repress the senses.21 In most of his earlier publications, particularly the second Discourse, the emphasis fell more strongly on the first type of development, with a strongly negative orientation given to both the awakening of the senses and the direction of historical travel that it entailed. But, as Rousseau went on to claim in most of his later publications, the direction of historical travel could be delayed for indeterminate periods under specified moral and political conditions. This, in the last analysis, was why human freedom mattered. With Rousseau, freedom was not so much a measure of human dignity as the key to human survival.

20 Rousseau, Emile, ed. Bloom, Bk. iii, p. 195; Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. iii, p. 344. I have modified the translation in the light of the one given in Rousseau, Emilius and Sophia, vol. 2, pp. 92–​93. On the maxim, which Rousseau cited in his Letters from the Mountain, see above, ch. 1. 21 For a clear initial example of both capacities, see Rousseau’s description of Emile’s feelings towards Sophie in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, pp. 500, 504.

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2

Perfectibility, Autonomy and the Idea of a Federal Government

As Rousseau presented it, once the division of labour had taken hold there was no way back. Just as human dietary flexibility meant that there was no natural balance between human subsistence needs and the earth’s resources, so the development of the division of labour ruled out any comparable balance between industry and agriculture. In this sense, the real Jean-​Jacques Rousseau problem was not society, but the division of labour. Its existence certainly presupposed the existence of some sort of society, but the real problem began with the development of the division of labour rather than with the formation of society itself. This was because the division of labour acquired a substantially different quality when it came to the include the supply of subsistence goods. Rousseau highlighted the difference in a famous passage of his Letter to Jean Le Rond d’Alembert that was published in 1758, three years after the second Discourse, over the question of whether or not to establish a public theatre in Geneva. “I remember in my younger days”, Rousseau wrote there, “to have beheld at Neuchâtel, an object extremely agreeable, and perhaps the only one of its kind upon the face of the earth.”22 This, he continued, was “an entire mountain, covered with habitations, each of which forms the centre of the adjacent lands, so that these houses, at distances as equal as the fortunes of the proprietors, afford the numerous inhabitants of that mountain the tranquillity of retirement and the sweetness of society.” The “fortunate peasants” of the region of Neuchâtel paid no taxes or rents and owned all the products of their land. But they were not simple cultivators. They employed all the hours that they could spare from tillage “in a thousand handicrafts, and in making a right use of that inventive genius with which nature has blessed them.” In winter, in particular, they shut themselves away in their “neat wooden houses” and turned themselves to producing an astonishing array of homemade artefacts. “Never”, Rousseau wrote, “did carpenter, locksmith, glazier or turner by profession, enter that country; they all work for themselves, none for anybody else.” The enforced winter leisure encouraged inventiveness, so that they also made “a thousand different instruments of steel, wood, paste-​board, which they sell

22

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, A Letter from M.  Rousseau of Geneva to M.  d’Alembert of Paris, Concerning the Effects of Theatrical Entertainments on the Manners of Mankind (London, 1759), p. 75. I have used this translation but have silently corrected it from the French, partly following Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 10 (here, p. 295), when it strays too far from Rousseau’s own vocabulary. For background, see Madelyn Gutwirth, “The ‘article Genève’ quarrel and the reticence of French enlightenment discourse on women in the public realm,” SVEC 2001 (12), pp. 135–​66.

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to foreigners, and a great many of which are sent as far as Paris, including those little wooden clocks, which have been seen there these past few years.” They also made watches, including all the various tools usually produced by separate branches of the watch-​maker’s business, so that even here they remained self-​sufficient. Despite the scale of their manufacturing industry, the inhabitants of the Neuchâtel mountain slopes either consumed what they produced or exported it abroad, so that domestic commercial transactions were based on reciprocal utility, not necessity. Even this was not all. They made “cranes, loadstones, spectacles, pumps, barometers, camera obscuras”, as well as tapestry, and all the various implements that it required. They all understand something of designing; they know how to paint and to compute; most of them play upon the flute; and many are acquainted with the principles of music, and sing very justly. These arts are not taught them by masters, but delivered down to them by tradition. Of those whom I knew to understand music, one told me he had learnt it of his father, another of his aunt, another of his cousin, and some imagined they had learnt it without a master. One of their most frequent amusements is to sing psalms in four parts, with their wives and children and you are amazed to find in those rustic huts, the strong and nervous harmony of Goudimel, so long forgotten by our learned artists.23 Looking back, Rousseau singled out this mixture of “delicacy and simplicity” (his eighteenth-​century translator used the now archaic “cunning and simplicity”) which, he added, “one would think almost incompatible”, as the most memorable feature of “those extraordinary people.”24 Joining culture to nature in this setting was no oxymoron, but something like a natural culture. The real problem began with economic interdependence. Once agriculture and industry had become two parts of a single system, the corresponding solution had, accordingly, to address the related subjects of perfectibility and freedom because these, in keeping with the idea of effects that could counter their cause, were both the source of the problem and the basis of a solution. Many years after Rousseau’s death, the combination of both the problem and its solution was given the name of industrialism.25 It was a name that captured 23 Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 10, p. 296. 24 Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 10, p. 296. 25 For further discussion, see Michael Sonenscher, “Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau and the Foundations of Modern Political Thought”, Modern Intellectual History, 14 (2017), pp. 311–​37.

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both the problematic character of a society predicated on the division of labour and the further possibility that the division of labour itself could become an effect that would counter its cause. In this sense, what came to be called industrialism could be said to be the real key to the unity of Rousseau’s thought, starting with his presentation of the problem of the division of labour in the second Discourse and continuing into his initial formulation of the solution in the Social Contract. This does not mean that Rousseau had arrived at what he took to be a complete solution when he published the Social Contract in 1762. It is possible that he had, but it is equally possible that he had not. The Social Contract set out the formal framework and the institutional arrangements required to keep freedom and perfectibility in balance and, although it also explained very clearly why Rousseau thought that a free state would also have to be a fiscal state, it did not address the subject of individual and collective motivation that lay at the heart of the criticism of Montesquieu that Rousseau went on to make in Emile. There is, therefore, good reason to think that the continuity was carried further, first into the two works of pedagogic fiction, Julie and Emile, that Rousseau published immediately before and immediately after the Social Contract (Julie appeared in 1761 and Emile in 1762) and then into the later didactic or polemical works that he produced after this small avalanche of books. In keeping with Rousseau’s appeal to read his earlier works in the light of those that came later, this means that the fiscal, financial and, most importantly, the motivational dimensions of the Social Contract can be found mainly in what Rousseau published after 1762. The formal side of the solution was, however, set out quite fully in the Social Contract. It was designed to address the two aspects of human nature, freedom and perfectibility which, in terms of the analysis of the second Discourse, were both the cause of human misfortune and the basis of human survival. The problem was to identify an institutional framework that would be able to block the threat to human freedom represented by perfectibility but would still leave perfectibility with enough room for manoeuvre to maintain and promote human freedom under the aegis of the division of labour. This double objective was, put summarily, what Rousseau set out in the famous passage at the beginning of the Social Contract. If humanity was born free, but was everywhere in chains, the next step was not to explain where the chains had come from, but to try instead to find a way to make them legitimate. Dealing with the legitimation problem would be the first step towards establishing a political system that would be able to superimpose a positive direction onto the negative effects of freedom and perfectibility. The institutional framework that Rousseau envisaged had three main components. The first was an unusual interpretation of the concept of a social

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contract because, as Rousseau presented it, it would be a contract between an individual and himself (as is well known, Rousseau also had reasons for thinking that gender mattered). The second was an equally unusual interpretation of the idea of a general will because, as Rousseau presented it, the concept of the general will was largely ideal, with more emphasis on the general part of the phrase and less on the side of the will. In this sense, the idea of the general will was rather like the idea of a balance of power, but with the addition of an identifiable element of human judgment, or the capacity for voluntary, but reflexive, choice built into the concept of sovereignty. Just as the idea of a balance of power could be taken to refer to a single point situated somewhere among a number of different variables, like territory, population, economic resources and defence capability, so the idea of a general will could be taken to refer to a single will located within the multitude of positive or negative preferences expressed by real, individual wills. It was, in short, more like an outcome than an agent because the agent of the general will would be the government or, as Rousseau, echoing Montesquieu, put it in the Social Contract, and repeated in his summary of that book in the Letters Written from the Mountain, “an intermediary body established between the subject and the sovereign for their mutual correspondence”.26 This way of identifying the general will with a rather remote concept of sovereignty meant that the third component of the institutional framework that Rousseau envisaged would be a complicated, but powerful, system of government, with several different levels of decision-​ making on the one side, and a strong, also Montesquieu-​inspired, emphasis on taxation and representation as the basis of political liberty on the other. “As an integral part of the body politic”, Rousseau wrote in the Letters Written from the Mountain, “the government participates in the general will that constitutes it; as a body itself, it has its own will. These two will sometimes agree with, and sometimes combat, each other. From the combined effect of this agreement and this conflict results the action of the whole machine.”27 Together, these three components of Rousseau’s concept of a political society were designed to form a framework that would generate a durable relationship between freedom and perfectibility by, firstly, keeping the dynamics of the division of

26 Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. iii, ch. 1, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 166. For other interpretations of the general will in Rousseau’s thought, see James Farr and David Lay Williams (eds.), The General Will:  The Evolution of a Concept (Cambridge, cup, 2015); Janusz Grygieńć, General Will in Political Philosophy (Exeter, Imprint Academic, 2013); and Andrew Levine, The General Will (Cambridge, cup, 1993). 27 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Letters Written from the Mountain, Sixth Letter, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, p. 232.

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labour at bay and, consequently, by laying the Fénelon problem to rest. It was a framework that would ensure that political decision-​making and choice would be produced by two relatively distinct agencies, one of which would be responsible for acts of sovereignty and the other for acts of government. Rousseau went to some lengths to try to explain how the two agencies would be able to work together without coming into conflict. He began, at the end of Book 1, ­chapter 7, of the Social Contract, with his most famous formulation of the underlying foundations of the whole political and conceptual edifice. “Therefore,” he wrote there, “in order for the social compact not to be an ineffectual engagement, it tacitly includes the following engagement, which alone can give force to the others, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the entire body, which means only that he will be forced to be free.” The next sentence began to explain this alarming proclamation. “For”, he continued, “this is the condition that, by giving each citizen to the patrie, guarantees him against all personal dependence; a condition that creates the motion and effect of the political machine and alone renders all civil engagements legal; and without which, would be absurd, tyrannical, and subject to the most enormous abuses.”28 Rousseau continued the explanation in ­chapter 4 of Book 2, a chapter which he entitled “On the limits of sovereign power.” There, he made it clear that the scale and scope of the general will applied publicly, not privately. “Just as”, he began in the same alarming vein, “nature gives each man absolute power over all his members, the social compact gives the body politic absolute power over all its members, and it is this same power, directed by the general will, which, as I have said, bears the name of sovereignty.” But, he continued more reassuringly, sovereignty applied to individuals as citizens, not to individuals as humans. The problem, Rousseau explained, was that under conditions of democratic sovereignty every individual (or, in Rousseau’s case, every man) was a citizen and, in that capacity, was a subject of the sovereign, even though, in purely human terms, the same individuals still retained what Rousseau called “the natural right which they ought to enjoy in their qualities as men.” 29 This 28

“Afin donc que le pacte social ne soit pas un vain formulaire, il renferme tacitement cet engagement qui seul peut donner de la force aux autres, que quiconque refusera d’obéir à la volonté générale y sera contraint par tout le corps:  ce qui ne signifie autre chose qu’on le forcera d’être libre; car telle est la condition qui donnant chaque citoyen à la patrie le garantit de toute dépendance personnelle; condition qui fait l’artifice et le jeu de la machine politique, et qui seule rend légitimes les engagements civils, lesquels sans cela seraient absurdes, tyranniques et sujets aux plus énormes abus.” Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 141. I have modified the translation slightly with the help of the 1791 English translation. 29 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 148.

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begins to clarify both the problem and the solution. Although he did not use the terms, the distinction that Rousseau made here between political obligations and natural rights corresponded to a longstanding distinction between what, in the natural jurisprudence of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were called perfect and imperfect rights with their corresponding set of obligations. Perfect rights were rights that could be claimed and enforced by the sovereign and, under conditions of democratic political sovereignty, would be claimed and enforced by citizens on themselves in the guise of subjects. Imperfect rights, on the other hand, were voluntary and discretionary, but could, under the aegis of the law, become perfect rights or, on occasion, vice versa. The problem, as Rousseau pointed out in a note to the same chapter, was that the language of citizenship and sovereignty applied to individuals in both their public and their private capacities. The terminological overlap made it hard to establish a stable distinction between the public and the private because, under conditions of democratic political sovereignty, it was hard to see how and where to draw a line separating the rights of men from the duties of citizens or how to prevent the sovereign power of the general will from dominating the private lives of the individual members of the state. Here too, the power of Rousseau’s prose had the effect of disguising the underlying clarity of his thought. The discussion of the limits of sovereign power in Book 2, c­ hapter 4 of the Social Contract picked up the earlier passage, in Book 1, ­chapter 7, with its explanation of why forcing men to be free was, as Rousseau put it, “the condition which guarantees absolute personal independence to every citizen of the country; a condition which gives motion and effect to the political machine; which alone renders all civil engagements legal; and without which they would be absurd, tyrannical and subject to the most enormous abuses.”30 As Rousseau went on to explain, the key distinction here was the distinction between the public and the private. Civil engagements were made by individuals in their private capacity, while political engagements were made by the same individuals in their public capacity. Without a link between the two, the first would become entirely discretionary. But without a distinction between the two, the second would become entirely compulsory. The fundamental problem was, therefore, to find a way to establish and maintain both and, by doing so, to ensure that both the discretionary and the compulsory sides of political society (or the relationship between the economy and politics) were able to function seamlessly together.

30 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 141.

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As Rousseau pointed out in the note that he attached to ­chapter 4 of Book 2 of the Social Contract, “the poverty of language” meant that he was obliged to describe the problem in terms of the relationship between citizens and the sovereign. What, however, was needed was a language that could encompass citizenship and sovereignty, the public and the private, the compulsory and the voluntary, political engagements and civil engagements or, more broadly, men and citizens by showing how the two could be both distinct but also still connected. The difference between perfect and imperfect rights helped to indicate the distinction but did not explain the connection. Rousseau’s own distinction between the general will and the will of all pointed towards something like the same conceptual combination, with a general will that was singular and the will of all that was plural. The combination matched Rousseau’s initial distinction between the imperative character of the general will and the voluntary character of civil engagements, with the binding quality of the first underpinning the discretionary quality of the second. But to be coherent –​and to fit Rousseau’s own specifications –​the general will would then have to have a more explicitly negative quality than Rousseau himself indicated. It would have to be the opposite of the many different private wills that amounted to the will of all. In this negative guise, the general will could coexist with the will of all and, under constitutionally specified conditions, would supply the mandatory legal framework that would make voluntary arrangements binding and, by doing so, would force individuals to be free because it could free them from what, otherwise, would be the purely discretionary character of voluntary engagements. From this perspective, the general will would still be decisive but, ultimately, it would be decisive in securing the will of all.31 Much the same combination of unity and multiplicity applied to Rousseau’s concept of a civil religion. Like the general will, its form was singular, but its substance was plural. Its provisions were binding, but its content was toleration. Nearly three generations were to pass before this concept of the general will as the negation of the many more purely positive qualities of the will of all was given a more recognisable terminological existence, first in Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès’s distinction between representation that was singular and representation that was plural, and then, 31

For a particularly helpful examination of these aspects of Rousseau’s thought and their bearing on Hegel’s concept of the state, see Franz Rosenzweig, Hegel et l’état [1920], edited and translated by Paul-​Laurent Assoun and Gerard Bensussan (Paris, puf, 1991), pp. 47, 118, 164, 289, 339–​40, 380–​83. There is a considerable similarity between Rosenzweig’s reading of Rousseau and Hegel and the parallel interpretation made a little earlier by Georg Jellinek described in ­chapter 6 below.

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more recognisably, in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s distinction between the state and civil society. Although it would be absurd to describe Sieyès as a kind of French Hegel, it is considerably less absurd to describe Hegel as a kind of German Sieyès. If, as the final chapter of this book is intended to show, Rousseau was ultimately unable to escape the poverty of prevailing political languages, the three components of the political system that he set out to describe supplied both Sieyès and Hegel with their respective conceptual starting points. 3

The Social Contract

Contracts usually involve at least two parties. Rousseau’s social contract, however, involved only one. “Each of us”, he wrote in Book 1, Chapter 6 of the Social Contract, “puts his person and his full power in common under the supreme direction of the general will: and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” This formula, he went on to explain immediately at the beginning of the next chapter, “shows that the act of association involves a reciprocal engagement between the public and private individuals and that each individual, by contracting, so to speak, with himself, finds himself engaged in a two-​fold relation: namely, as a member of the sovereign towards private individuals, and as a member of the state toward the sovereign.”32 This double identity was carried through to the process of electing a government. Here, and in keeping with Rousseau’s distinction between the general quality of the general will and the particular quality of government as an intermediary between subject and sovereign, the process of electing a government was an act of government, not sovereignty, but it was also one in which the government in question had to be a democracy. As Rousseau pointed out, electing a government looks like an act of sovereignty because governments are usually taken to be accountable to the sovereign and this seems to imply that a government should be elected by the sovereign. But electing a government also means singling out some members of society to rule over others and, in this sense, it looks more like an act of government than an act of sovereignty because it concerns something particular rather than something general which, like a law, applies equally to all. It seems, therefore, that electing a government calls for the existence

32 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 139 (the italics are in the original).

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of a government before a government can actually exist and this, Rousseau observed, is exactly what happens. To elect a government, the sovereign will turn itself into a democracy while the citizens in their turn will become magistrates, so that the choice of the government will in fact be an act of government. “This change of relation”, Rousseau wrote, “is no speculative subtlety without practical examples.” It occurs daily in the English parliament, where the lower house on certain occasions turns itself into a committee of the whole house to discuss business better, and in so doing becomes a simple commission rather than the sovereign court of the preceding instant. It then reports to itself as the House of Commons on what it has just settled as a committee of the whole house, and it deliberates once again under one title over what it had already decided under another.33 This was not the only occasion on which sovereignty would turn into government. The same type of switch would occur in any system made up a number of different levels, like counties, departments, regions or provinces. There, legislation enacted by one or other of these lower levels might, from within, look like an act of sovereignty but, from without, would in fact be an act of government and, like any other governmental act, would coexist alongside those made in other parts of the larger whole. There was, in short, an inverse relationship between the number of subordinate entities and the level of activity of the general will. The larger the number of the former, the lower the level of activity of the latter would be, just as the lower the level of activity of the general will, the more room for government there would also be. As the number of different types or levels of association increased in scale and scope, government would largely push sovereignty out of the political picture.

33

“Ce changement de relation n’est point une subtilité de spéculation sans exemple dans la pratique. Il a lieu tous les jours dans le Parlement d’Angleterre, où la chambre basse en certaines occasions se tourne en grand comité, pour mieux discuter les affaires, et devient ainsi une simple commission, de cour souveraine qu’elle était l’instant précédant; en telle sorte qu’elle se fait ensuite rapport à elle-​même comme Chambre de Communes de ce qu’elle vient de régler en grand comité, et délibère de nouveau sous un titre de ce qu’elle a déjà résolu sous un autre.” Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. 3, ch. 17, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, pp. 195–​96.

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Gradated Promotion and the General Will

The receding boundary separating sovereignty from government and the variable levels of generality of the general will meant that all three of Rousseau’s major accounts of the specifications of a political society shared a recognisably common structure. Here, it is important to emphasise that the structure in question was dual, or two-​sided, rather than single or organic. As will be shown in the final chapter of this book, the difference is significant. Rousseau first described this structure in the Discourse on Political Economy which he published initially in 1755 as an entry to Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. A  “body politic”, he wrote near the beginning of the entry, could be considered “to be like a body that is organized, living, and similar to that of a man.” Importantly, however, the analogy was not designed to show that some parts of the body, like the head or the stomach, were more important than others, or that this type of evaluation of the human body could be extended to the body politic. Rousseau’s system was dual, not organic, and his comparison between the body and the body politic was designed to show that a political system had two parts –​an institutional framework and an array of human activities –​just as a human body consists of a bony skeleton and a number of living organs. As Rousseau went on to emphasise, the point of the analogy was to highlight the way that the two parts of the human body still added up to a common self, or a moi commun, and that somehow, though more mysteriously, the same type of unity applied to a political body. Importantly too, in this analogy between a political body and a human body, the humanly active side of the body politic was as complex as its institutional and formal side. “All political societies”, Rousseau continued, “are composed of other, smaller societies of different types, each of which has its interests and maxims. But these societies, which everyone perceives, because they have an external, authorized form, are not the only ones that really exist in the state.” All the private individuals united by a common interest constitute as many others, permanent or temporary, whose strength is no less real for being less apparent, and whose various relationships, well observed, are the genuine knowledge of morals. It is all these tacit or formal associations which modify in so many ways the appearance of the public will by the influence of their own. The will of these particular societies always has two relations: for the members of the association, it is a general will;

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for the large society it is a private will, which is very often found to be upright in the first respect and vicious in the latter.34

34

The whole passage reads in French as follows: “Le corps politique, pris individuellement, peut être considéré comme un corps organisé, vivant, et semblable à celui de l’homme. Le pouvoir souverain représente la tête; les lois et les coutumes sont le cerveau, principe des nerfs et siège de l’entendement, de la volonté, et des sens, dont les juges et les magistrats sont les organes; le commerce, l’industrie et l’agriculture sont la bouche et l’estomac qui préparent la subsistance commune; les finances publiques sont le sang qu’une sage économie en faisant les fonctions du cœur renvoie distribuer par tout le corps la nourriture et la vie; les citoyens sont le corps et les membres qui font mouvoir, vivre et travailler la machine,et qu’on ne saurait blesser en aucune partie qu’aussitôt l’impression douloureuse n’en porte au cerveau, si l’animal est en état de santé. La vie de l’un et de l’autre est le moi commun au tout, la sensibilité réciproque et la correspondance interne de toutes les parties…. Le corps politique est donc aussi un être moral qui a une volonté; et cette volonté générale, qui tend toujours à la conservation et au bien-​être du tout et de chaque partie, et qui est la source des lois, est pour tous les membres de l’état par rapport à eux et à lui, le règle du juste et de l’injuste….. Il est important de remarquer que cette règle de justice, sûre par rapport à tous les citoyens, peut être fautive avec les étrangers. La raison de ceci est évident. C’est qu’alors la volonté de l’état, quoique générale par rapport à ses membres, ne l’est plus par rapport aux autres états et à leurs membres, mais devient pour eux volonté particulière et individuelle, qui a sa règle de justice dans la loi de nature. Ce qui rentre également dans le principe établi, car alors la grande ville du monde devient le corps politique dont la loi de nature est toujours la volonté générale et dont les états et peuples divers ne sont que des membres individuels. Toute société politique est compose d’autres sociétés plus petites, de différentes espèces dont chacune a ses intérêts et ses maximes. Mais ces sociétés que chacun aperçoit, parce qu’elles ont une forme extérieure et autorisée, ne sont pas les seules qui existent réellement dans l’état; tous les particuliers qu’un intérêt commun réunit en composent autant d’autres, permanentes ou passagères, dont la force n’est pas moins réelle pour être moins apparente, et dont les divers rapports bien observées font la véritable connaissance des mœurs. Ce sont toutes ces associations tacites ou formelles qui modifient de tant de manières les apparences de la volonté publique par l’influence de la leur. La volonté de ces sociétés particulières a toujours deux relations; pour les membres de l’association c’est une volonté générale; pour la grande société, c’est une volonté particulière, qui très souvent se trouve droite au premier égard, et vicieuse au second. Telle délibération peut être avantageuse à la petite communauté et très pernicieuse à la grande.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Political Economy, in Rousseau, CW, 3, pp. 142–​44; OC, 3, pp. 245–​ 46. For commentary, but without Rousseau’s own emphasis on the oscillating relationship between the public and private, see Ryan Patrick Hanley, “Political Economy and Individual Liberty”, in Eve Grace and Christopher Kelly (eds.), The Challenge of Rousseau (Cambridge, cup, 2013), pp. 34–​56, and, more broadly, Bruno Bernardi (ed.), Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’économie politique (Paris, Vrin, 2002), notably the chapter by Gabrielle Radica, pp. 121–​36.

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There was, therefore, more than one general will in all but the smallest or simplest political society and, consequently, a corresponding array of majorities and minorities.35 On Rousseau’s terms, therefore, political societies were complex compounds made up of a fluid set of distinctions between both the general and the particular and the public and the private. Together, they meant that a political society, like any individual, needed to have a common self or moi commun. Rousseau maintained the same analytical structure first in The Social Contract which he published seven years later in 1762, then in the short summary of that work that he published in the final part of Emile, and finally in the advice he gave to the Confederates of Bar (the Polish nobles who rebelled against Russian domination of Poland) which was published in 1782 as his Considerations on the Government of Poland. In all these later works he kept to the analytical framework initially set out in the Discourse on Political Economy before going on to explain why it was a framework that fitted the specifications of his description of government as an “elected aristocracy” and, in keeping with his endorsement of the pyramidal structure of the government of republican Rome, why these specifications meant that political agency would be largely in the hands of the government, not the general will.36 In this sense, both the Social Contract and the Considerations on the government of Poland not only amplified on the arrangements set out in the Discourse on Political Economy but also referred to the same form of government, with the system described in the Social Contract scaled up to fit the dimensions of a large territorial state. Since Poland was a state of that kind it could not have “the severe administration of small republics”. But “the constitution of a large kingdom”, Rousseau argued, could still have “the solidity and vigour of a small republic”.37 35

For broader discussion of the resulting problems of aligning majorities and minorities within different units, see Stéphanie Novak and Jon Elster (eds.), Majority Decisions. Principles and Practices (Cambridge, cup, 2014) and Olivier Christin, Vox Populi: Une histoire du vote avant le suffrage universel (Paris, Seuil, 2014). See too John Gilbert Heinberg, “History of the Majority Principle”, American Political Science Review, 20 (1926), pp. 52–​ 68, and his “Theories of Majority Rule”, American Political Science Review, 26 (1932), pp. 452–​69. 36 On this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 96, 234–​36 and, for a different view, John P. McCormick, “Rousseau’s Rome and the Repudiation of Populist Republicanism”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 10 (2007), pp. 3–​27. For later discussion, see Chiara Destri, “Rousseau’s (not so) Oligarchic Republicanism”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 19 (2016), pp.  206–​1, and, for McCormick’s later assessment, see John P.  McCormick, Reading Machiavelli:  Scandalous Books, Suspect Engagements, and the Virtue of Populist Politics (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2018), pp. 109–​43. 37 Rousseau, Considerations, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 11, p. 183.

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It could do so because it would contain an ascending hierarchy of general wills. The first step towards establishing this type of hierarchy was to make the system of government a federal system based upon the thirty-​three Palatinates into which Poland was divided. The second was to establish what Rousseau called a system of “graduated promotions”, a system which, curiously, had been anticipated by David Hume, the man who was later to become Rousseau’s archenemy, in his essay on the “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth” of 1752.38 As Rousseau put it in his Considerations, the system of graduated, or gradated, promotion was “the strongest, most powerful” means to maintain liberty and, “if well implemented” would be “infallibly successful” in “carrying patriotism to the highest pitch in all Polish hearts”.39 All the “active members of the republic” would be divided into three grades or classes. Eligibility for election to the Polish Diet would depend initially on some earlier form of public service in local administration. Eligibility for the second grade would require election to the Diet on three previous occasions. Membership of the Polish Senate would be drawn from this class of citizens. Finally, those who had been elected to the Senate on three separate occasions would be eligible to become guardians of the law, from whom the heads of the Palatinates and other high offices would be drawn. Thus, “after fifteen or twenty years of being continually tested under the eyes of the public” the “foremost positions of the state” would be filled by a suitably qualified combination of talent, experience and virtue.40 These, Rousseau went on to emphasise, would include the monarchy itself. “A hereditary crown prevents trouble”, Rousseau observed, “but brings on slavery; election preserves freedom, but shakes the state with each new reign”.41 To avoid either possibility, he proposed that the Polish kings should be chosen by lot from among the thirty-​three heads of the Palatinates. The names of three candidates would be selected in this way and one of them would then be elected by the Polish Diet to become king. With this form, Rousseau wrote, “we combine all the advantages of election with those of hereditary succession”.42 Rousseau repeated his endorsement of the idea of gradated promotion, or graduated progression, in his Plan of a Government suitable for Corsica (which, it should be noted, first came to light in 1825 and was published for the first

38

See Ryu Susato, “Hume as an Ami de la liberté:  The Reception of his ‘Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth’ ”, Modern Intellectual History, 13 (2016), pp. 569–​96. 39 Rousseau, Considerations, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 11, p. 222. 40 Rousseau, Considerations, in Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 223–​26. 41 Rousseau, Considerations, in Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 230. 42 Rousseau, Considerations, in Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 233.

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time only in 1861).43 He did so in the course of describing three ways to think about the subject of reform (or, it could be said, three ways to address the Fénelon problem). One way of keeping the relationship between a nation and its government in harmony, he wrote at the beginning of his Corsican plan, was to establish a set of “mechanisms that maintain the government in its primitive condition” by giving it “a thousand chains, a thousand shackles to keep it in its path”. Society, however, would change and, if the government did not change too, it would become an obstacle to change and run the risk of being pushed aside. “In such a case”, Rousseau continued, “the wisest people, observing relations of suitability, form the government for the nation.” In this case, the government would change as the nation changed, but this new emphasis on constitutional flexibility did not eliminate the possibility that the government would simply fail to respond to the nation. This, Rousseau argued, was why there had to be a third way. “There is”, he wrote, “something much better to do, which is to form the nation for the government. In the first case, to the extent that the government declines, while the nation stays the same, the conformity vanishes; in the second, everything changes at an even pace and the nation, dragging the government along by its force, maintains the government when it maintains itself and makes it decline when it declines. The one is always suited to the other.”44 Rousseau did not go on immediately to say how he planned “to form the nation for the government” but the rest of his outline helps to clarify his meaning. Forming the nation for the government meant dividing it into a number of smaller units and then combining these units under the aegis of a federal system using the same system of gradated promotion that he was later to recommend to the Poles. In this version of the system, there would be a national government, but there would also be a number of local or regional 43

44

On the publishing history of Rousseau’s text, see the introduction by Sven Stelling Michaud to the Projet de constitution pour la Corse, in Rousseau, OC, iii, pp. cxcix-​ccxv (especially pp. ccxiii-​ccxv). See too the editorial introduction to the text in C. E. Vaughan, The Political Writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, 2  vols. (Cambridge, cup, 1915), vol. 2, pp. 292–​305, and, most recently, Jean-​Jacques Rousseau: Affaires de Corse, ed. Christophe Litwin and James Swenson (Paris, Vrin, 2018),where, in keeping with the heading of Rousseau’s manuscripts, the text has been retitled Un plan de gouvernement bon pour la Corse. On its content, but without the federal or financial dimensions of Rousseau’s plan, see recently, Mark J. Hill, “Enlightened ‘Savages’: Rousseau’s Social Contract and the ‘Brave People’ of Corsica”, History of Political Thought, 38 (2017), pp. 462–​93 and, now, the essays collected in the Litwin and Swenson edition, where both the financial and federal sides of the plan have been discussed more fully. Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Plan for a Constitution for Corsica [1764] in Rousseau, CW, vol. 11, p. 123.

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governments, based in this case on the Corsican pièves rather than the Polish palatinates. Their membership would be elected directly, but the elected members of the pièves would then form a second electorate with responsibility for electing the members of a national legislature. Increasing the number of units of public administration would make it easier to neutralise the risks associated with allowing the number of private factions to grow. The large number of different decision-​making agencies would limit the risks of generalised division because it would favour a multiplicity of different local arrangements and the large-​scale dispersal of factional division. Multiplying factions amounted to blocking the dangers of party division because the diversity of factions would limit the likelihood that they would crystallise into more generalised divisions. The same inverse ratio between party and faction would also reduce the risks of contamination of the legal and financial system by the type of broad division involved, for example, in the protracted sequence of conflicts between Jansenists and Jesuits in France during the reign of Louis xv. Conflicts like these may not have positively generated anything comparable to the political projects of the period of the French Revolution, but in a more negative sense they certainly undermined the French monarchy’s ability to prevent the advocates of those projects from claiming political power.45 As Rousseau (anticipating Madison) argued, the way to neutralise the effects of party-​political conflict was, paradoxically, to allow factions to multiply, rather than try to prohibit them. “If there are partial societies”, he wrote in Book 2, Chapter 3, of the Social Contract, “their number must be multiplied and their inequality prevented, as was done by Solon, Numa and Servius.”46 The large number of different agencies built into the system that Rousseau envisaged would limit the number of occasions on which the general will would be likely to be invoked. Each agency could have a general will but taken together they would add up to no more than a multitude of particular or private wills within the state as a whole. The same type of switch would also apply to the legal system and, more broadly, to the relationship between the public and the private. The law within each unit would be public law but, within the nation as a whole, local legislation would be no more than private law.

45

Compare Dale Van Kley, The Jansenists and the Expulsion of the Jesuits from France, 1757–​ 65 (New Haven, Yale UP, 1975) and his The Religious Origins of the French Revolution (New Haven, Yale UP, 1996) to Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 153–​59. 46 Rousseau, Social Contract, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, pp.  147–​48. For commentary, see Luc Bovens and Claus Beisbart, “Factions in Rousseau’s Du Contrat Social and Federal Representation”, Analysis, 67 (2007), pp. 12–​20.

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Taxation and Representation

The third component of the institutional framework that Rousseau’s envisaged was formed by the fiscal system. On his terms, free states were fiscal states.47 Rousseau explained why this was the case in the long ­chapter 8 of book 3 of the Social Contract, about the bearing of the particularities of time and place on both the existence of the general will and on the strength and durability of its emotional and motivational foundations. In it, he had no hesitation in endorsing Montesquieu’s remark that “liberty, not being the fruit of every climate, is not accessible to all peoples.” The “more we consider this principle established by Montesquieu,” Rousseau commented, “the more we perceive its truth.”48 This, he went on to show, had nothing immediately to do with climate, still less with any putative attribute of human nature, but instead with the attributes of what, retrospectively, could be called the political economy of liberty. The political economy of liberty was a product of the interaction between government expenditure, the fiscal system and the social distribution of income. To show why this was the case, Rousseau set out the other side of the argument about the bias towards metallurgy and manufacture built into the division of labour that he had presented in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, but he now gave it a more technically neutral form. Where inequality was extreme, and little effort was required to produce large amounts of wealth, a predatory government would be able to confiscate what it needed from a small number of rich individuals. This, Rousseau argued, was why despotic rule would be the default form of rule in naturally fertile regions, where both the opportunity for –​and feasibility of –​predatory behaviour would be available. Neither, however, would be as readily available in less favourable surroundings. This, ultimately, was why climate would count. But, independently of these climatic considerations, liberty would depend on the amount of tax-​ revenue required by the government, the share of household income taken in taxes and the proportion of government expenditure that would revert to the tax payer. Here, what was important was the amount of human effort required to produce both an aggregate and a per capita surplus because it was this effort

47 48

For an initial way in to the concept of a fiscal state, see, classically, Joseph Schumpeter, “The Crisis of the Tax State”, in Richard Swedberg (ed.), Joseph Schumpeter, The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism (Princeton, Princeton UP, 1991), pp. 99–​140. “La liberté n’étant pas un fruit de tous les climats n’est pas à la portée de tous les peuples. Plus on médite ce principe établi par Montesquieu, plus on en sent la vérité.” Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. iii, ch. 8, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4 p. 181.

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that, ultimately, would have a bearing on how taxation was distributed among the heads of households. As Rousseau went on to show, the same type of calculation applied to the number of units of privately owned forms of property because this too would have a bearing on the level and consistency of government oversight of economic activity for tax-​raising purposes. If, as was likely in a cold climate, the production of a taxable surplus called for considerable effort, then the likelihood would be that the per capita contribution of each household would be small. This in turn would mean that large numbers of people would have to contribute to produce the total taxable surplus. Large numbers of people would, therefore, have to be taxed while, inversely, many different units of individual property would be subject to governmental scrutiny for tax-​related reasons. In addition, the combination of a broad fiscal base and the state’s need to maintain an adequate flow of tax revenue would be likely to provoke a widely shared interest in public affairs and this, by extension, would supply the motivation needed to maintain governmental accountability. The analysis applied more readily to Geneva and the social interdependence generated by the modern division of labour than to any of the other, more self-​sufficient, sets of arrangements –​like those in the Swiss region of Neuchâtel or Corsica –​which Rousseau also described.49 If, as French Marxist historiography once had it, Rousseau was the first theorist of a property-​owning democracy, he was also, more accurately, the first theorist of a fiscal state. In terms of his conception of modern liberty, the two went together. A fiscal state called, in the first instance, for an individuated system of private property. Here, Rousseau had no hesitation in describing the causal nexus as one of those “general laws which can be distinguished from those individual causes that can modify their effects”. Even if all the south was covered with republics and all the north with despotic states, it would be no less true that the effect of climate makes despotism suited to warm countries, barbarism to cold countries and good policy to intermediate regions.50 49 50

On the region of Neuchâtel (and, by extension, Corsica because Rousseau made the comparison explicit in his Corsican book), see Sonenscher, Sans-​Culottes, pp. 148–​52. “Distinguons toujours les loix générales des causes particulières qui peuvent en modifier l’effet. Quand tout le midi serait couvert de républiques et tout le nord d’états despotiques il n’en serait pas moins vrai que par l’effet du climat le despotisme convient aux pays chauds, la barbarie aux pays froids, et la bonne politie aux régions intermédiaires.” Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. iii, ch. 8, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p.  182. Rousseau’s eighteenth-​century English translators sometimes rendered “bonne politie” as “civilisation”.

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Climate, on these terms, mattered because it supplied the initial background conditions that made fiscal states free states. In a more elaborate sense, however, it explained why modern liberty was urban, not rural, in its immediate setting and why taxation, not virtue, was the real cement of society. If private property was the first prerequisite of a fiscal state, its second prerequisite was a currency. Rousseau touched initially on the subject in the entry on political economy that he contributed to Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopaedia in 1755, but his fullest treatment of the relationship between money, trade and taxation was not known about until the publication of his Plan of a Government suitable for Corsica. The plan has usually been taken to be Rousseau’s most explicit endorsement of a largely agricultural, non-​monetized economy, based on a limited amount of private property. In one sense, the assessment is right because the economic arrangements that Rousseau recommended to the Corsicans were modelled on those of the self-​sufficient households of the region of Neuchâtel which he had described in 1758 in his Letter to d’Alembert. In another sense, however, the fiscal and financial arrangements that Rousseau set out in the Plan of a Government suitable for Corsica followed the logic of his broader assessment of the bias towards manufacturing industry built into division of labour and the need to neutralise its longer term economic and social effects. The way to keep a lid on inequality, Rousseau argued, was to rely on money and the market, rather than centralised policy and legislation.51 In this sense, the Corsican model was designed to complement the Neuchâtel model and prevent it from defaulting into the spiral of inequality described in the second Discourse. Where the Neuchâtel model focused on property and self-​sufficiency, the Corsican model focused on money and exchange as the means to keep both models stable. The key component of the system was a government agency that would be responsible for managing the money supply. The plan that Rousseau outlined was for a fiat currency together with a kind of federal reserve which, in conjunction, would enable the Corsicans to promote domestic trade but avoid exposing their economy to the hazards of foreign trade. The currency would work in a way that was somewhat similar to the modern idea of a block-​chain, or a currency that, literally, would be no more than a means of exchange because the amount of money issued would be based solely upon the number of underlying transactions. The whole Corsican financial system would be anchored to a decentralized network of markets, 51

The point is well made in the contributions by Pierre Crétois, Christophe Litwin and James Swenson to the section on political economy in Jean-​Jacques Rousseau: Affaires de Corse, pp. 317–​71.

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with each piève having its own market and each market keeping a record of the transactions and prices that would be used to determine the quantity of money needed to cover the aggregate value of the quantity of goods bought and sold over a specified period of time. Since markets would be decentralised and the composition of economic activity in each piève would be largely local, but supplemented by trade involving regionally specific goods, a mixture of direct and indirect taxation would be used to correct economic imbalances by favouring competition and by promoting the development of some products and markets at the expense of others. The fiscal system that Rousseau envisaged would also make it easier to manage the money supply. Since taxes would be paid either in money or in kind, the income received in one or other medium would supply the information needed to estimate how much money was in circulation and how much money households in each piève were accumulating. Although Rousseau did not go into further detail in describing how the supply of money would be managed, he went on to emphasise that responsibility for its management would be in the hands of the officials responsible for managing a network of tax-​offices and public granaries that would parallel the network of markets. It would, in fact, be something like a mixture of a treasury and a reserve bank. In this market-​based bureaucracy, the fiscal system would be managed by an elected hierarchy of administrative officials whose positions and tenure would follow the principle of gradated promotion. As Rousseau went to some lengths to emphasise, the responsibilities exercised by these officials would make Corsica’s chamber of accounts (chambre des comptes) the most important arm of government. “It is”, he wrote, “the key to our political government, the only part that requires art, calculation, meditation. This is why the chamber of accounts, which is a very subordinate tribunal everywhere else, will have oversight of every aspect of affairs, will give an impetus to the whole administration and will be composed of the finest minds in the state.”52 It would, in short, be something like a combination of a treasury and a reserve bank, with responsibility for managing both the fiscal system and the domestic money supply while building up reserves of tradeable currencies to cover the requirements of foreign trade and neutralize the potentially adverse domestic effects of trade and payments imbalances. Rousseau’s text was not published until the third decade of the nineteenth century, but the idea of using a two-​currency system to insulate domestic trade from foreign trade seeped gradually into public debate in France after 1789, first in the work of Louis-​Sébastien Mercier and, later, 52 Rousseau, Corsica, in Rousseau, CW, 11, p. 152.

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as a feature of Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s The Closed Commercial State of 1800.53 There is no evidence that either knew of the existence of Rousseau’s Corsican plan, but it is still possible that either or both could have inferred something like it on the basis of a combination of the Social Contract, the Considerations on the Government of Poland and some of Rousseau’s earlier published work. 6

The Federal Dimension of Rousseau’s Thought

The three components of the institutional framework that Rousseau set out in the Social Contract and his later more didactic publications amounted to a federal system whose structure and content was based on the properties of his distinctive versions of a social contract, a general will and a fiscal state. The social contract would have a strong orientation towards individual autonomy. The general will would have a correspondingly weak level of generality because states, provinces, pièves or palatinates would impose their own particularities onto the more remote content of the general will. The fiscal state would have an institutionally based capacity for policy adjustments and fiscal or financial modifications because its decentralised structure would generate a continuous flow of comparison, discussion and contention to fuel the interlocking levels of electoral accountability and responsibility built into the system of gradated promotion. The result would be that much of the content of the idea of the balance of power would be transferred from the international to the domestic political arena, while the purely competitive side of the balance of power would give way to a system that was still competitive but based on a system of rules. The idea followed the earlier logic of Fénelon’s essay on the balance of power, but circumvented the broader problems of inequality and centralisation. As Fénelon had indicated, growth at home could be more valuable and durable than growth abroad. Rousseau’s federal system now offered the possibility of establishing the right relationship between the two options, without in the first place having to opt for Fénelon’s programme of reform. As he presented it, human societies were skewed irretrievably

53

On these, see Sonenscher, Sans-​Culottes, p. 129 and, particularly, Isaac Nakhimovsky, The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2011).

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towards manufacturing industry. The bias was both the problem and, in a federal system, the basis of the solution. It was, it could be said, Rousseau’s own version of a blessing in disguise.54

54

See the English translation of Jean Starobinski, Le remède dans le mal (Paris, Gallimard, 1989) as Blessings in Disguise, or, The Morality of Evil (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1993).

chapter 4

The Politics of the Imagination 1

The Language of Signs

Much of the difficulty involved in interpreting Rousseau’s political thought is bound up with the problem of sequencing, both in his own publication history and in his vision of history itself. If, as he wrote in his assessment of Montesquieu in Emile, the key questions in politics were “What importance does it have for me?” and “What can I do about it?”, it is not easy, from a cumulative sequence of texts, to identify the content of his own answers and extract the mixture of institutional mechanisms and individual motivation which, he thought, were required to deliver the requisite answers. Rousseau published a great deal, mainly in two short bursts, starting with an initial salvo made up of the two Discourses and the essay on Political Economy and ending with the crescendo formed by Julie, the Social Contract and Emile. The explosive quality of the sequence and the frequent transfer of passages from one text to another make it hard to connect the formal, institutional side of his political thought –​meaning the one that is most visible in the Social Contract and the constitutional projects for Corsica and Poland –​to the cultural, historical and anthropological insights of the second Discourse, the Confessions and the Essay on the Origin of Languages. The connections were dispersed all over his works, leaving posterity with the problem of trying to locate the links between institutional mechanisms and individual motivation among the more general distinctions between nature and culture, barbarism and civility and the ancients and the moderns that formed the broader historical backdrop of Rousseau’s thought. It is, in short, not easy to use the sequence of publications as a guide to the analytical and historical sequence that, in a more didactic mode, Rousseau might have followed to produce an integrated analysis of the origins and nature of modern political authority. Some conceptual moves, notably those associated with the nature of the imagination, began as passing remarks in the second Discourse, while others, particularly those connected to the subject of conscience, were to become apparent only in some of Rousseau’s later, more polemical, publications. If, as Rousseau indicated, the imagination was the key to understanding human dietary flexibility and the domination of industry over agriculture, it was less obvious how the imagination could also supply a solution. The link between the problem and the solution was never fully spelled out. As a result, much of what was significant in the early publications

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has to be identified and worked out in the light of the more explicit treatment given to them in the works that came later. Two examples help to illustrate the problem and provide the basis of an interpretation. The first was a concept that Rousseau called “the language of signs” which he first used in 1762 in the fourth book of Emile. It was, he wrote there, one of the great resources of ancient politics. “I observe”, he explained, “that in the modern age men no longer have a hold on one another except by force or by self-​interest. The ancients, by contrast, acted much more by persuasion and by the emotions of the mind because they studied the language of signs.”1 In earlier times, he continued, “before the establishment of force”, mankind had been “governed by a theocracy” because “the gods were the magistrates of mankind”. The gods, here, were everywhere, giving the whole earth a sacred quality. Then, Rousseau wrote, making much the same point that Burke reported he had made to Hume, “individuals made their agreements, contracts and promises” because “the whole face of the earth was the great book in which the archives were deposited.” In those conditions, “rocks, trees, heaps of stones consecrated by those acts and respected by barbarians were the pages of that book, which was constantly open to all eyes.” Subsequently, the same propensity to endow physical things with moral properties had become the hallmark of republican Rome. “How great”, Rousseau wrote, “was the attention that the Romans paid to the language of signs.” Vestments according to the difference of age and condition; the toga, or the sagum, the bulla and the praetexta, the laticlaves, the curule chairs, lictors, fasces, axes, crowns of gold, of oaken boughs, or wreathes of laurel, ovations, triumphs; everything with them was pomp and ceremony and made an impression as such on the minds of the citizen. It was a matter of consequence to the state that the people should or should not assemble in such a place; that they either saw or did not see the capital, that they either did or did not turn towards the senate; and that their debates should be on such a particular day preferably to all others. Persons accused of crimes changed their dress; candidates for offices did the same; warriors did not boast of their exploits but showed their wounds. If one of our modern orators were to attempt to excite the passions of the people upon the death of Caesar he would exhaust all the commonplaces of his art in given a pathetic description of his wounds and of his body all covered with blood. Anthony, though famed for eloquence, did not say a 1 Rousseau, Emile, Bk. iv, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 13, p. 490.

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word of this. He caused the dead body to be exposed to the people. How persuasive a rhetoric.2 Little of this supercharged semiotic environment now survived. “One of the errors of our age”, Rousseau wrote as an introduction to the whole passage, “is to use reason in too unadorned a form, as if men were all mind. In neglecting the language of signs that speak to the imagination, the most energetic of languages has been lost.” Although the initial readers of Emile would not have known this, the passage in question also referred to a text that, at the time, had also been lost. This was the Essay on the Origin of Languages which Rousseau began to write in 1754 or 1755, at the same time as he composed the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Much of its content was transferred to the discussion of the language of signs in Emile, but the broader argument about the relationship between music, poetry and prose that Rousseau set out in the Essay itself disappeared largely from view.3 Part of the argument was that language had progressively declined. It had changed from song to poetry among the ancients and from poetry to prose among the moderns, leaving humans trapped in a linguistic world of rational calculation with little or no ability to use language emotionally. The other part of the argument was more complicated. This was an argument about the properties of signs themselves. Some signs, particularly those associated with reason, were general and abstract. Others, particularly those associated with the emotions, were particular and concrete. The problem was to find ways to combine the two or make prose poetic and rationality emotional. As with the double-​bind built into the relationship between credulity and complexity, language itself housed the same type of conundrum. Words could be read or heard, but signs could also be felt. Words favoured communication, but communication itself could be emotionally empty. “In wanting to turn everything over to reasoning”, Rousseau pointed out in Emile, “we have reduced our precepts to words; we have made no use of actions. Reason alone is not active. It sometimes restrains, it arouses rarely, and it has never done anything great.” Relying on reason alone was, simply, “the folly of weak minds.”4

2 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 13, pp. 491–​92. 3 It came back very forcefully, however, with Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris, Minuit, 1967), translated as Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1974). 4 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 13, p. 490.

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At the height of the lawsuits brought against him in Paris and Geneva in the winter and spring of 1762–​63, largely over the religious content of Emile, Rousseau wrote a play, The Levite of Ephraim, whose central moment –​the Levite’s mobilization of the whole Jewish nation by sending the dismembered parts of his murdered concubine’s body to each of the twelve tribes of Israel –​was formed by the language of signs. As was also the case with the Essay on the Origin of Languages, where Rousseau asserted that “the most energetic language is one in which the sign has said everything before a single word is spoken”, the play was not published in Rousseau’s lifetime, probably because he recycled almost all the examples of signs and their power that he used in it to the fuller discussion of the subject that he included in Emile.5 He continued to maintain his interest in the language of signs, but towards the end of his life he gave the concept a second set of names with a slightly different set of connotations. They too are a clue to the broader line of thought about the relationship between institutional mechanisms and individual motivation underlying Rousseau’s assessment of Montesquieu. As he reported in his Confessions, the new names were to become the title of a projected work –​which, in a characteristically paranoid passage, Rousseau claimed had been stolen by Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, the man who he now took to be the prime accomplice of his great enemy Denis Diderot –​that was to be called la morale sensitive, meaning “sensitive morality” or, as he also called it, “the materialism of the wise man”. In this rendition of the language of signs, however, Rousseau’s emphasis fell less on the exemplary power of unusual events, striking actions or solemn occasions than on the multiple meanings and semiotic ambiguities of objects or actions which, in straightforwardly physical terms, were entirely the same. As Rousseau presented it, the concept of “the materialism of the wise man” was connected to the well-​known fact that people’s values and preferences change over time, most obviously under the sway of fashion, but also under the influence of many other, apparently more fundamental, values or objects of allegiance. These changes, Rousseau wrote, seemed to depend on “the prior impression of external objects”, but they also involved something more than a straightforward succession of different circumstances or environments. This was because the mind had an active ability to make comparisons and something about this underlying process of comparison and evaluation seemed, as 5 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, in Rousseau, CW, 7, p. 290. For helpful discussion of these examples, see Avi Lifschitz, “How To Do Things With Signs: Rousseau’s Ancient Performative Idiom”, History of Political Thought, Special Issue, 37 (2016), pp.  46–​ 63, and Thomas M. Kavanagh, “Rousseau’s Le Lévite d’Ephraïm: Dream, Text, and Synthesis”, Eighteenth-​Century Studies, 16 (1982–​83), pp. 141–​61.

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Rousseau put it, to create “an external regimen which –​varied according to circumstances –​could put or maintain the soul in the condition most favourable to virtue.” The process, he suggested, could be used to create a more morally oriented emotional environment. How many errors would we save ourselves from; how many vices could we keep from springing up, could we but force the animal economy to favour the moral order which it so often troubles! Climates, seasons, sounds, colours, darkness, light, the elements, food, noise, silence, motion, rest, all act on our physical frame and thereby on our mind; all, too, offer us a thousand almost certain means of directing the first signs of the feelings by which we let ourselves be dominated.6 Here, the key concept was the concept of a sign of a feeling because it formed a link connecting the earlier concept of the language of signs to the later concept of the materialism of the wise man. Rousseau had, in fact, produced a very vivid example of how the concept would work in his novel Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse. There, he illustrated the process by describing the transformation of the relationship between Julie and her former lover Saint-​Preux after her marriage to Wolmar. After the marriage, Wolmar invited Saint-​Preux to come to stay and then, ostentatiously, went away, leaving his wife alone with the man she had loved. The point, however, was that Saint-​Preux was no longer alone with Julie d’Etange, but with Mme de Wolmar. Although Julie was the same woman, she was not the same person. Both she and Saint-​Preux could remember their love, but they also knew that their new status meant that their love could no longer be given a sexual expression. Their joint awareness of both past and present allowed memory and imagination to turn sexual desire into marital virtue. It also meant, as one of Rousseau’s early editors explained, that there was a real difference between the “materialism of the wise man” and the vulgar Epicureanism attributed to him by many of his more hostile critics.7

6 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, Bk. ix, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 5, p. 343 (I have modified the translation in light of the Chicago, 1856, translation). 7 See Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Œuvres complètes, Mémoires, ed. Victor-​Donatien Musset-​Pathay, 2 vols (Paris, 1818), vol. 2, pp.  569–​71. By far the best examination of the concept remains Etienne Gilson, “La méthode de Monsieur Wolmar”, in his Les idées et les lettres (Paris, Vrin, 1932), pp. 275–​98. The fullest treatment of la morale sensitive is in Marco di Palma, “Rousseau’s Enlightenment Ethics: the Synthesis of Materialism and Morals”, SVEC, 2000:05 (Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 2000), 73–​227.

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Rousseau began to use the related concepts of the language of signs and the materialism of the wise man relatively late in his publishing career. But, once he had given them a name, it soon becomes clear that his moral and political thought was actually saturated with the two concepts. They were given an early significance in Rousseau’s treatment of the subjects of music and painting in his Essay on the Origin of Languages, written probably in 1755, but published only after Rousseau’s death. “The field of music”, Rousseau wrote there, “is time, that of painting in space.” Although both were signs, each worked in different ways. Music unfolded in time, while painting took place in space. One was sequential and relied on melody and memory; the other was permanent and relied on design and immediacy. This, Rousseau claimed, meant “that painting is closer to nature and that music depends more on human art.”8 The difference meant that music and painting could be used in complementary ways, like the more highly differentiated components of a language. This emphasis on the protean, but socially bounded, character of signs made the related concepts of the language of signs or the materialism of the wise man the key to Rousseau’s re-​evaluation of the concept of public opinion and the comprehensive changes of moral evaluation that public opinion can sometimes produce. Here too, it is worth noting, Rousseau’s treatment of the subject was similar to Hume’s and chimes quite readily with what Hume told Burke about Rousseau and the vagaries of popular opinions and beliefs. Before Rousseau, it was usual to associate the idea of public opinion with political scepticism and the difficulty of establishing an indisputably solid moral foundation for political authority in the light of the vagaries of people’s beliefs and the inconsistencies of their behaviour over time and in space. With Rousseau, the analytical focus fell more on the underlying mechanisms and less on their final outcome. The latter, he argued, would follow from the former once the initial mechanisms were more clearly understood. With these in place, he asserted in the Social Contract, it would then be possible not only to see why public opinion mattered but also to think about how to use it. “The art with which this mechanism, altogether lost among modern peoples, was set to work among the Romans and better still among the Lacedemonians cannot be sufficiently admired”, he wrote there,

8 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Essay on the Origin of Languages, in Rousseau, CW, 7, pp. 325, 326. On Rousseau and music, see particularly Downing A. Thomas, Music and the Origins of Language. Theories from the French Enlightenment (Cambridge, cup, 1995); Jacqueline Waeber, “Jean-​Jacques Rousseau’s ‘unité de mélodie’ ”, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 62 (2009), pp. 79–​144; and Julia Simon, Rousseau among the Moderns: Music, Aesthetics, Politics (University Park, Pennsylvania State UP, 2013).

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adding that modern politics called for its revival.9 In doing so, he referred back to the fuller description of what public opinion could be made to do that he had set out in 1758 in his Lettre à M. d’Alembert sur les spectacles (or A Letter from M.  Rousseau of Geneva to M.  d’Alembert of Paris, Concerning the Effects of Theatrical Entertainments on the Manners of Mankind, as the contemporary English translation was entitled). Although, as the title of its English translation indicated, the Letter was substantively about the question of establishing a public theatre in Geneva, it was also designed to signal Rousseau’s final break with Diderot and Parisian salon society and, at the same time, show how to make positive use of public opinion and its power. To do so, Rousseau used the example of the French prohibition on duelling to show how an apparently archaic feudal institution, the Tribunal of Marshals of France, could be turned into a modern equivalent of the Spartan ephors or the Roman censors. As things stood, Rousseau pointed out, the prohibition on duelling was totally ineffective. But, he continued, if the existing Tribunal of Marshals of France (whose military standing gave them the required status and authority in this kind of matter) was given a discretionary power to make some duels real trials by combat (as, according to Montesquieu, they actually had once been), then private duelling would begin to fall into disrepute. Just as Madame de Wolmar was no longer Julie d’Etange, so the existence of the new institution would ensure that some duels could, on public inspection, be deemed to be lawful while private duelling would start to lose its association with honour and status and begin to look like any other case of premeditated murder. The way to get rid of duelling was, therefore, not to prohibit it, but to distinguish some duels from others, so that some would look honourable, while the rest would now look shameful. The real trial would then no longer be between two duellists but would instead be about the duel itself and would depend instead largely on the type of evaluation that it was given by the military tribunal. Gradually, this new public source of honour and shame would eclipse 9 “On ne peut trop admirer avec quel art ce ressort, entièrement perdu chez les modernes, était mis en œuvre chez les Romains et mieux chez les Lacédémoniens.” Rousseau, SC, Bk. 4, ch. 7, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 215. The best, and most detailed, study of the subject can be found in Colette Ganochaud, L’opinion publique chez Jean-​Jacques Rousseau (Lille, Atelier de la Reproduction des Thèses, Université de Lille iii, 1980). More generally, see Mona Ozouf, L’homme régénéré. Essais sur la révolution française (Paris, Gallimard, 1989), pp. 21–​53; Keith Michael Baker, Inventing the French Revolution. Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, cup, 1990), pp. 167–​99 (especially p. 189); and J. A. W. Gunn, “Queen of the world: opinion in the public life of France from the Renaissance to the Revolution,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 285 (Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1995).

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private judgments and, as the court began to apply increasingly strict criteria for defining an honourable duel, duelling itself would slowly fall out of existence. If, Rousseau speculated, the Tribunal of Marshals of France were ever to become a real Court of Honour, then France too might begin to change into something other than an absolute monarchy. “Opinion”, he wrote, “the sovereign of mankind, is not subject to the power of kings, but they themselves are her principal slaves.” As he put it in a further discussion of duelling in his novel Julie, the key distinction in this type of subject was not only between “real and apparent honour” but also between the self and others as sources of the appropriate judgment.10 It is easy to connect this idea not only to the two concepts of the language of signs and the materialism of the wise man, but also to the creation, nearly fifty years later, of the French Legion of Honour.11 2

The Origins of the Imagination

As Rousseau presented it, the way to understand the language of signs or the materialism of the wise man was to see that signs could work rather like a Gestalt, or an image that can sometimes look like a duck and sometimes like a rabbit, with the same sign having the ability to signify several, quite different things.12 In this sense, signs were rather like chemical elements. Sometimes they were simple; at other times they were compounds, but the properties of the compound were not the same as those of its constituent elements. In either case, however, both types of sign appeared to have qualities that were not restricted to a single set of attributes. The idea that Rousseau’s political thought owed something to what both Adam Smith and David Hume called a “little philosophical chemistry” has been a longstanding trope in Rousseau studies.13 The description was initially designed to highlight the ambiguity of 10

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Julie or the New Héloïse, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 6, Part I, letter 57, pp. 124–​31 (here p. 125). 11 Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 10, pp. 300–​05. On the origins of the Legion of Honour, see Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 15, 78–​79, 81, 84, 86–​87, 91, 96. 12 Thanks to Hannah Dawson, of King’s College, London, for pointing out this analogy. 13 The phrase was first used by David Hume in his Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals and was picked up by Adam Smith in his review of Rousseau’s second Discourse in the Edinburgh Review in 1756. See Istvan Hont, Politics in Commercial Society (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 2015), p. 21; Eric Schliesser, Adam Smith, Systematic Philosopher and Public Thinker (Oxford, oup, 2017), pp. 210–​11; and Dennis C. Rasmussen, “Rousseau’s Philosophical Chemistry and the Foundations of Adam Smith’s Thought”, History of Political Thought, 27 (2006), pp.  620–​41, together with his The Problems and Promise of Commercial Society (Pennsylvania State UP, 2008), and his “Smith, Rousseau and the

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Rousseau’s moral evaluations and the difference that he seemed to suggest between the apparent and the real reasons for human action. But, as with many other assessments of Rousseau’s thought, the claim is actually more accurate than it initially seems because it captures something of the strange ability of the human mind to ignore or override the usual imperatives of the association of ideas that seems to have captured Rousseau’s attention quite early in his intellectual development. For Rousseau, alongside the association of ideas, there was also an act of choice. Something could, by an act of mind, turn out to be something else. One of the best illustrations of what this ability could entail can be found in Immanuel Kant’s Rousseau-​inspired version of the Book of Genesis, an essay which he entitled “Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History” that was published in the Berlinische Monatsschrift in 1786. In it, Kant used the story about Adam and Eve and the apple as the basis of an account of the Fall that owed more to Rousseau than to Scripture. In this account, therefore, the Fall did not begin with Satan, temptation and eating the apple but a step earlier, with the initial criteria used to decide to eat the apple. These involved choosing to eat something that looked good in the expectation that it would also taste good. The underlying idea, therefore, was that applying the information supplied by one sense to evaluate information supplied by another sense was not a product of instinct, but a real act of choice. The broader message was clear. Animals followed instincts; humans made choices. Kant called this “the first experiment in human freedom” and it did not end well.14 Here too, the bridge between Rousseau’s later concepts and his earlier texts is worth highlighting. In this case, it applied to the imagination. As Kant’s later summary of Rousseau’s second Discourse showed, the story of the Fall could be turned into a very acute rendition of the part played by the imagination, with its mysterious ability to turn general ideas into particular emotions and its endless capacity to endow the same things with different qualities, in supplying the direction and content of the sequence of historical steps that Rousseau laid out in his examination of the origin of inequality. Although it was not particularly visible in the body of the text, the imagination was already

14

True Spirit of a Republican”, in Maria Pia Paganelli, Dennis C. Rasmussen and Craig Smith (eds.), Adam Smith and Rousseau: Ethics, Politics, Economics (Edinburgh, Edinburgh UP, 2018), pp. 241–​59, as well as the helpful editorial introduction, pp. 3–​15. For an impressive examination of the relationship between Rousseau’s thought and chemistry, see Bruno Bernardi, La fabrique des concepts. Recherches sur l’invention conceptuelle chez Rousseau (Paris, Champion, 2006). Immanuel Kant, Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History, in Immanuel Kant, Political Writings, ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge, cup, 1991), pp. 221–​34.

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one of the central concepts of Rousseau’s argument because it had a strong bearing on the two most important claims that he went on to make in setting out its content. These were that humans can eat and drink almost anything and, once established, that the division of labour would have a built-​in bias against agriculture and towards manufacturing industry. Both assertions relied on a prior set of claims about the imagination and, in particular, the imagination’s ability to associate the properties of one thing with those of something else. It meant, in the first place, that humans could associate the information supplied by one sense, like taste, with that supplied by another, like sight, and, on this basis, apply the initial criteria used to select what to eat or drink to something entirely different. It also meant that humans could associate novelty with utility and associate a different appearance or some other different quality with a better performance, a better experience or, despite appearances, a new version of something old. Both capacities, Rousseau claimed, particularly the capacity for eating or drinking anything, helped to explain why humans, unlike cats or pigeons, were perfectible. He made this claim about the promiscuity of the human diet in the course of a dense discussion of the relationship between sensations, ideas and language which, as he indicated, owed a great deal to his reading of the work of the abbé Gabriel Bonnot de Condillac on the origins of human knowledge (the two were also personally acquainted and it is likely that Rousseau’s published comments on Condillac were part of a fuller and more detailed dialogue). Here, the discussion had less, in the first instance, to do either with human diet or human knowledge than with human freedom and perfectibility. As Rousseau presented them, neither freedom nor perfectibility could exist without language because, he argued, only language could supply the propositions needed to identify both a goal and a choice. They in turn, however, also required both general and particular ideas, together with an ability to connect them. This, Rousseau claimed, was what the imagination could do. “Every general idea”, he wrote almost laconically in the course of this discussion, “is purely intellectual; if the imagination is in the least involved, the idea immediately becomes particular.”15 This was because the imagination 15

“Toute idée générale est purement intellectuelle; pour peu que l’imagination s’en mêle, l’idée devint aussitôt particulière.” Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 32; OC, 3, p. 150. One of the few readers of Rousseau to have noticed this was the nineteenth-​century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:  see his On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason [1813] (Open Court, Illinois, 1974), pp. 152–​53. Schopenhauer also pointed out that Hume made the same observation. For the fullest examination of Rousseau’s treatment of the imagination, although it does not refer to this aspect of the subject, see the pioneering study

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was connected to the world of sensations in ways that did not always apply to ideas themselves. While there could be such a thing as a general idea, there was certainly no such thing as a general sensation. Sensations, by definition, were particular, while ideas could be either particular or general. The problem, however, was that general ideas, like the idea of a tree or a triangle (these were Rousseau’s examples), had no emotional content, just as particular sensations had no rational content. This was why the imagination mattered. It could establish a bridge between the general and the particular by turning the sign of one thing into a sign of something else. By doing so, it could also give an idea the type of emotional content that was naturally the property of a sensation because it alone had a peculiar ability to turn the general into the particular and, more specifically, turn a general idea into a particular sensation. Just as the imagination made it possible to guess how something would taste in the light of how it actually looked, so it could also make it possible to conceive of new variations on things that were already recognisable or useful and make them seem entirely new. By doing so, the imagination was the real source of the endless process of substituting the new for the old that was the basis of the manufacturing industry’s rise to domination over agriculture. On these terms, being human meant being free to choose, but being free to choose also meant following the path that led away from agriculture, self-​sufficiency and social stability. On Rousseau’s terms, there was no need for the idea of the Fall because everything that it was taken to be responsible for could be done simply by the power of the imagination. The life of the imagination was lived out in the language of signs. The idea lay behind one of the most extraordinary pieces of prose that Rousseau produced. It was part of a description of the imagination and its powers that Rousseau published in 1762 in his Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse. “In this world”, he wrote there, “the land of illusions is the only one worth inhabiting, and such is the void of human affairs that, with the exception of that Being who is self-​ existent, the only beauty to be found is in things that are not.” The words were given to Julie d’Etange, the heroine of the eponymous novel, but their breath-​ taking punchline (il n’y a rien de beau que ce qui n’est pas) is a vivid illustration of Rousseau’s fascination with the magical powers of the human imagination. The argument in which the passage appeared consisted of an aphoristic set of paradoxes that were designed to uncover the hidden, emotional side of human nature and, by doing so, to explain why the emotions in question meant

by Christopher Kelly, Rousseau’s Exemplary Life: The Confessions as Political Philosophy (Ithaca, Cornell UP, 1987), pp. 76–​163.

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that, for moderns like Julie and her lover Saint-​Preux, illusion had to count as much, if not more, than reality. “Woe to him who has nothing left to desire”, Julie wrote to Saint-​Preux in her letter outlining what she hoped, after her marriage to Wolmar, would be the new basis of their attachment. “He is deprived, so to speak, of all that he possesses.” We enjoy what we obtain less than what we hope for and are happy only before we have achieved happiness. Indeed, man, made to crave everything and obtain little, of boundless avarice, but narrow capacity, has received of heaven a consoling power which brings to him in idea everything he desires, submits it to his imagination, makes it seem present and palpable, delivers it to him so to speak and, to render this imaginary property still more flattering and agreeable, even modifies it as his passion dictates. Reality, however, would break the spell. “We do not have fantasies”, Julie continued, “about what we can see. The imagination can no longer embellish what we actually possess. Illusion ends where enjoyment begins.” This, she concluded, was why “the land of illusions” was the only one worth inhabiting and why, as a result, there was nothing beautiful except what was not.16 Rousseau repeated the phrase a year later in his Emile in the context of explaining why Emile and Sophie were presently too young to marry and why a period of separation would strengthen, not weaken, their love. “Imagination adorns what one desires”, Rousseau wrote, “but abandons it when it is in one’s possession. Apart from the only being that is self-​existent, there is nothing 16

“Malheur à qui n’a plus rien à désirer! Il perd pour ainsi dire tout ce qu’il possède. On jouit moins de ce qu’on obtient que de ce qu’on espère, et l’on est moins heureux qu’avant d’être heureux. En effet, l’homme avide et borné, fait pour tout vouloir et peu obtenir, a reçu du ciel une force consolante qui rapproche de lui tout ce qu’il désire, qui le soumet à son imagination, qui le lui rend présent et sensible, qui le lui livre en quelque sorte, et pour lui rendre cette imaginaire propriété plus douce, le modifie au gré de sa passion. Mais tout ce prestige disparait devant l’objet même; rien n’embellit plus cet objet aux yeux du possesseur; on ne se figure point ce qu’on voit; l’imagination ne pare plus rien de ce qu’on possède, l’illusion cesse où commence la jouissance. Le pays des chimères est en ce monde le seul digne d’être habité et tel est le néant des choses humaines, qu’hors l’Etre existant par lui-​même, il n’y a rien de beau que ce qui n’est pas.”: Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, in Rousseau, OC, vol. 2, part 6, viii, p. 693. I have followed, with modifications, the translation in Rousseau, CW, vol. 6, ed. Philip Stewart and Jean Vaché, p. 569. I owe my initial acquaintance with this remarkable passage to the discussion of it in Marian Hobson, The Object of Art. The theory of illusion in eighteenth-​century France (Cambridge, cup, 1982), pp. 119–​20.

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beautiful except that which is not.”17 Both the phrase and its somewhat surprising second appearance in the context of a comparison between divine and human attributes are an indication of how close Rousseau’s exploration of the imagination came to a tradition of Christian apologetics that, in the eighteenth century, was frequently –​and usually dismissively –​labelled “enthusiasm”.18 Enthusiasm meant the powerful cluster of emotions involved in sacrifice, altruism, or devotion to something other –​or more –​than oneself. In this respect, Rousseau’s usage was similar. But in his case, the initial analytical focus fell more directly on the anatomy of the emotion than on the nature of its object. In doing so, and as was also the case with his examination of diet and its bearing on the peculiarly human capacity for perfectibility, Rousseau paid as much attention to the sensible as to the supra-​sensible. “It is in man’s heart that the life of nature’s spectacle exists”, he wrote in Emile. “To see it one must feel it.”19 This was what the imagination could do. It could reverse the standard relationship between sensations, ideas and emotions by turning a general idea, like the spectacle of nature, into a feeling.20 If it could do this, then the way was open to a much richer and fuller account of the part played by the imagination in human life. Just as the imagination could turn general ideas into particular feelings, so it could also turn something simple into something compound by endowing the same thing or the 17 18

19 20

“L’imagination qui pare ce qu’on désire l’abandonne dans la possession. Hors le seul Etre existant par lui-​même il n’y a rien de beau que ce qui n’est pas.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 636; OC, iv, p. 821. On enthusiasm, see Lawrence E.  Klein and Anthony J.  La Vopa (eds.), Enthusiasm and Enlightenment in Europe, 1650–​1850 (San Marino, California. Huntington Library, 1998)  and the issue of the Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 59 (2008) devoted to “L’enthousiasme, crises politico-​religieuses et critiques philosophiques (xvii-​xviii siècles)”. See too Jon Mee, Romanticism, Enthusiasm and Regulation: Poetics and the Policing of Culture in the Romantic Period (Oxford, oup, 2005) and, on Kant and enthusiasm, Peter D.  Fenves, A Peculiar Fate. Metaphysics and World-​History in Kant (Ithaca and London, Cornell UP, 1991), pp. 170–​285 (and, in particular, footnote 42); Robert R. Clewis, The Kantian Sublime and the Revelation of Freedom (Cambridge, cup, 2009). Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p.  313 (& p.  98 from the Favre Manuscript). It was, as the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling put it, “the power of mutually forming into a unity [Ineinsbildung] upon which all creation really is based” or “the power whereby something ideal is simultaneously something real, the soul simultaneously the body, the power of individuation that is the real creative power.” Friedrich Schelling, The Philosophy of Art, translated by Douglas W.  Stott (Minneapolis, U of Minnesota Press, 1989)  p.  32, cited in Gerad Gentry and Konstantin Pollok (eds.), The Imagination in German Idealism and Romanticism (Cambridge, cup, 2019), p. 1. Rousseau is not, however, mentioned in this collection.

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same individual with a multitude of different identities, attributes or qualities. Much of the time, of course, the imagination would simply be wrong. This was often the case with immaterial entities, like minds, spirits, emotions, concepts or, most obviously, God. “Every child who believes in God”, Rousseau wrote, “is therefore necessarily an idolater or at least an anthropomorphist. And once the imagination has seen God, it is very rare that the understanding conceives him.”21 Rousseau was adept at picking out this type of double-​bind. In a general sense, it could be described as his life’s work. In a more detailed sense, however, it was also why his moral and political thought has such a strongly Janus-​faced quality. Something that seemed to be positive would turn out to be bleakly negative but then, on closer inspection, would also have qualities which, as has been said, could be blessings in disguise.22 One of the most widely discussed examples of his ability to highlight both the positive and negative sides of human nature was his treatment of the feeling of pity. What is less widely discussed, however, is Rousseau’s treatment of the relationship between pity and love. Putting the two together makes it easier to identify the centrality of the idea of a double-​bind in Rousseau’s thought because it helps to show that the real double-​bind both in human life and human history was formed by the subject of love. Pity, in a full sense, called for compassion and compassion called for a capacity to love. But the capacity for love also presupposed the concept of a self (or what Rousseau called a moi or me) and the concept of a self gave rise in turn to amour-​propre. Pity, from this perspective, was part of the double-​bind produced by love. Much of Rousseau’s treatment of the two subjects was set out initially in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality but was explored more fully in the Essay on the Origin of Languages, the work that Rousseau began to write in 1755 at the same time as he wrote the second Discourse, but which was published posthumously only in 1781. In both works, he showed that love had begun in the warm and fertile lands of the South (meaning, substantively, the region of the Nile) but he also argued, in the Essay on the Origin of Languages, that the discovery of love had come to modify and extend the natural human capacity for pity. Where, in the second Discourse, pity began as a firmly self-​centred emotion (a feeling of revulsion at another’s pain), it became more strongly other-​oriented (a feeling of compassion

21 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, pp. 413–​14. I have modified the translation. 22 See Jean Starobinski, Blessings in Disguise; or the Morality of Evil [Paris, 1989], translated by Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1993).

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towards another’s suffering).23 As Rousseau went to some lengths to show, this more extensive imaginative capacity was acquired, not innate. It began in the South, where language originated in the desire to be loved. It then travelled to the North, where language began with the demand to be helped. There, once the capacity to love encountered the call to be helped, pity could become compassion and, with further migration from north to south, could then become a general human capacity. 3

The Genealogy of Love

Pity in its first expression was a natural but negative emotion and became an acquired but more positive emotion in its second, more altruistic, expression. This was because it had been reinforced by the emotion of love. Rousseau’s concept of love had some of the same composite qualities as his concept of pity. As with pity, love was both natural, in the guise of amour-​de-​soi or self-​ concern, and artificial, in the guise of amour-​propre, or self-​regard. As should be apparent, Rousseau did not have a further set of terms that could be used to differentiate both these forms of love from, if it existed, love itself. The difficulty helps to explain why, when Rousseau did try to describe love, he usually did so by way of a comparison between human and divine love, as he imagined it. Divine love, being in some sense the love of something unlimited in time and space, would be entirely self-​centred because there would be nothing beyond itself that it could love. God, in this sense, would be the ultimate Epicurean. Human love would be different because humans are limited in both time and space which meant, in the light of the comparison with the divinity, that human love would be the love of something other than the self. But it was hard to specify what this other was. If human limitations were the sole basis of human love, then human love would be simply amour-​de-​soi and this, as Rousseau showed in the second Discourse, was what it naturally was. But human love, at least in principle, was also other-​directed and reciprocal and presupposed both the idea of a self and someone more than the self. It was, therefore, different from amour-​propre because it was oriented outwards rather than inwards, towards something –​or someone –​other than oneself. The problem was to find a form of words to describe what this extra something was.

23

See Derrida, De la grammatologie, pp. 258–​65, for the clearest account of how to reconcile these two characterisations of pity.

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The problem was very familiar at the time when Rousseau was addressing the subject-​matter of the second Discourse and the Essay on the Origin of Languages because it was part of the long afterlife of the great theological struggle between Jansenists and Molinists of the seventeenth century. There, the problem of love was bound up with the related subjects of the Fall, concupiscence and original sin and was discussed, at least in part, in terms of the different properties of amour-​de-​soi, amour-​propre and the surprisingly large number of varieties of divine grace that the theological imagination was able to identify.24 Unsurprisingly, the distinction between amour-​de-​soi and amour-​propre was made most widely by thinkers of a more Molinist persuasion (to strong Augustinians like the Jansenists, human life was, put crudely, a matter of sin, concupiscence and various types of grace). For the abbé Jean-​Baptiste Dubos, John Locke’s friend, the “natural sensibility of the human heart” was certainly “the first foundation of society.” But self-​liking (amour de soi-​même) tended to change into “an immoderate fondness of oneself” (amour-​propre) “as men advance in years”, making them “too strongly attached to their present and future interests and too inflexible towards one another when they enter deliberately upon any resolution” to rule out the need for government, laws and the state.25 Anyone, wrote the marquis de Vauvenargues, the early friend of Physiocracy’s founder the marquis de Mirabeau, choosing to die for glory was also inadvertently revealing a real preference for the imaginary life that he was about to purchase at the expense of the real life that he was about to lose. By doing so, Vauvenargues continued, he was justifying “the wise distinction made by some writers between amour-​propre and amour de nous-​memes.” One type of love (amour de nous-​memes), Vauvenargues went on to explain, was bound up with something outside of ourselves; the other (amour-​propre) subordinated everything to ourselves, so that instead of giving ourselves to something else, we aimed rather to give everything to ourselves.26

24

25 26

For an examination of the parallel, English language, distinction between “self-​love” and “self-​liking” and its bearing, through Bernard Mandeville, on Rousseau’s thought, see Christopher Brooke, Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2012), pp. 181–​208. Jean-​Baptiste Dubos, Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et la peinture [1719]. I have used a Utrecht (1732) edition, here Réflexions, section iv, p. 21. Luc de Clapiers, seigneur de Vauvenargues, Introduction a la connaissance de l’esprit humain [1746], ed. Jean Dagen (Paris, Garnier-​Flammarion, 1981), p.  86. According to Dagen, (p. 427, n. 9) Vauvenargues was following Nicolas Malebranche and Jacques Abbadie in making the distinction between amour-​propre and amour-​de-​soi. Although the claim is plausible, it is not there supported by textual evidence.

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Rousseau’s treatment of the distinction between amour-​de-​soi and amour-​ propre was somewhat different from these earlier discussions because, here too, his treatment focused more on origins than outcomes. In this respect, it was similar to his treatment of public opinion because it put the imagination at the centre of the analysis. This move also made it easier to identify the double-​bind built into the feeling of love because it showed that, unlike amour-​de-​soi which was unreflexive and instinctive, love was reflexive and acquired and was, therefore, like amour-​propre. But it also meant that the imagination was as central to love as it was to amour-​propre. This was why trying to eliminate self-​regard in order to recover something more like self-​concern was humanly pointless. The solution had, instead, to rely on the imagination. As Rousseau went on to show, bringing the imagination into the picture supplied a way to bridge the gap between the mind and the body or the moral and the physical more fully and comprehensively than had ever been done before. It could explain why something imagined could sometimes have more power than something experienced and why, contrary to what might be expected, people could come to love something symbolic, like an anthem, a flag or a game, with as much intensity as they could love someone real. Once ignited, Rousseau claimed, the imagination had the power to compel people to feel as strongly about something moral as something physical. From this perspective, both the love of country, or patriotism, and love, including erotic love between real people, could each be described as a single species of the same imaginative genus. Their fundamental kinship made Rousseau’s treatment of the imagination the basic component of his larger moral and political system.27 Rousseau simply noted the imagination’s ability to turn a general idea into a particular feeling in his second Discourse. In Emile he also emphasised that the imagination played no part in the mental or emotional life of a child. In this sense a child was like one of the pre-​social inhabitants of the natural state that he had described in the second Discourse. “His imagination portrays nothing to him; his heart asks nothing of him”, Rousseau wrote there.28 In both texts, 27 28

On this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see, helpfully, Eric Zernik, “Le statut de l’imagination dans l’Emile”, in André Charrak and Jean Salem (eds.), Rousseau et la philosophie (Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2004), pp. 57–​69. “If he gets into unforeseen difficulties, he will be less disturbed than another. If there is risk he will be less terrified. Since his imagination still remains inactive, and nothing has been done to animate it, he sees only what is, he estimates dangers only at what they are worth, and always keeps his composure.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, pp. 91 & 305 (see also pp. 48, 193, 236, 300, 359, 373, and the revealing note on p. 366). The absence of an active imagination, Rousseau wrote in the second Discourse, was one of the reasons why “everything seems to remove savage man from the temptation and means of ceasing to be savage.” See Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality,

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the imagination came to life only in adolescence as one of the prerequisites of love. In this sense, love was also a more determinate product of the sexual relationship between men and women than amour-​propre (which, Rousseau noted, arose when humans began to compare their proficiency as hunters or trappers to that of animals). Only in Emile did he begin to explain how an intermittent physical need could turn into the more powerful and durable emotion of love. The key to the transformation, he emphasised there, was the ignition of the imagination. This would occur, Rousseau wrote, once Emile’s “potential faculties” had been “put in action”. Then, the “imagination, the most active of all, is awakened and outstrips them.” It was, Rousseau continued, “imagination which extends for us the measure of the possible, whether for good or bad, and which consequently excites and nourishes the desires by the hope of satisfying them.”29 Once awakened, it was capable of producing an idea of perfection (like, for example, the idea of perfect beauty or a perfect man or woman) and this mixture of the aesthetic and the erotic gave rise in turn to the powerfully positive feeling standardly described in the eighteenth century as “enthusiasm”. The sequence produced a switch from the physical to the moral. “There is no true love without enthusiasm,” Rousseau wrote, “and no enthusiasm without an object of perfection, either real or chimerical, but always existing in the imagination.” What will enflame lovers for whom this perfection no longer exists and who see in what they love only the object of sensual pleasure? No, it is not thus that the soul is warmed and delivered to those sublime transports that are the delirium of lovers and the charm of their passion. Everything is illusion in love, I admit it. But what is real are the sentiments for the truly beautiful with which love animates us and which it makes us love. This beauty is not in the object we love; it is the work of our errors. So! What of it? Because of this, does the lover sacrifice any the less all of his low sentiments to this imaginary model? Does he any the less fill his heart with the virtues he attributes to what he holds dear? Does he detach himself any the less from the baseness of the human I? Where is the true lover who is not ready to immolate himself for his beloved, and where is the sensual and coarse passion in a man who is willing to die? We make fun of the Paladins. That is because they knew love, and we no in Rousseau, CW, 2, p. 28. For discussion of this passage, see Asher Horowitz, Rousseau, Nature, and History (Toronto, U of Toronto Press, 1987), pp. 77–​79 and, particularly, Kelly, Rousseau’s Exemplary Life, pp. 80–​81. 29 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. ii, p. 211; ed. Bloom, Bk. ii, pp. 80–​81.

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longer know anything but debauchery. When these romantic maxims began to become ridiculous, this change was less the work of reason than of bad morals.30 These, Rousseau wrote in Emile, were the emotional mechanisms that came into play in the love between Emile and Sophie. “They see each other as perfect,” he explained, “they love one another; they converse with one another enthusiastically about what gives virtue its reward.”31 The passage also makes the emotional sequence clear. First, there was an “object of perfection”; then a feeling of “enthusiasm”; and finally, the feeling of love. “Love”, Rousseau wrote in the second preface to the Nouvelle Heloise, “is only illusion. It makes, so to speak, another universe for itself. It surrounds itself with objects that do not exist or to which it alone supplies a being; and, since it turns all its sentiments into images, its language is always figurative. But those figures are always imperfect and without direction. Its eloquence is disordered; it proves the more as it reasons the less. Enthusiasm is the last degree of this passion. When it is at its height, it sees its object as perfect; it turns it into its idol and places it in the heavens so that, just as the enthusiasm

30

31

“Il n’y a point de véritable amour sans enthousiasme et point d’enthousiasme sans un objet de perfection réel ou chimérique, mais toujours existant dans l’imagination. De quoi s’enflammeraient des amants pour qui cette perfection n’est plus rien et qui ne voient dans ce qu’ils aiment que l’objet du plaisir des sens? Non, ce n’est pas ainsi que l’âme s’échauffe et se livre à ces transports sublimes qui font le délire des amants et le charme de leur passion. Tout n’est qu’illusion dans l’amour, je l’avoue; mais ce qui est réel ce sont les sentiments dont il nous anime pour le vrai beau qu’il nous fait aimer. Ce beau n’est point dans l’objet qu’on aime, il est l’ouvrage de nos erreurs. Eh! Qu’importe? En sacrifie-​ t-​on moins tous ses sentiments bas à ce modèle imaginaire? En pénètre-​t-​on moins son cœur des vertus qu’on prête à ce qu’il chérit? S’en détache-​t-​on moins de la bassesse du moi humain? Où est le véritable amant qui n’est pas prêt à immoler sa vie à sa maitresse, et où est la passion sensuelle et grossière dans un homme qui veut mourir? Nous nous moquons des Paladins! C’est qu’ils connaissent l’amour et que nous ne connaissons plus que la débauche. Quand ces maximes romanesques commencèrent à devenir ridicules, ce changement fut moins l’ouvrage de la raison que celui des mauvaises mœurs.” Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau, Emile [1762], bk. V, in Rousseau, OC, vol. 4, p. 743; Rousseau, CW, vol. 13, pp. 570–​71. Compare to the less successful translation in Christopher Kelly and Eve Grace (eds.), Rousseau on Women, Love and Family (Hanover, New Hampshire, University Press of New England, 2009), pp. 107–​08. “Ils se voient parfaits, ils s’aiment, ils s’entretiennent avec enthousiasme de ce qui donne un prix à la vertu.” Rousseau, Emile, bk, 5, in OC, vol. 4, p. 792; Rousseau, Emile, CW, vol. 13, p. 611.

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of devotion borrows the language of love, so the enthusiasm of love borrows the language of devotion.”32 Even here, however, it was not clear what made it possible for the imagination to come up with an initial idea of what Rousseau called “an object of perfection.” One possible explanation, which Rousseau simply suggested, was connected to female modesty or pudeur. This explanation implied that women were responsible not only for taking humanity’s first steps into the world of the imagination but were also the real source of humanity’s capacity for morality. It is an explanation that chimes well with one of Rousseau’s most famous statements about the relationship between men and women. “The supreme being”, he wrote in book 5 of Emile, “wanted to do honour to the human species in everything.” While giving man inclinations without limit, he gives him at the same time the law which regulates them, in order that he may be free and in command of himself. While abandoning man to immoderate passions, he joins reason to these passions in order to govern them. While abandoning woman to unlimited desires, he joins modesty to these desires in order to constrain them. In addition, he adds yet another real recompense for the good use of one’s faculties –​the taste we acquire for decent things when we make them the rule of our actions. All this, it seems to me, is worth more than the instinct of beasts.33 32

33

“L’amour n’est qu’illusion; il se fait, pour ainsi dire, un autre univers; il s’entoure d’objets qui ne sont point, ou auxquels lui seul a donné l’être; et comme il rend tous ses sentiments en images, son langage est toujours figuré. Mais ces figures sont sans justesse et sans suite; son éloquence est dans son désordre; il prouve d’autant plus qu’il raisonne moins. L’enthousiasme est le dernier degré de la passion. Quand elle est à son comble, elle voit son objet parfait; elle en fait alors son idole; elle le place dans le ciel; et comme l’enthousiasme de la dévotion emprunte le langage de l’amour, l’enthousiasme de l’amour emprunte aussi le langage de la dévotion.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse [1761], in Rousseau, OC, vol. 2, pp. 15–​16. “L’être suprême a voulu faire en tout honneur à l’espèce humaine; en donnant à l’homme des penchants sans mesure il lui donne en même temps la loi qui les règle, afin qu’il soit libre et se commande à lui-​même; en le livrant à des passions immodérées, il joint à ces passions la raison pour les gouverner: en livrant la femme à des désirs illimités il joint à ces désirs la pudeur pour les contenir. Pour surcroit, il ajoute encore une récompense actuelle au bon usage de ces facultés, savoir le gout qu’on prend aux choses honnêtes lorsqu’on en fait la règle de ses actions. Tout cela vaut bien, ce me semble, l’instinct des bêtes.” Rousseau, Emile, Bk. 5, OC, vol. 4, p. 695; CW, vol. 13, p. 533. The claim echoes Rousseau’s earlier association of good taste with morality in his Letter to d’Alembert: “I say taste or morals indifferently”, he wrote in a note there. “For although the one is not the other, they always have a common origin and undergo the same revolutions. This does not imply that good taste and good morals always reign at the same time, which is an

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At the same time, however, the explanation also added a more contingent element to the account of the transformation of pity into compassion set out in the Essay on the Origin of Languages because it suggested that love began as an unintended outcome of feelings generated by misrecognised physical behaviour and, more specifically, by the feelings produced by the first blush, the first sigh or the first averted gaze. Rousseau was careful to avoid rehearsing a well-​established argument about the connection between menstruation and modesty at much length but was still prepared to refer to its bearing on the female imagination and, by extension, on modesty’s natural character. The move was consistent with Rousseau’s emphasis on the initially solitary character of natural human life. Unlike every other explanation of the origins of the imagination, claiming that the process began with a woman’s physically generated awareness of herself allowed Rousseau to avoid question-​begging assumptions about social interaction as the key to the sources of the self while, at the same time, enabling him to give the imagination a content that could go with the grain of his broader account of human capabilities. It also allowed him to attack the idea that modesty was an acquired quality. According to the “new-​fangled philosophy which has its rise and declension in the corner of a large city (meaning Paris)”, Rousseau wrote in his Letter to d’Alembert, “modesty has no foundation in nature; it is only a contrivance of society to secure the privileges of fathers and husbands and to maintain some order in families.” Why should we blush at the wants we receive from nature? Why should we find reason to be ashamed of an act so indifferent in itself and so useful in its effects, as that which contributes to perpetuate the species? Since the desires are equal on both sides, why should there be any difference in disclosing them? Why should one sex be less ready than the other to comply with inclinations common to both? Why should man in this respect have any other laws than those of brutes?34

34

assertion that requires clarification and discussion. But it is indisputable that a certain state of taste always answers to a certain state of morals.” Rousseau, Letter to d’Alembert, CW, vol. 10, p. 264, note **. “A l’instant va s’élever contre moi cette philosophie d’un jour qui nait et meurt dans le coin d’une grande ville, et veut étouffer le cri de la nature et la voix unanime du genre humaine…La pudeur n’est rien. Elle n’est qu’une invention des loix sociales pour mettre à couvert les droits des pères et des époux, et maintenir quelque ordre dans les familles. Pourquoi rougirions-​nous des besoins que nous donna la nature? Pourquoi trouverions-​ nous un motif de honte dans un acte aussi indifférent en soi, et aussi utile dans ses effets que celui qui concourt à perpétuer l’espèce? Pourquoi les désirs étant égaux des deux parts, les démonstrations en seraient-​elles différentes? Pourquoi l’un des sexes se

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The argument about the value of women’s modesty was still valid, Rousseau wrote, here making his only gesture towards the subject of menstruation, even if “the fear, modesty and shame by which their sex is so agreeably distinguished are social inventions.”35 Modesty began with women and centred on sex because, he argued, shame about sex was neither acquired nor pointless. It was as natural as sleeping at night (when darkness gave protection to the helpless sleeper), or the solitude sought by a wounded animal (so that it could die in peace, beyond the range of the predators it could no longer resist). It was “the safeguard which nature has given to both sexes to protect them in a state of weakness and self-​oblivion, when they are entirely at the mercy of the first comer.”36 Most importantly, however, it was the bridge between the purely physical nature of the sexual act and the moral effects that it was able to produce. In this context, modesty went hand in hand with the apparent differences in physical strength between men and women. Sexual desire was undoubtedly as powerful in women as in men, but physical strength seemed to be another matter. If women were as physically able as men to satisfy their own desires, the effect of this reversal of roles would be to expose the frailty of the more erratic character of male sexual performance. The assailant might chance to pitch upon a time, when it would be impossible to succeed; the assailed would be let alone when it was proper for him to surrender, or continually harassed when he would be too weak to resist. In a word, power and will being ever at variance and never allowing the desires to be shared, love would no longer be the support, but the scourge and destroyer of nature.37

refuserait-​il plus que l’autre aux penchants qui leurs sont communs? Pourquoi l’homme aurait-​il sur ce point d’autres loix que les animaux?” Rousseau, OC, vol. 5, p. 76; CW, vol. 10, p. 313. 35 “Si la timidité, la pudeur, la modestie qui leurs sont propres sont des inventions sociales, il importe à la société que les femmes acquièrent ces qualités; il importe de les cultiver en elles, et toute femme qui les dédaigne offense les bonnes mœurs.” Rousseau, OC, vol. 5, p. 80; CW, vol. 10, p. 315. 36 Rousseau, OC, vol. 5, p. 76; CW, vol. 10, p. 312. 37 “Que deviendrait l’espèce humaine si l’ordre de l’attaque et de la défense était changé? L’assaillant choisirait au hasard des temps où la victoire serait impossible; l’assailli serait laissé en paix quand il aurait besoin de se rendre, et poursuivi sans relâche quand il serait trop faible pour succomber; enfin le pouvoir et la volonté toujours en discorde ne laissant jamais partager les désirs, l’amour ne serait plus le soutien de la nature, il en serait le destructeur et le fléau.” Rousseau, OC, vol. 5, p. 77; Letter, pp. 109–​10 (ed. Fuchs, p. 112); CW, vol. 10, pp. 312–​13.

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Modesty was an inwardly reflexive, but outwardly ambiguous, emotion. A woman might blush when a man first set eyes on her since she, because of her awareness of her own body, could already imagine what she took to be her own imperfections. He, however, might then interpret the blush as a sign of her desire for him and this misrecognition of his imagined qualities would ignite his own awareness of himself and, at the same time, reinforce the close relationship between love and amour-​propre. Love, therefore, was the outcome of a sequence of misrecognised signs. It allowed someone to identify imaginatively with someone else’s feelings and, equally imaginatively, to turn an image of perfection into an experience of reality. Once it began to work its magic, serial promiscuity would give way to durable monogamy. As Rousseau put it in Emile, “far from love coming from nature, it is the brake on nature’s inclinations.”38 From this perspective, love was nature’s antidote both to the continuous quality of female sexual availability and to the intermittent character of male sexual capacity. This made modesty the real source of women’s power. All the evidence, Rousseau pointed out, seemed to suggest that women were actually more physically robust than men because women had to undergo the physical hardships of pregnancy and childbirth. But this, he argued, was to confuse cause with effect. If physical strength and endurance really were the main hallmarks of female nature, it would be hard to explain the absence of ferocious competition among women for sexually potent males. The fact that this did not naturally occur implied that women were actually equipped with something more  –​or something other –​than the purely physical capacities required for childbirth. As Rousseau explained, “to reduce them to this painful state, it was requisite that they should be so strong as not to yield without their own consent, and so weak, as to always have a pretext for yielding.”39 Modesty allowed them to do both. Even turtle doves, Rousseau added, seemed to know this. Rousseau produced his fullest description of the relationship between love and the imagination in his melodrama, Pygmalion, probably written in 1762 but first performed in Lyon only in 1770 (in histories of music Rousseau is usually said to have created both the word and the musical genre that he called a mélodrame). The original drama was part of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and culminated in the act in which the goddess Venus turned Pygmalion’s ivory statue of a beautiful woman (it was Rousseau who gave her the name Galatea) into a real woman. In Rousseau’s version, however, Pygmalion’s imagination does all the 38 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, OC, vol. 4, Bk. 4, p.  494:  “loin que l’amour vienne de la nature, il est….le frein de ses penchants.” Rousseau, CW, vol. 13, p. 365. 39 Rousseau, OC, vol. 5, p. 79; Letter, p. 113 (ed. Fuchs, p. 115); CW, vol. 10, p. 314.

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work in projecting an aura of sexuality over both the statue and its maker (it also indicated that both the idea of a self –​and, by extension, the imaginative foundations of morality –​began with a woman). When Galatea comes to life, she first touches herself and says “me”. Then she touches something else and says, “not me”. But when she touches Pygmalion, she says “still me” because, as Pygmalion has realised, imagining himself to be her not only allows him to imagine her desire while experiencing his own, but also enables him to imagine how the two sensations will be felt by a single composite person, which the statue calls, figuratively, “me”. At first, under desire’s initial sway, Pygmalion had longed simply to lose himself in her. Then, however, he realises that if he really were to become her, he would no longer be aware of his own feelings. This imaginative insight gives rise to Pygmalion’s further realisation that his own imagination has the dizzying power to switch from his real feelings to her imagined feelings and to incorporate her imagined self-​awareness into his all-​too-​real awareness of himself. In Ovid, the story turns on Galatea’s beauty; in Rousseau, it turns on Pygmalion’s imagination.40 In the hands of Rousseau’s later Italian admirers –​Donizetti, Rossini and, especially, Bellini –​Pygmalion became the model for a new type of musical genre that its audiences called philosophical music or musico filosofico. They did so because it seemed that Rousseau had found a new imaginatively-​driven way to recreate the ancient synthesis of music and the emotions that, even in the early nineteenth century, 40

For a facsimile reproduction of the manuscript and the first printed text of Rousseau’s Pygmalion, together with several early reactions to its content, see Emilio Sala (ed.), Jean-​Jacques Rousseau-​Horace Coignet, Pygmalion (Venice, Ricordi, 1996), pp. ix-​ lxxvii. For the critical edition, see Jacqueline Waeber, Pygmalion, scène lyrique (Geneva, Editions Université –​Conservatoire de Musique, 1997). For interpretations of Rousseau’s melodrama, see, particularly, David Gauthier, Rousseau, The Sentiment of Existence (Cambridge, cup, 2006), pp.  124–​26; Shierry M.  Weber, “The Aesthetics of Rousseau’s Pygmalion”, MLN, 83 (1968), pp. 900–​18 and Henriette Beese, “Galathée à l’origine des langues: Comments on Rousseau’s Pygmalion as a Lyric Drama”, MLN, 93 (1978), pp. 839–​ 51. On the Pygmalion story, see Walter Buske, “Pygmaliondichtungen des 18 Jahrhundert”, Germanische-​Romanische Monatsschrift, 7 (1915), pp.  345–​54; J.  L. Carr, “Pygmalion and the Philosophes: The Animated Statue in Eighteenth-​Century France”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 23 (1960), pp. 239–​55; Jane M. Miller, “Some versions of Pygmalion”, in Charles Martindale (ed.), Ovid Renewed. Ovidian Influences on Literature and Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, cup, 1988), pp. 205–​ 14; Victor I. Stoichita, The Pygmalion Effect. From Ovid to Hitchcock (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2008), translated as L’effet Pygmalion. Pour une anthropologie historique des simulacres (Geneva, Droz, 2008); George L. Hersey, Falling in Love with Statues: Artificial Humans from Pygmalion to the Present (Chicago, U. of Chicago Press, 2009); Anne Geisler-​ Szmulewicz, Le mythe de Pygmalion au xixe siècle: pour une approche de la coalescence des mythes (Paris, Champion, 1999).

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was still symbolised by the figure of Orpheus.41 In a more political sense, however, and with Rousseau himself, Pygmalion was a vivid illustration of the imaginative origins of a moi commun and the binding power of a common self. “Jean-​Jacques was not French and is, without doubt, the foremost erotic writer to have written in that language”, wrote Germaine de Staël’s friend Charles de Villers in an essay published in 1806 comparing the treatment of love in French and German literature.42 “Rousseau’s philosophèmes are, absolutely speaking, a feminine philosophy or a theory of femininity,” was the verdict of the German poet and philosopher Novalis.43 Both Friedrich Schiller and his follower Wilhelm von Humboldt made the connection between the aesthetic and the erotic the basis of their conjectural histories of the origins of morality. Friedrich Schlegel’s erotic novel Lucinde was a vivid illustration of Rousseau’s idea of sex, or more specifically women’s sexuality, as the bridge between the physical and the moral.44 If the Protestant theologian Friedrich 41

42

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For a fascinating study of the reverberations of Rousseau’s work, see Ellen Lockhart, “Pimmalione: Rousseau and the Melodramatisation of Italian Opera”, Cambridge Opera Journal, 26 (2014), pp. 1–​39 (particularly pp. 4, 6, 35). I am indebted to Flora Willson of King’s College, London for bringing this article to my notice. See too Ellen Lockhart, Animation, Plasticity and Music in Italy, 1770–​1830 (Berkeley, California, U of California Press, 2017), especially pp. 45–​84, and Alban Ramaut and Céline Carenco (eds.), La série Musique de l’Encyclopédie méthodique (Paris, Champion, 2018). “Jean-​Jacques n’était pas français; et il est, sans contredit, le premier des érotiques qui aient écrit dans cette langue.”: Charles Villers, “Sur la manière essentiellement différente dont les poètes français et les allemands traitent l’amour”, first published in Polyanthea (Münster, 1806), reprinted in Le Conservateur. Journal de littérature, de sciences et de beaux arts (Amsterdam, 1807–​08), and then edited by Edmond Eggli, L’ Erotique comparée de Charles de Villers (Paris, 1927), pp. 162–​205. The passage cited here is from section §18 of Villers’s essay (pp. 180–​81 in Eggli’s edition). Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg), Encyclopédie, ed. Maurice de Gandillac (Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1966), p. 361. On this theme, see Robert Leroux, “La métaphysique sexuée de Guillaume de Humboldt”, Mélanges de la Faculté des Lettres de Strasbourg, 4 (1946), pp. 23–​51;“L’esthétique sexuée de Guillaume de Humboldt”; Etudes Germaniques, 3 (1948), pp.  261–​73; and his “L’anthropologie comparé de Guillaume de Humboldt”, Publications de la Faculté des Lettres de l’université de Strasbourg, 135 (1958); Raymond Immerwarhr, “Sublime Manliness and Lovely Femininity in the Age of Goethe”, in C. P. Magill, Brian A. Rowley and Christopher J.  Smith (eds.), Tradition and Creation. Essays in honour of Elizabeth Mary Wilkinson (Leeds, Maney and Son, 1978), pp.  46–​62. See too Paola Giacomoni, “Differenza sessuale e filosofia della natura in Wilhelm von Humboldt”, Annali di discipline filosofiche dell’Università di Bologna, 6 (1984–​85), pp. 97–​121. On Schlegel’s Lucinde, see Friedrich Schlegel, Lucinde and the Fragments, ed. and translated by Peter Firchow (London, Athlone Press, 1971)  and, for commentary, see George Pattison, “Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde:  A Case Study in the Relation of Religion to Romanticism”, Scottish Journal of Theology, 38 (1985), pp. 545–​64, and his later Kierkegaard, Religion and the

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Schleiermacher was initially willing to endorse Schlegel’s Rousseau-​inspired novel, other reactions were less sympathetic. Although, wrote one of his critics, Rousseau had presented his ideas on women “with all the magic of that genuinely captivating eloquence” which he alone possessed, “he seems to have seen women as no more than objects of men’s sensuality or as objects of that enthusiastic and delirious love that is at once the charm and torment of youth.”45 “What does that unworthy Rousseau have against us?”, wrote another critic. “What has the human race done to him to make him constantly wish to degrade it? Not content with wanting to show that, having renounced all society and all enlightenment, we are descended from the rank of brutes, he also tries to infuse the fire of love into our hearts. What efforts has he not made to ennoble that harmful passion and give it proselytes. Notice too that he wants love to be extreme, and that it has to be a passion if it is to be a noble sentiment…. This Rousseau is the only writer I know to have written seriously –​and with the intention to persuade –​about a passion that vilifies and degrades mankind in terms of its object, effects and means.”46 Even Goethe was unimpressed by the sexuality of Rousseau’s Pygmalion and the tension between the artistic and the erotic that it contained. “He ends up”, Goethe commented, “through an act of the most vulgar sensuality, in destroying the highest products of thought and action.”47 On these terms, Pygmalion was, literally, literary masturbation. It is not difficult to see why the long, usually hostile, association between Rousseau

45 46

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Nineteenth-​Century Crisis of Culture (Cambridge, cup, 2004), pp. 116–​36; David Farrell Krell, “Lucinde’s Shame:  Hegel, Sensuous Woman, and the Law”, in Drucilla Cornell, Michael Rosenfeld and David Gray Carlson (eds.), Hegel and Legal Theory (London, Routledge, 1991), pp.  287–​300. For a helpful examination of this type of eighteenth-​ century discussion of the relationship between sexuality and spirituality, see Marsha Keith Schuchard, Why Mrs Blake Cried:  William Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision (London, Hutchison, 2006). François Thurot, “Seconde lettre aux auteurs de la Décade sur quelques mémoires du C. Cabanis”, Décade philosophique, 26, 20 Prairial an viii, pp. 461–​68 (468). “Que nous veut donc cet indigne Rousseau! Que lui a fait la race humaine pour chercher sans cesse à la dégrader? Non content de vouloir que renonçant à toute société, à toute lumière, nous descendions au rang des brutes, il faut encore qu’il essaie de souffler dans nos cœurs le feu de l’amour? Quels efforts ne fait-​il pour anoblir cette funeste passion, et lui faire des prosélytes? Et remarquez qu’il veut que l’amour soit extrême, qu’il veut qu’il soit une passion pour être un sentiment noble….Ce Rousseau est le seul écrivain que je connaisse qui ait écrit sérieusement et dans le dessein de convaincre sur cette passion qui avilit l’homme par son objet, ses effets, par ses moyens.” [Butot], Cours de morale, fondée sur la nature de l’homme, 2 vols. (London, 1789), vol. 1, p. 235n1. J. W. Goethe, Wahrheit und Dichtung, in Goethe, Werke (Stuttgart, 1863), vol. 4, p. 180, cited by Jean Starobinski, J. J. Rousseau: La transparence et l’obstacle (Paris, 1971), p. 91.

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and romanticism grew out of Rousseau’s ambitious attempt to explain how the imagination could make the leap from the physical to the moral. 4

The Imagination and the Social Contract

The same imaginative mechanism applied to the idea of a social contract. Contracts usually involve at least two parties. Rousseau’s social contract, to repeat the point, involved only one and, by doing so, became the basis of Kant’s later concept of autonomy or the idea of the self giving itself a law. “Each of us”, he wrote in Book 1, Chapter 6 of the Social Contract, “puts his person and his full power in common under the supreme direction of the general will: and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” This formula, he went on immediately to explain at the beginning of Chapter 7, “shows that the act of association involves a reciprocal engagement between the public and private individuals and that each individual, by contracting, so to speak, with himself, finds himself engaged in a two-​fold relation: namely, as member of the Sovereign towards private individuals, and as a member of the state toward the Sovereign.”48 In a sense, the social contract began, but also ended, within each individual imagination. Yet it also, of course, encompassed a multitude of different imaginations. Its viability, and its capacity to keep the body politic under “the supreme direction of the general will”, depended therefore on the

48

“Chacun de nous met en commun sa personne et toute sa puissance sous la suprême direction de la volonté générale; et nous recevons en corps chaque membre comme partie indivisible du tout……On voit par cette formule que l’acte d’association renferme un engagement réciproque du public avec les particuliers, et que chaque individu, contractant, pour ainsi dire, avec lui-​même, se trouve engagé sous un double rapport; savoir, comme membre du souverain envers les particuliers, et comme membre de l’état envers le souverain.” Rousseau, OC, vol. 3, Bk. 1, ch. 6–​7, pp. 361–​62. Rousseau, Social Contract and other later political writings, ed. Gourevitch, pp. 50–​51; Rousseau, Collected Writings, vol. 4, ed. Roger D. Masters and Christopher Kelly, p. 139 (the italics are in the original). One of the few Rousseau scholars to have noticed this difference between Rousseau’s idea of a social contract and earlier versions of the same idea is Christopher Bertram, Rousseau and The Social Contract (London, Routledge, 2004), p. 76. I am grateful to Istvan Hont for pointing this out to me. On the broader subject of autonomy and its intellectual ramifications, see Michael Sonenscher, “Liberty, Autonomy and Republican Historiography: Civic Humanism in Context”, in Béla Kapossy, Isaac Nakhimovsky, Sophus A.  Reinert and Richard Whatmore (eds.), Markets, Morals, Politics: Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought. Essays in Honor of Istvan Hont (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 161–​210.

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continuing convergence of these multiple imaginative and imagined selves on a single, equally imagined, common self or moi commun.49 The convergence overlapped with the distinction between the general will and the will of all. That distinction was something like a synonym for the difference between sovereignty, which was singular, and government, which was plural. Both, however, were part of Rousseau’s concept of political society because both, in the last analysis, relied on the imagination to become the attributes of a political society. Rousseau drove the point home by describing the strange process involved in the election of a government when the sovereign became a democracy and, as a result, a government could elect a government. As in Pygmalion, where the imagination made it possible for a statue to be a woman, so, according to Rousseau, did the imagination allow sovereignty to be democratic, but government to be elected. It happens somewhere, as Rousseau pointed out, almost every day of the week, and under modern, not ancient, conditions. But it still requires something of an imaginative leap to understand how and why it does, since the whole process has to involve the same people switching between the roles of citizen and magistrate, in more or less the same place, at more or less the same time. This emphasis on role-​switching, multiple identities and institutional plasticity makes it easier to see that Rousseau did not take the concept of a social contract to be a flat alternative to the state of nature. Here too the later works help to throw light on those that came earlier. “No society can exist without exchange, no exchange without a common measure, and no common measure without equality,” he wrote in Emile in the course of examining the various trades that the book’s eponymous pupil would be encouraged to learn. “Thus”, Rousseau stated, “all society has as its first law some conventional equality, whether of men or of things.” Among men, he continued, conventional equality “makes positive right –​that is government and laws –​necessary.” Among things, conventional equality was established by money and “in this sense”, Rousseau concluded, “money is the true bond of society.”50 Before the social 49

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On the general will, compare James Farr and David Lay Williams (eds.), The General Will: The Evolution of a Concept (Cambridge, cup, 2015); Janusz Grygieńć, General Will in Political Philosophy (Exeter, Imprint Academic, 2013); and Andrew Levine, The General Will (Cambridge, cup, 1993). “Nulle société ne peut exister sans échange, nul échange sans mesure commune, et nulle mesure commune sans égalité. Ainsi toute société a pour première loi quelque égalité conventionnelle soit dans les hommes soit dans les choses. L’égalité conventionnelle entre les hommes, bien différente de l’égalité naturelle, rend nécessaire le droit positif, c’est-​à-​dire le gouvernement et les lois….L’égalité conventionnelle entre les choses a fait inventer la monnaie; car la monnaie n’est qu’un terme de comparaison pour la valeur des choses de différentes espèces, et en ce sens la monnaie est le vrai lien de la société.

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contract, there were, in this more limited sense, conventions. The sequence of steps was similar to the one set out in John Locke’s second Treatise of Civil Government, a book that Rousseau knew well.51 With Rousseau, however, the emphasis fell on stripping property, money and exchange of the illusions produced by the imagination’s propensity to attach more significance to the signs than to the things and, by doing so, to get back to what he called “the real material relations” (les rapports réels et matériels) or “the great relations” (les grandes relations) underlying both “the good and bad order of civil society.”52 From this perspective, the concept of a social contract chimed with an already established human capacity and followed on from the idea of a contract as such. This, in turn, made the figure of the legislator less of a deus ex machina in Rousseau’s thought. As Rousseau went on to describe it, the work of the legislator had less to do with establishing new political arrangements on a socially blank slate than with persuading the people actually involved in the demanding process of state formation to adopt the particular cluster of values, policies and institutions that could deliver the requisite objective. As has been shown recently, the figure of the legislator can, in this sense, be as readily associated with bricolage as with invention because both call for the kind of imaginative creativity involved in establishing something new.53 Here, as Rousseau emphasised, an ability to invoke divine inspiration, like Moses, would help to reinforce the charismatic authority involved in this type of founding process and the contractual arrangements that it entailed. From this perspective, substituting the good for the bad was, ultimately, the work of the imaginative power that accompanied the idea of the social contract and the combination of individual motivation and choice that it was designed to deliver. Understanding the imagination and its power was the first step towards establishing a viably durable relationship between the language of signs and the nature of things.

Mais tout peut-​être monnaie. Autrefois le bétail l’était, des coquillages le sont encore chez plusieurs peuples…” Rousseau, Emile, Bk. iii, in Rousseau, OC, iv, pp. 461–​62; CW, 13, pp. 337–​38. 51 This appreciation of Rousseau’s engagement with Locke is one of the features of Istvan Hont’s illuminating discussion of Rousseau’s thought: see, particularly, Hont, Politics in Commercial Society, pp. 65–​67. 52 Rousseau, Emile, Bk. iii, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 338; OC, iv, pp. 462–​63. 53 I owe this point to Melissa Lane, “Lycurgus, Solon, Charondas. Figuring the Legislator in Platonic Political Thought and its Aftermath”, The 2019 Nicolai Rubinstein Lecture, Queen Mary, University of London (21 March 2019). In the early nineteenth century, it was sometimes claimed that the idea of the legislator as a creator ex nihilo began with Jeremy Bentham and his followers: see, for example, James Reddie, Inquiries Elementary and Historical in the Science of Law (London, Longman 1840), pp. 88–​91, 122.

chapter 5

Conscience and the Structure of Federal Government 1

A Simulacrum of Virtue

Rousseau made two strong claims about the unity of his thought in Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques and his Confessions but, since both works were published posthumously and the dates of their composition is uncertain, it is not clear which of the two claims came first. In the Confessions, however, Rousseau also went beyond asserting that it was possible to identify the systemic quality of his thought from the light that his later works threw on those that came earlier by saying that he first began to display his principles “in open view a little more that I had done until then” in the Preface to his play Narcisse (Narcissus) which he published in 1753. Soon, he continued, he also had “occasion to develop them completely in a work of the greatest importance” which was, of course, his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality.1 The argument of the second Discourse was, clearly, foreshadowed in the Preface to Narcissus. “All our writers”, he wrote there, “regard the masterpiece of politics of our century to be the sciences, the arts, luxury, commerce, laws, and all the other ties, which, by tightening the bonds of society among men through self-​interest, place them all in a position of mutual dependence, impose on them mutual needs and common interests, and oblige everyone to contribute to everyone’s happiness in order to secure his own.” These, he continued, were “fine ideas” but were also “subject to a good many reservations”. 2 There is no need to emphasise that Rousseau went on to spell out these reservations very graphically in the second Discourse. The Preface to Narcissus also, however, contained a second set of principles, centred on the consequences, rather the causes, of the historical and moral trajectory that Rousseau described in the second Discourse. These principles 1 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, 5, p. 326. 2 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Preface to Narcissus, in Rousseau, CW, 2, p.  193. On this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see notably Nannerl O. Keohane, “ ‘The Masterpiece of policy in our century’: Rousseau and the Morality of the Enlightenment,” Political Theory, 6 (1974), pp. 457–​84 and, for a concise summary of Rousseau’s argument in the second Discourse, see Gauthier, Rousseau, pp. 17–​18.

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began with a claim that, as Rousseau put it, “once a people has been corrupted to a certain point”, there was simply no way back. The most, he continued, that could be expected was, firstly to try to prevent further corruption and, secondly, to see that “the same causes that have corrupted peoples sometimes serve to prevent greater corruption.” This quasi-​homeopathic insight, with its implicit claim about disease generating its own cure, also applied to the arts and sciences. 3 They had, Rousseau wrote, certainly “generated the vices” but the arts and sciences were “now necessary” to prevent the vices from turning into real crimes because, he claimed, while they might well “destroy virtue”, they would still leave room for “its public simulacrum, which is always a fine thing.” The simulacrum in question, he added in a note, was “a certain gentleness of manners which can sometimes make up for a lack of purity; a certain appearance of order which can sometimes forestall a more terrible confusion; and a certain admiration for fine things which can sometimes prevent good things from being entirely forgotten.” In this sense, Rousseau claimed, the simulacrum would be like “vice taking on the mask of virtue not, however to deceive and betray, as with hypocrisy, but under the aegis of this attractive and sacred effigy to find release from the horror that vice feels towards itself when it sees itself unmasked.”4 Principles are not systems, but the prominence of the former can sometimes hide the coherence and complexity of the latter. As with Rousseau’s laconic remark in the second Discourse about the imagination, general ideas and particular feelings, the idea that the arts and sciences could create a simulacrum –​or image –​of virtue that would be able to counter vice, at least to the extent of preventing it from becoming crime, was more complicated and more far-​reaching than it might seem. It was connected both to Rousseau’s recurrent, and increasingly complicated, examination of the idea of conscience and, ultimately, to the story relayed by Hume to Edmund Burke about Rousseau and the marvellous in life which, according to Hume, Rousseau took to be the basis of a moral theory for the modern age. The key to both the subject of the marvellous in life and its relationship to conscience was, however, Rousseau’s

3 On this homeopathic aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see, helpfully, Starobinski, Le remède dans le mal, pp. 171–​72 and the English translation, Blessings in Disguise, pp. 122–​23. 4 “Ce simulacre est une certaine douceur de mœurs qui supplée quelquefois à leur pureté, une certaine apparence d’ordre qui prévient l’horrible confusion, une certaine admiration de belles choses qui empêche les bonnes de tomber tout-​à-​fait dans l’oubli. C’est le vice qui prend le masque de la vertu, non comme l’hypocrisie pour tromper et trahir, mais pour s’ôter sous cette aimable et sacrée effigie l’horreur qu’il a de lui-​même quand il se voit à découvert.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Preface to Narcissus, in Rousseau, CW, 2, p. 196.

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consistent ontological and epistemological dualism. That dualism is now most visible in Rousseau’s hostile reaction towards the moral and political thought of Thomas Hobbes’s most explicit eighteenth-​century French admirer, the tax-​ farmer Claude-​Adrien Helvétius, whose controversial De l’esprit (On the Mind) gave rise to a protracted and relatively under-​examined argument between the two men from the time of the book’s publication in 1758 until Helvétius’s death in 1771.5 In public, the argument, which took place initially on the pages of Rousseau’s Julie and Emile and then in the reply by Helvétius in his posthumously published De l’homme (On Man), was relatively muted. In private, as can be seen from the handwritten comments that Rousseau made in his copy of De l’esprit, the argument was much more intense. Its substance turned on Helvétius’s controversial claim that feeling and judgment were, effectively, synonyms. Rousseau disagreed. Feeling was feeling and judgment was judgment because the one was largely passive, while the other was largely active. This, more ferocious side of the argument came more fully into view in Rousseau’s concurrent reaction to Jean Lerond d’Alembert’s endorsement of a plan to establish a public theatre in Geneva. As it did, it soon became clear that Rousseau’s thought was a long way away not only from d’Alembert and Helvétius but also from Voltaire, Diderot, Holbach and the mainstream of Parisian salon society. Rousseau’s published his Letter to d’Alembert in 1758, the same year that Helvétius published his De l’esprit. The coincidence makes it hard to know whether Rousseau’s Letter actually had one target or two. Its content, however, was certainly applicable to both. In it, Rousseau took issue with d’Alembert’s claim that a play had the power to make virtue loveable and vice odious. “I should like to be shown clearly and without verbiage,” he wrote, “how it could produce sentiments in us that we did not already have and how it could cause 5 On the argument, see Albert Schinz, “La profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard et le livre De l’esprit”, Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France, 17 (1910), pp. 225–​61; Pierre-​Maurice Masson, “Rousseau contre Helvétius”, Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France, 18 (1911), pp. 103–​24; Jean H. Bloch, “Rousseau and Helvétius on Innate and Acquired Traits: The Final Stages of the Rousseau-​Helvétius Controversy”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 40 (1979), pp. 21–​41; and the further account in Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 267–​80. On the significance of Rousseau’s comments on Helvétius, see, notably, the fine article by Sophie Audidière, “Why do Helvétius’s Writings matter? Rousseau’s Notes sur De l’Esprit”, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 24 (2016), pp. 983–​1001, as well as Ryan Patrick Hanley, “Rousseau’s Virtue Epistemology”, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 50 (2012), pp. 239–​63, and Andreas Blank, “Helvétius’s challenge: Moral luck, political constitutions and the economy of esteem”, European Journal of Philosophy, 13 (2019), pp. 1–​13. For a helpful recent overview of discussions of the subject of free will in Rousseau’s thought, see David Lay Williams, “Rousseau on Inequality and Free Will”. Political Theory, 45 (2017), pp. 552–​65.

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us to judge moral beings otherwise than how we judge them by ourselves?” The feelings and opinions that seemed to be generated by a play, Rousseau argued, already had to be there. “The love of the beautiful is as natural a sentiment to the human heart as the love of self (amour de soi-​même); it is not born out of an arrangement of scenes; the author does not bring it there, but finds it there and, out of this pure sentiment to which he appeals, are born the sweet tears that he causes to flow.” As Rousseau explained in a note, by “beautiful” he meant “morally beautiful”. “Whatever the philosophers may say of it”, he continued, “this love is innate to man and serves as the principle of conscience.”6 Later, in Julie, he developed the same point about natural human capacities. God, he wrote there, preferred simple means. “In creating man he endowed him with all the faculties needed for the accomplishment of what he required of him, and when we ask him for the power to do good, we ask him for nothing he has not already given us. He has given us reason to discern what is good, conscience to love it, and freedom to choose it.”7 A year later, in Emile, he gave almost the same words to the Savoyard vicar. “Did He [meaning God] not give me conscience for loving the good, reason for knowing it, and liberty for choosing it?”, Rousseau wrote there.8 2

The Origins of Conscience

The connection that Rousseau made between beauty, morality and conscience in the Letter to d’Alembert paralleled the connection between perfection, enthusiasm and love that he made five years later in Emile. Their joint starting

6 “L’amour du beau est un sentiment aussi naturel au cœur humain que l’amour de soi-​même; il n’y naît point d’un arrangement de scènes; l’auteur ne l’y porte pas, il l’y trouve; et de ce pur sentiment qu’il flatte naissent les douces larmes qu’il fait couler.” The note explains: “C’est du beau moral qu’il est ici question. Quoi qu’en disent les philosophes, cet amour est inné dans l’homme, et sert de principe de conscience.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, A M. D’Alembert, sur son article Genève, dans le viie volume de l’Encyclopédie [1758], in Rousseau, OC, v, p. 220; Rousseau, CW, 10, p. 267 and n*. I have modified the translations of both passages. 7 “En créant l’homme il l’a doué de toutes les facultés nécessaires pour accomplir ce qu’il exigeait de lui, et quand nous lui demandons le pouvoir de bien faire, nous ne lui demandons rien qu’il ne nous ait déjà donné. Il nous a donné la raison pour connaitre ce qui est bien, la conscience pour l’aimer, et la liberté pour la choisir.” Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse [1761], in Rousseau, CW, vol. 6, Part 6, letter vii, p. 561. 8 “Ne m’a-​t-​il pas donné la conscience pour aimer le bien, la raison pour le connaitre, la liberté pour le choisir?” Rousseau, Emile, OC, iv, p. 605; Rousseau, CW, 13, Part iv, p. 457.

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point was what Rousseau called “love of order.”9 Like the concept of the general will, the phrase was a well-​established term of art in seventeenth-​century French or German theological and anthropological debates. There, notably in the work of the Oratorian theologian Nicolas Malebranche, the concept was used to explain why, despite the Fall, humans seemed to have a natural inclination towards what they took to be good, independently of whether it was also physical, pleasurable or simply something that could be possessed. In this sense, love of order usually referred to a deep-​seated human capacity to respond positively to a pattern or a rhythm because either or both could be taken to be a sign of intelligent design and, perhaps, a benevolent designer. Rousseau’s usage was somewhat different because, as with his examination of pity and love, his focus fell more on the origins than the outcomes of the capacity in question. Its properties can, initially, be inferred from the concept of a simulacrum of virtue that Rousseau described in the Preface to Narcissus. Unlike a play, it was not designed to promote the type of virtuous behaviour that, according to d’Alembert, could be attributed to a theatrical performance. It was, instead, designed to provide something other than, and an alternative to, the real horror that someone might feel at the imaginatively experienced sight of his or her own behaviour. From this perspective, the connection between beauty, morality and conscience was matched by a further connection between amour-​propre, horror and remorse. Here too, as Rousseau began to show, the bridge between the two was formed by the love of order. Just as the presence of order would ease the claims of conscience, so the absence of order would produce the horror and remorse that brought conscience back to life. Love of order presupposed an initial capacity to distinguish order from disorder. Rousseau began to examine the origins of this capacity in the winter of 1757–​58 at about the same time as he published his Letter to d’Alembert. Its outcome initially took the form of an unpublished series of letters on morality (Lettres morales) addressed to Sophie d’Houdetot, the woman who, for a time, Rousseau imagined would become his lover. Later, most of the content of these letters was transferred to the Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar which Rousseau incorporated into Emile in 1762. There, he began to describe the properties of amour-​de-​soi and to show that the natural concern for their wellbeing displayed by most humans had a moral dimension that was considerably more compatible with the idea of a simulacrum of virtue that he described in the Preface to Narcissus in 1753 than with the more truncated description of

9 For helpful discussion of the concept, see Laurence D.  Cooper, Rousseau, Nature, and the Problem of the Good Life (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State UP, 1999), pp. 90–​94.

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amour-​de-​soi which he set out in the second Discourse in 1755. It did so, Rousseau went on to argue both in the Lettres morales and Emile, because amour de soi was actually less physically oriented than it seemed. Alongside a capacity to feel pity, it was capable of feeling conscience and, in addition, could also have a feeling or sentiment of justice. “We are told”, Rousseau wrote in Emile, clearly with Helvétius in his sights, “that conscience is the work of prejudice”. If this really was the case, then, he wrote several pages later, “I am doubtless wrong and there is no demonstrable morality.” The real answer was different. It was, however, also more complicated because it was the product of a more deep-​ seated tension between self-​interest and justice. If, Rousseau wrote, “to prefer oneself to everything is an inclination natural to man, and if nevertheless the first sentiment of justice is innate in the human heart, let him who regards man as a simple being overcome these contradictions, and I shall no longer acknowledge more than one substance.”10 Conscience, in short, was a product of the dual character of human nature. It presupposed some sort of concept of human freedom because it was this capacity that gave people the possibility of choosing between the two natural, but mutually incompatible, human sentiments of justice and self-​interest.11 Conscience was, therefore, something other than enlightened self-​interest, or an ability to identify what was useful, even if utility could subsequently help to obviate the need for conscience. As Rousseau noted in an earlier passage in Emile, conscience made it possible even for a child to keep its promises, independently of any acquired experience of their utility. “Moreover”, he added, “if this duty to keep commitments were not consolidated in the child’s mind by the weight of its utility, soon the inner sentiment, beginning to sprout, would impose it on him like a law of conscience, like an innate principle which, in order to bloom, awaits only the kinds of knowledge to which it applies. This first sketch is not drawn by the hand of man but is graven in our hearts by the author of all justice.”12 10 Rousseau, Emile, IV, CW, 13, pp. 426 & 440. For helpful discussion, see Gabrielle Radica, “Amour des lois et amour de soi chez Rousseau”, Jus Politicum, 10 (2013), pp. 1–​16. 11 On the subject of freedom in Rousseau’s thought, see David Lay Williams, “Rousseau on Inequality and Free Will”. 12 “Au reste, quand ce devoir de tenir ses engagements ne serait pas affermi dans l’esprit de l’enfant par le poids de son utilité, bientôt le sentiment intérieur commençant à poindre le lui imposerait comme une loi de la conscience; comme un principe inné qui n’attend pour se développer que les connaissances auxquelles il s’applique. Ce premier trait n’est point marqué par la main des hommes, mais gravé dans nos cœurs par l’auteur de toute justice. Otez la loi primitive des conventions et l’obligation qu’elle impose, tout est illusoire et vain dans la société humaine.” Rousseau, Emile, ii, CW, 13, p. 234n*; OC, iv, 334n*.

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As with Rousseau’s analysis of love, there was a sequence. In this case, the sequence began with the natural quality of certain feelings because these, rather than anything to do with rational self-​interest, were the original sources of conscience. Utility undoubtedly made it possible to cement conscience into the routines of social life, but conscience itself came first. Nonetheless, although conscience was, as Rousseau put it, certainly “graven in our hearts by the author of all justice”, it was still possible to explain its origins and emergence in purely natural terms. As he claimed, repeating a passage from his Lettres morales, it was not impossible to account for “the immediate principle of conscience in terms of the consequences of our nature, independently of reason itself.” The explanation that he began to supply centred on what, without explaining his meaning, he called “the double relationship” between a single individual and other people. “For us”, Rousseau wrote in Emile, “to exist is to feel. Our sensitivity is indisputably prior to our intelligence and we certainly had feelings before we had ideas. Whatever the cause of our being, it provided for our preservation by giving us feelings suitable for our nature and it cannot be denied that these, at least, are innate.” For the individual, these feelings are amour de soi, fear of pain, horror at death, desire for well-​being. But if, as cannot be doubted, man is sociable by nature or at least made to become so, he cannot be so without the existence of further innate feelings, in this case relative to his species, because, to take physical need alone, it would certainly disperse rather than bring men together. So, it must be from the moral system formed by this double relationship between oneself and one’s fellows that the impulse of conscience must derive. To know the good is not to love it. Man does not have an innate knowledge of it, but as soon as his reason makes it known to him, his conscience brings him to love it; and it is this feeling that is innate.13

13

“Exister pour nous, c’est sentir; notre sensibilité est incontestablement antérieure à notre intelligence, et nous avons eu des sentiments avant des idées. Quelle que soit la cause de notre être, elle a pourvu à notre conservation en nous donnant des sentiments convenables à notre nature; et l’on ne saurait nier qu’au moins ceux-​là ne soient innés. Ces sentiments, quant à l’individu, sont l’amour de soi, la crainte de la douleur, l’horreur de la mort, le désir du bien-​être. Mais si, comme on n’en peut douter, l’homme est sociable par sa nature, ou du moins fait pour le devenir, il ne peut l’être que par d’autres sentiments innés, relatifs à son espèce; car, à ne considérer que le besoin physique, il doit certainement disperser les hommes au lieu de les rapprocher. Or, c’est du système moral formé par ce double rapport à soi-​même et à ses semblables que naît l’impulsion de la conscience. Connaitre le bien n’est pas l’aimer: l’homme n’en a pas la connaissance innée, mais sitôt

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Rousseau did not describe what he meant by a “moral system” formed by a “double relationship between oneself and one’s fellows” or explain why the relationship was double, but he did make it clear how highly he valued conscience. “Conscience, conscience!”, he wrote in a famous passage in Emile, not only repeating what he had written in his Lettres morales, but also echoing the characterisation of conscience made in 1727 by the Swiss pietist Béat de Muralt in his L’instinct divin recommandé aux hommes (“The Divine Instinct Commended to Mankind”). “Divine instinct”, Rousseau continued, “immortal and celestial voice, certain guide of a being that is ignorant and limited but intelligent and free; infallible judge of good and bad which makes man like unto God; it is you who make the excellence of his nature and the morality of his actions. Without you I sense nothing in me that raises me above the beasts, other than the sad privilege of leading myself astray from error to error with the aid of an understanding without rule and a reason without principle.”14 Conscience was clearly an attribute of amour de soi, not amour-​propre, but it was not clear, either in the Lettres morales or in Emile itself, how it arose or what made it able to identify and react to the difference between right and wrong. Rousseau continued his examination of amour de soi in 1763 in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont Archbishop of Paris, written soon after Emile was condemned by the French Church and banned by the parlement of Paris. This short summary of his moral and political thought is probably the clearest account that Rousseau ever gave of the deep-​seated double-​bind that was built into human perfectibility. Alongside pity, he now wrote, humans were also moved by a natural love of order. It was this love of order, he went on to explain, that was both the source of the human ability to be affected by conscience and the reason why, in a substantially darker version of the idea of effects countering their causes, conscience tended to lose part of its capacity

que sa raison le lui fait connaitre, sa conscience la porte à l’aimer: c’est ce sentiment qui est inné. Je ne crois donc pas, mon ami, qu’il soit impossible d’expliquer par des conséquences de notre nature le principe immédiat de la conscience, indépendant de la raison même.” Rousseau, Emile, ed. Michel Launay, bk. 4, pp. 377–​78. I have modified the translation in Emile, ed. and trans. Allan Bloom (New  York, Basic Books, 1979), p.  290 and Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 453, to bring its version of Rousseau’s terminology into line with the version in Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques (where, for example, the word sensibilité is translated as “sensitivity” rather than “sensibility”, as in the Bloom translation). 14 Rousseau, Emile, Bk. iv; Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 454. For a judicious assessment of the relationship between Rousseau and the thought of Béat de Muralt, see Emile Bréhier, “Les lectures malebranchistes de J. J. Rousseau” [1938], reprinted in his Etudes de philosophie moderne (Paris, puf, 1965), 84–​101 (particularly pp. 93–​95).

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to motivate people under the aegis of the very same love of order. The starting point of this double-​bind was still, as Rousseau put it, that “man is naturally good” because human behaviour was originally motivated solely by amour de soi.15 This natural goodness or amour de soi was, he wrote, the “fundamental principle of all morality”. But, Rousseau now emphasised, amour de soi was a compound passion, made up of “two principles”, not one. The first applied to the body and the satisfaction of its physical needs. But the second principle applied to the mind and involved a different type of pleasure from simple physical well-​being. This intellectual satisfaction was, Rousseau now wrote, the product of “love of order” (amour de l’ordre) which, he continued, “expanded and become active, is denominated conscience.”16 The first principle gave rise to the initially self-​centred feeling of pity, but the second led to a more moral awareness of others. The problem, as Rousseau went on to show in the same Letter, was to find a way to keep amour de soi and amour de l’ordre in balance.17 The absence of any natural human capacity to do so was the cause of the double-​bind built into the first stages of social interaction. To get conscience going, there had to be some sort of knowledge of order. But to get knowledge of order going there had to be relations and comparisons. “Conscience”, Rousseau explained, “is non-​existent (nulle) in a man who has made no comparisons and has not seen his relationships. In this condition, a man knows only himself; he does not see his own well-​being opposed by or in conformity to that of someone else. He neither hates nor loves anything. Limited to simple physical instinct, he is nothing; he is stupid; this is what I showed in my Discourse on Inequality.”18 15

16 17

18

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, An Expostulatory Letter from J. J. Rousseau, Citizen of Geneva, to Christopher de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris (London, 1763), p. 51; Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, p. 28. All the passages cited in this and the following two paragraphs can be found in Rousseau, Letter to Beaumont, pp. 51, 52–​53; Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, pp. 28–​29 For helpful insights into this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see Dieter Henrich, Aesthetic Judgment and the Moral Image of the World (Stanford, Stanford UP, 1992), pp.  12–​16. What follows is somewhat different from the examination of the same passages in the Letter to Beaumont by Hanley, “Rousseau’s Virtue Epistemology”, pp. 255–​56. On the provenance of the concept of love of order, see Bréhier, “Les lectures malebranchistes de J. J. Rousseau”. One of the few Rousseau scholars to have noticed the problem, although without using Rousseau’s discussion in the Letter to Beaumont, is Richard Velkley, Being after Rousseau: Philosophy and Culture in Question (Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 164, note 26. “L’homme n’est pas un être simple; il est composé de deux substances … Cela prouvé, l’amour de soi n’est plus une passion simple; mais elle a deux principes, savoir l’être intelligent et l’être sensitif, dont le bien être n’est pas le même. L’appétit des sens tend à celui du corps, et l’amour de l’ordre à celui de l’âme. Ce dernier amour développé et rendu

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Conscience was therefore the product of relations and comparisons. Relations and comparisons, however, also gave rise to amour-​propre, which set the self and its interests alongside amour de soi and conscience. The two could co-​exist in a kind of precarious balance for as long as common knowledge took precedence over the self and its interests. So long, Rousseau wrote, “as the opposition of their interests is less than the concurrence of their knowledge, men are essentially good.” This, he added, “is the second state of mankind”. This was the state that could be associated with the self-​sufficient peasant households of the region of Neuchâtel or the patriarchal elders who might once have gathered to talk about common affairs under the shade of the village oak. But, Rousseau continued, “when all the particular interests of individuals interfere and clash against each other, when self-​love (amour de soi) is converted by its fermentation into self-​interest (amour-​propre), and opinion, by rendering the whole universe necessary to each individual, makes them all enemies from their birth and causes the happiness of one to depend on the misery of another”, then conscience turned into “a mere empty word which mankind reciprocally make use of to deceive each other.” This, he wrote, was humanity’s “third and last state.” This, in fact, was the state of the moderns. “Then”, Rousseau continued, “everyone pretends to sacrifice his own interest to that of his country, and all are liars. No-​one is desirous of the public good, unless it coincides with his own; and hence this coincidence between the public and private good becomes the object of that true policy which alone is calculated to make men virtuous and happy.” Under modern conditions, Rousseau seemed to imply, old-​style republican virtues no longer applied because the self and its interests now came between the republic and its interests. Instead of the private good having to give way to the public good, the public good now had to coincide with the private good. Rousseau drove home the point about the unusual character of the move by adding immediately, “I am now beginning to talk a strange language, as little understood by the majority of readers as by your Lordship.”19 It is not clear,

19

actif porte le nom de conscience, mais la conscience ne se développe et n’agit qu’avec les lumières de l’homme. Ce n’est que par ces lumières qu’il parvient à connaitre l’ordre, et ce n’est que quand il le connait que sa conscience le porte à l’aimer. La conscience est donc nulle dans l’homme qui n’a rien comparé et qui n’a point vu ses rapports. Dans cet état, l’homme ne connait que lui; il ne voit son bien être opposé ni conforme à celui de personne; il ne hait ni n’aime rien; borné au seul instinct physique, il est nul, il est bête: c’est ce que j’ai fait voir dans mon Discours sur l’inégalité.” Rousseau, Lettre à Beaumont, OC, iv, 936; Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, pp. 28–​29. “Quand enfin tous les intérêts particuliers agités s’entrechoquent, quand l’amour de soi mis en fermentation devient amour-​propre, que l’opinion, rendant l’univers entier

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however, what it was that made it strange, other than the fact that it was obscure. Rousseau did not explain what he meant by “true policy” and how it was able to bring about what he called the “coincidence between the public and private good” which “alone is calculated to make men virtuous and happy.”20 Although he made it clear that modern conditions called for a reversal of the previous relationship between the public and the private, it was not clear how this reversal of perspective and motivation was connected either to the love of order that was part of amour de soi or to its outcome as conscience. On Rousseau’s terms, modern society called for a new relationship between the public and the private. The private good could be described as self-​interest or even selfishness, but both could be countered by conscience. The problem, however, was that conscience originated with the same relations and comparisons as amour-​propre and, once amour-​propre began to develop, it was not clear how conscience could also survive. The double-​bind was similar in character to the double-​bind built into the division of labour. There, once it became entrenched, industry would have a built-​in capacity to destroy agriculture. Here, once relationships and comparisons began to arise, morality would be swallowed up by self-​interest. There are good reasons to think that Rousseau tried to think his way through this type of analytical and political dilemma over the length and breadth of his mature intellectual life. It was already apparent in the initial association of the idea of order with the concept of a public simulacrum of virtue that Rousseau introduced in the Preface to Narcissus. It continued into the more fully-​fledged discussion of the relationship between conscience, amour-​de-​soi and love of order that made its first appearance in Rousseau’s conceptual repertoire a decade later in the Letter to Christophe de Beaumont. It resurfaced finally in the last works that Rousseau wrote because the problem of reconciling self-​interest with justice that

20

nécessaire à chaque homme, les rend tous ennemis nés les uns des autres et fait que nul ne trouve son bien que dans le mal d’autrui, alors la conscience, plus faible que les passions exaltées, est étouffée par elles, et ne reste plus dans la bouche des hommes qu’un mot fait pour se tromper mutuellement. Chacun feint alors de vouloir sacrifier ses intérêts à ceux du public, et tous se mentent. Nul ne veut le bien public que quand il s’accorde avec le sien; aussi cet accord est-​il l’objet du vrai politique qui cherche à rendre les peuples heureux et bons. Mais c’est ici que je commence à parler une langue étrangère, aussi peu connu des lecteurs que de vous.” Rousseau, Lettre à Beaumont, OC, iv, p. 937; Rousseau, CW, vol. 9, p. 29. I have slightly modified the translation. This reversal of the public-​private relationship raises a question mark against the claim about social interdependence, mutual need and common recognition of a particular community (like Poland) as a shared object of allegiance made by David Gauthier in his thought-​provoking interpretation of Rousseau as a failed proto-​communitarian: see David Gauthier, Rousseau: The Sentiment of Existence (Cambridge, cup, 2006), pp. 65–​67.

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he highlighted in Emile prefigured the problem of describing the strange new relationship between the public and the private that he began to address in the Letter to Christophe de Beaumont. There, although Rousseau made it clear that modern conditions called for a reversal of the previous relationship between the public and the private, it was not clear how this reversal of perspective and motivation was connected either to the love of order that was part of amour de soi or to its outcome as conscience. This is probably why, in his final works, notably in Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, the analytical focus fell even more firmly on the imagination and the range of emotional resources on which it could draw to prevent conscience from being obliterated by self-​interest. 3

The Power of Enchantment

Rousseau set out his fullest but also his final examination of amour de soi and its properties in his late and strange work, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques. This examination makes it easier to see why he called the relationship between one person and others not just a relationship, but a double relationship, as he did in Emile. It also makes it easier to begin to understand what he meant by saying, as he did in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, that once there was amour-​propre true policy had to consist of trying to find ways to make the public good coincide with the private good. Rousseau began this final examination of the compound nature of amour de soi with a thought experiment. Imagine, he wrote, an “ideal world” which was like ours, but was still entirely different because everything in it would give rise to heightened feelings. “Forms”, he continued, “are more elegant, colours more vivid, odours sweeter, all objects more interesting. All nature is so beautiful there that its contemplation, inflaming souls with love for such a touching tableau, inspires in them both the desire to contribute to this beautiful system and the fear of troubling its harmony; and from this comes an exquisite sensitivity which gives those endowed with it immediate enjoyment unknown to hearts that the same contemplations have not aroused.”21 Here, the power of the external world would be immediate and 21

“Figurez-​vous donc un monde idéal semblable au notre et néanmoins tout différent. La nature y est la même que sur notre terre, mais l’économie en est plus sensible, l’ordre est plus marqué, le spectacle plus admirable; les formes sont plus élégantes, les couleurs plus vives, les odeurs plus suaves, tous les objets plus intéressants. Toute la nature y est si belle que sa contemplation, enflammant les âmes d’amour pour un si touchant tableau, leur inspire avec le désir de concourir à ce beau système, la crainte d’en troubler l’harmonie, et delà nait une exquise sensibilité qui donne à ceux qui en sont doués des jouissances immédiates, inconnues aux cœurs que les mêmes contemplations n’ont point avivés.”

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positive (like a rose garden on an early summer morning) just as the emotional response to it would be direct and intense. As Rousseau went on to show, morality would be built into this ideal world because its beauty would generate love and the strength of the emotion would, in turn, form a barrier to interference with its harmony. The inhabitants of this ideal world would be moral because they were good, rather than good because they were moral. Conscience, in other words, would be redundant because choices would not be required. In the ideal world, what came from the outside supplied the content of the inside. In the real world, things were different. This was partly a matter of its more prosaic quality, but it was also a matter of the disintegration of amour de soi. Here, Rousseau expanded on the compound nature of amour de soi that he had introduced in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont. But instead of the distinction between physical and spiritual pleasures that he had described there, he now referred to what he called “physical and organic sensitivity (sensibilité)” on the one side and “active and moral sensitivity (sensibilité)” on the other. The first, he wrote, was “purely passive” and was the basis of simple self-​ preservation. The second, active, sensitivity was what Rousseau called “the faculty to attach our affections to beings that are foreign to us.” This faculty had a capacity to act positively or negatively by way of attraction or repulsion, rather like a magnet. It too was, therefore, a compound quality, with both a positive and a negative pole. “Positive sensitivity”, Rousseau wrote, “derives directly from amour de soi.” It was a spontaneous and unreflective response to something good. But once this “absolute love” turned into amour-​propre, or what Rousseau now called “comparative love”, it produced “negative sensitivity” or an aversion to “everything that surpasses us, everything that lowers our standing, everything that diminishes us, everything that by being something prevents us from being everything.”22 Although Rousseau’s terminology was

22

Rousseau, OC, i, 668; Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 9.  For further discussion of the text, see Susan Meld Shell, “Stalking Puer Robustus: Hobbes and Rousseau on the Origin of Human Malice”, in Eve Grace and Christopher Kelly (eds.), The Challenge of Rousseau (Cambridge, cup, 2013), pp. 271–​91. “La sensibilité est le principe de toute action … Tous les hommes sont donc sensibles, et peut-​être au même degré, mais non pas de la même manière. Il y a une sensibilité physique et organique qui, purement passive, parait n’avoir pour fin que la conservation de notre corps et celle de notre espèce par les directions du plaisir et de la douleur. Il y a une autre sensibilité que j’appelle active et morale qui n’est autre chose que la faculté d’attacher nos affections à des êtres qui nous sont étrangers. … Sa force est en raison des rapports que nous sentons entre nous et les autres êtres, et, selon la nature de ces rapports elle agit tantôt positivement par attraction, tantôt négativement par répulsion, comme un aimant par ses pôles. L’action positive ou attirante est l’œuvre simple de la nature qui cherche à étendre et renforcer le sentiment de notre être; la négative ou repoussante qui

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now different, his analysis was still the same. As in the Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, the compound nature of amour de soi was the source of its own instability. This time the switch from amour de soi to amour-​propre was nothing like the protracted drama of the second Discourse. “If you ask me”, Rousseau wrote in Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, to explain “the origin of this disposition to compare oneself, which changes a natural and good passion into another passion which is artificial and bad, I will answer that it comes from social relations, from the progress of ideas and from the cultivation of the mind.”23 The low-​key character of the explanation was matched by the apparent simplicity of the solution. Rousseau introduced it by describing himself. Jean-​Jacques, he wrote, was endowed with a high degree of physical sensitivity. His physical sensitivity was, however, offset by his moral sensitivity. “It is the mixture”, Rousseau continued, “in most of his sensations that tempers them, and depriving the purely material ones of the seductive appeal of the others makes them all act more moderately on him.”24 The point applied more generally. The key to a balanced life meant, on the one hand, removing the moral veneer that physical goods appeared to possess, while, on the other, making it easier to respond to the moral qualities that ideal goods actually could possess. Importantly, however, Rousseau consistently rejected the two most obvious ways of doing so. Unlike many of his more moralistic contemporaries, he showed no interest at all in promoting the material simplicity of a shared community of goods. He was equally hostile to placing a higher value on purely spiritual goods, like those associated with religion. Instead, the secret of stability was to be found in a mixture of material security and imaginative creativity. Picking up the interplay between relations and comparisons underlying the love of order that he had described in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, Rousseau began to show that conscience was able to offset amour-​propre because both shared the same imaginative origins. The outcome that he began to comprime et rétrécit celui d’autrui est une combinaison que la réflexion produit. De la première naissent toutes les passions aimantes et douces, de la seconde toutes les passions haineuses et cruelles. … La sensibilité positive dérive immédiatement de l’amour de soi. … Mais sitôt que cet amour absolu dégénère en amour-​propre et comparatif, il produit la sensibilité négative parce que aussitôt qu’on prend l’habitude de se mesurer avec d’autres et de se transporter hors de soi pour s’assigner la première et meilleure place, il est impossible de ne pas prendre en aversion tout ce qui nous surpasse, tout ce qui nous rabaisse, tout ce qui nous comprime, tout ce qui étant quelque chose nous empêche d’être tout.” Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 112; Rousseau, OC, i, 805–​06. 23 Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 113; Rousseau, OC, i, 806. 24 Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 114; Rousseau, OC, i, 807.

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indicate was, therefore, something like an imaginatively generated equivalent of the ideal world that he described at the beginning of Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques. There, it was the qualities of the external world that had been enhanced. In the real world, however, the enhancements had to come from within because they had to be generated by something more than the purely physical properties of what lay without. This, Rousseau emphasised, was why the imagination mattered. The problem, however, was that it had become heavily entangled with amour-​propre and its effects. “Yielding to amour-​propre and its pathetic retinue,” Rousseau wrote, “men no longer know the charm and effect of the imagination. They pervert the use of this consoling faculty and, instead of using it to alleviate the feeling of their ills, they use it only to aggravate it.” But (he continued) the person who, breaking out of the narrow prison of personal interest and petty earthly passions, rises on the wings of imagination above the vapours of our atmosphere…can brave from there the blows of fate and the senseless judgments of men…. In short, such is the empire and influence of the imagination over us that it gives birth not only to the virtues and vices, but to the goods and ills of human life; and it is mainly the manner in which men yield to it that makes them good or bad, happy or unhappy on this earth.25 It was a strong statement. On these terms, it seemed to mean that modern life was actually ruled by the imagination. Rousseau went to considerable lengths to try to explain how the imagination could do so. In the real world, and in contradistinction to the ideal world, what came from the inside would supply the content of the outside. This internally generated supply of symbolic resources would, however, work in more than purely arbitrary ways because it would also be anchored to the outside. This was why Rousseau insisted on the continuing importance of amour-​de-​soi despite the growth of amour-​propre. As with the transformation of pity from physical revulsion to genuine sympathy, conscience came to life at the point at which amour de soi and its initially direct and immediate responsiveness to what was external came back to become a more reflexive source of approval or disapproval of what was supplied to it by the imaginative properties of amour-​ propre. As with the modification to pity produced by the addition of love, the modification to amour-​de soi produced by the addition of amour-​propre meant that the love of order now had a new, internally generated, object of attention 25 Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 120; Rousseau, OC, i, 815.

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which, as also with pity, meant that conscience could now exercise its guiding power because the feelings of justice and love of order on which it relied were also initially self-​centred. “Our first duties”, Rousseau pointed out, “are to ourselves; our primary sentiments are centred on ourselves; all our natural movements relate in the first instance to our preservation and our well-​being. Thus the first sentiment of justice does not come to us from the justice we owe but from that which is owed to us.”26 Conscience could, therefore, scrutinize the self supplied by amour-​propre in the light of the sense of justice and love of order supplied by amour de soi. Together the two capacities would give conscience its power to confer or withhold self-​approval. Once the interaction between the two forms of love becomes clearer, it is then possible to see why Rousseau called the relationship between one individual and others a “double relationship” and why he called its outcome a “moral system”. It is not hard, in the light of his now better-​known investigation of the relationship between resentment and morality, to see why Friedrich Nietzsche found Rousseau so fascinating.27 It is worth trying to make a summary description of the system that Rousseau seems to have been trying to establish. Human life began under the aegis of amour de soi, or self-​liking. But amour de soi was a compound feeling which was bound up with both the body and the mind. The mind’s version of amour de soi was, however, somewhat different from that of the body. The body’s version was immediate and unreflective because it was an effect of the pleasure or pain caused by something external. The mind’s version was more complicated. This was because what Rousseau called either its positive or negative sensitivity were both caused primarily by the mind itself, not by what was external. Positive sensitivity, Rousseau wrote, was like amour de soi. It was a direct and immediate response, but it was a response to a feeling of pleasure about the self that was produced, for example, by something like praise, admiration or approval, particularly from someone deemed to be admired or respected.28 Negative sensitivity worked the opposite way. Where positive sensitivity implied noticing or finding something additional or attractive about

26 Rousseau, Emile, Bk. ii, CW, 13, p. 231. 27 See, notwithstanding significant differences of interpretation, Keith Ansell-​Pearson, Nietzsche contra Rousseau: A Study of Nietzsche’s Moral and Political Thought (Cambridge, cup, 1991). 28 On this aspect of Rousseau’s thought, see, helpfully, Benjamin Storey, “The Problem of Admiration in Rousseau’s ‘Sad and Great System’ ”, The Journal of Politics, 73 (2011), pp. 735–​47. As Storey puts it, “for as long as we are immersed in social life, we will be admirers of one sort or another” (p. 745).

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the self because of its relationship to others, negative sensitivity implied withholding or withdrawing approval of the self because of its diminished status, or inferior standing, in its relationship to others. Here, the pain or discomfort could not be physical because it did not involve the body. The mind, however, was capable of the same negative reaction despite the fact that the self that was now involved in the reaction was a disembodied, not an embodied, self. The mind, in Rousseau’s analysis, worked rather like the body but in moral rather than physical terms. Just as pleasure and pain determined the behaviour of the body, so the same type of signals could determine the behaviour of the mind. Here, however, what mattered was not the physical self, but the reflexive, imagined self. This was also why negative sensitivity mattered more than positive sensitivity and why, on Rousseau’s terms, negative sensitivity was the source of the link between amour-​propre and amour de soi. As he described it, positive sensitivity was hard to distinguish from amour de soi. Negative sensitivity, however, set the self against the wider network of relationships that it had come to acquire. With the imagination now able to see both the self and the wider order to which it belonged, it was then possible to evaluate the relationship between the two. This was the function of reason. As Rousseau indicated in Emile, reason was “the guide of amour-​propre.”29 It could be a guide because it could pick up the signals of attraction or revulsion supplied by the interaction between amour-​propre and amour de soi. It could then describe the pleasant feelings as good and the unpleasant feelings as bad. Conscience, arising from love of order, would then supply the motivation for preferring the good to the bad. “Reason alone teaches us to know good and bad”, Rousseau wrote in Emile. “Conscience, which makes us love the former and hate the latter, although independent of reason, cannot therefore be developed without it.”30 The sequence of steps also meant that, ultimately, sociability would trump solitude, just as, ultimately, freedom would trump independence. Absolute solitude, Rousseau warned, “is a state that is sad and contrary to nature: affectionate feelings enliven the soul, communication of ideas enlivens the mind. Our sweetest existence is relative and collective and our true self (moi) is not entirely within us. Finally, such is man’s constitution in this life that one is never able to enjoy oneself well without the cooperation of another.”31 On Rousseau’s 29 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 225. 30 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 196. 31 “(M)ais je sais aussi qu’une solitude absolue est un état triste et contraire à la nature: les sentiments affectueux nourrissent l’âme, la communication des idées avive l’esprit. Notre plus douce existence est relative et collective, et notre vrai moi n’est pas tout entier en nous. Enfin telle est la constitution de l’homme en cette vie qu’on ne parvient jamais à

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terms, it was this condition, or state, somewhere between the solitude of the natural state and the full-​blown civic commitment of the ancient republics, that was most compatible with modern life. The concepts of positive and negative sensitivity in Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​ Jacques help to clarify the meaning of what, in Emile, Rousseau had called “the moral system formed by this double relationship between oneself and one’s fellows” that was the basis of conscience and the endless oscillation between anxiety and complacency that conscience entailed. Both positive and negative sensitivity were attributes of the mind. But the self-​conscious quality of negative sensitivity had the effect of giving the self a feeling of dislike or disapproval towards something at odds with its own amour-​propre. Reason would then assess this feeling in the light of the love of order –​or the underlying disposition to feel contentment with a pattern, a symmetry or even a harmony –​built into amour de soi. This assessment would supply knowledge of what was good or bad and, on the basis of this knowledge, conscience would then be able to endorse the good and condemn the bad. The outcome would be the possibility of a choice. At the least, as Rousseau emphasised in his Lettres morales, the availability of choice meant that an individual would also always have the possibility of having a good conscience by doing something right. “If”, he wrote there, “there existed in the world a being miserable enough to be unable to recall anything he had done in all the course of his life that could give him an internal satisfaction with himself and make him glad to have lived, that being, having only feelings and ideas that would turn him away from himself, would be in no condition ever to know himself; and for want of knowing in what the goodness suitable to his nature consisted, he would necessarily remain wicked and be eternally unhappy.”32 The evidence, however, pointed in a different direction. This, Rousseau argued, was why humans could feel that it was possible to choose the good actively rather than simply experience it. The feeling of this possibility was, finally, reason for hope. “Those innate feelings that nature has engraved in all hearts to console man in his misery and encourage him to virtue”, he wrote towards the end of Rousseau, juge de Jean-​Jacques, “can easily, by means of art, intrigues, and sophisms, become stifled in individuals; but soon reborn in the generations that follow, they will always bring man back to his primitive dispositions, just as the seed of a grafted tree always reproduces the wild stock.”

32

bien jouir de soi sans le concours d’autrui.” Rousseau, OC, i, 813; Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, 118. Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Moral Letters, in Rousseau, CW, 12, p. 201.

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This inner feeling that our philosophers recognize when it suits them and reject when it is convenient for them makes its way through the mistakes of reason, and cries out to all hearts that justice has another foundation than this life’s interest, and that the moral order, about which nothing here below gives us any idea, has its seat in a different system from the one sought in vain on earth but to which everything must someday return. The voice of conscience can no more be stifled in the human heart than that of reason can be stifled in the understanding; and moral insensitivity is as unnatural as madness.33 The finality of the assertion matched Rousseau’s claim, in a passage that he dropped from the published version of his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, that “far from ruining his nature, it seems to me that Adam’s sin ennobled him by developing his mind and making him capable of reason.”34 It was a claim that fitted the idea of the materialism of the wise man and the related concept of the language of signs. As Rousseau’s increasingly detailed investigation of the properties of amour de soi and amour-​propre began to show, the emotional mechanisms of individual psychology could be connected to the symbolic resources of the social world to produce the mixture of judgment and self-​judgment that made conscience possible. The increasingly complex articulation of amour-​propre with amour de soi in Rousseau’s thought also meant that humanity’s direction of historical travel was at once less bleak, but also more complicated, than it was in his second Discourse.

33

34

“Ces sentiments innés que la nature a gravé dans tous les cœurs pour consoler l’homme dans ses misères et l’encourager à la vertu peuvent bien à force d’art, d’intrigues et de sophismes être étouffés dans les individus, mais prompts à renaitre dans les générations suivantes, ils ramèneront toujours l’homme à ses dispositions primitives, comme la semence d’un arbre greffé redonne toujours le sauvageon. Ce sentiment intérieur que nos philosophes admettent quand il leur est commode et rejettent quand il leur est importun perce à travers les écarts de la raison et crie que la justice a une autre base que les intérêts de cette vie, et que l’ordre moral dont rien ici-​bas ne nous donne l’idée a son siège dans un système différent qu’on cherche en vain sur la terre, mais où tout doit être un jour ramené. La voix de la conscience ne peut pas plus être étouffée dans le cœur humain que celle de la raison dans l’entendement, et l’insensibilité morale est tout aussi peu naturelle que la folie.” Rousseau, OC, i, 972; Rousseau, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques, in Rousseau, CW, 1, p. 242. “Vous me direz donc en premier lieu que je dégrade l’image de Dieu en faisant de l’homme une bête. Vous trouverez qu’au lieu d’avilir sa nature il semble selon moi que le péché d’Adam l’ait ennoblie en développant son esprit et le rendant capable de raison.” See Bernard Gagnebin, “J. J. Rousseau: Sur le péché d’Adam et le salut universel”, Dix-​Huitième Siècle, 3 (1971), pp. 41–​50 (p. 42 for the passage cited here).

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In place of the grim progress of inequality, there was now a more elaborate dialectic involving the physical and the moral, the absolute and the relative, the real and the imagined, together with the likelihood that Rousseau seems to have thought that the second part of each pair could be used to create an imaginative equivalent of the first. Conscience was part of amour de soi, but conscience still needed amour-​propre to come to life. In this sense, as Rousseau presented it, amour-​propre supplied the means to keep amour de soi alive, but amour de soi and the attendant claims of conscience supplied the motivation to keep amour-​propre in check. From this perspective, Rousseau’s moral theory was, as Istvan Hont has suggested, quite close to Adam Smith’s.35 Although it began and ended with the self, its goal, or motivation, was self-​approval, not self-​interest. This substantive difference in outcomes also makes it easier to see why individual liberty was the foundational concept of Rousseau’s moral and political thought. Self-​interest was given by the physical side of human nature. Self-​approval was given by its moral side. The bridge between two was formed by conscience. Crossing that bridge called for a deliberate act of choice, which was why individual freedom mattered. It is tempting, in the light of the close relationship between conscience and freedom in Rousseau’s thought, to think that the distinction between negative and positive sensitivity that he made in Rousseau, juge de Jean-​Jacques turned into the distinction between negative and positive liberty that formed the basis of Immanuel Kant’s concept of autonomy. But there is no evidence that Kant knew of Rousseau’s distinction, just as there were also many other possible reasons for Kant’s conceptual move. Irrespective, however, of whether there was any intellectual continuity, there was certainly a common problem. Rousseau’s increasingly elaborate exploration of the distinctions between amour de soi and amour-​propre, amour de soi and amour de l’ordre, physical pleasure and mental pleasure, culminating in the distinction between negative and positive sensitivity that brought conscience to life, can be taken as a measure of the effort that he put into thinking about politics and political obligation under 35

Istvan Hont, Politics in Commercial Society (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 2015), pp. 41–​ 42. See also Pierre Force, Self-​Interest before Adam Smith: A Genealogy of Economic Science (Cambridge, cup, 2003), especially pp. 24–​34, on Rousseau’s concept of identification. Force, however, does not link Rousseau’s use of the concept to his examination of the properties of amour de soi and its relationship to conscience and, instead, makes identification a largely pre-​social capability which, like pity, was most intense before the development of the division of labour and the advent of commercial society. Although Hont does not discuss Rousseau’s term, it is clear from his argument that he took identification and sympathy to be conceptual synonyms rather than a pre-​commercial (or Rousseau inspired) versus a commercial (or Smith defined) pair of alternatives.

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modern economic and social conditions or, as Rousseau put it in his Letter to Christophe de Beaumont, in humanity’s third and last state. Much of that effort centred on the inner life of individuals, like Emile, Julie or Rousseau himself, and on the problem of identifying something able to form a bridge between the inner life of individuals and the kaleidoscopic array of objects of allegiance that would be the setting of their lives.36 This was why Rousseau went back repeatedly to the idea of what he called, variously, a simulacrum of virtue, the power of opinion, the materialism of the wise man or the language of signs. Importantly, he also emphasised repeatedly that the capacities and behaviour encompassed by these terms were, in themselves, ancient, not modern, in character. What was modern about the behaviour illustrated by the drama played out, for example, in the Levite of Ephraim was not the signs themselves but the capacity to understand how they worked. Although, Rousseau wrote in his Discourse on Political Economy, written in the autumn of 1755 as a contribution to Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopaedia and published as a self-​standing piece in 1758, “men cannot be taught to love nothing, it is not impossible teach them to love one object rather than another, and what is truly beautiful rather than what is deformed.” If, for example, they are trained early enough never to consider their persons except as related to the body of the state, and not to perceive their own existence, so to speak, except as part of the state’s, they will eventually come to identify in some way with this larger whole; to feel themselves to be members of the fatherland; to love it with that delicate feeling that any isolated man feels only for himself; to elevate their soul perpetually toward this great object; and thereby to transform into a sublime virtue this dangerous disposition from which all our vices arises.37 Human life was made up of signs, not things, because things, for humans, had two dimensions, not one. They had cultural properties as well as physical properties, and the former were as intrinsic as the latter to the uses to which things could be put. In one sense, thinking about the combination of the physical and the moral is as old as the history of political thought because it is not hard to see that states, laws and governments usually involve something more than 36 Rousseau, Emile, ed. and trans. Bloom, p. 290; Rousseau, CW, 13, p. 453. For a fascinating examination of the idea of the Confessions as an autobiographical exemplification of Rousseau’s system, see Christopher Kelly, Rousseau’s Exemplary Life: The Confessions as Political Philosophy (Ithaca, Cornell UP, 1987). 37 Rousseau, Discourse on Political Economy; Rousseau, CW, vol. 3, p. 155.

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physical force. With Rousseau, however, this polysemic fluidity was as much a part of ordinary life as the world of states, laws and governments. It belonged as much to the division of labour as the separation of powers and the myriads of activities covered by both. This was why it was the key to conscience and to the underlying problem of moral and political motivation that conscience was intermittently required to address. The idea of living under the aegis of signs also has a bearing on one of the most famously controversial aspects of Rousseau’s moral and political thought, namely his insistence that women should not play an active part in politics. This, it should be emphasised, had nothing to do with women’s putative flightiness, frivolity or weakness. Instead, as Rousseau repeated frequently, the reason was women’s power. The power in question was, ultimately, moral and ethical, but could also be physical and erotic. The problem was that both types of power were usually exercised by the same person. Keeping women out of politics meant, in the first instance, keeping the moral separate from the physical while at the same time enabling, by means of a combination of public opinion, conscience and the language of signs, the moral to maintain its hold over the physical. In this sense, excluding women from political life was part of the answer to the two questions about political motivation that Rousseau claimed that Montesquieu had failed to address. Women, from this perspective, were then the answer, or at least part of the answer, to the questions “What does it matter to me?” and “What can I do about it?”, because the answers, put summarily, were, straightforwardly, likely to be “What she wants” and “What she says”. Political exclusion, on these terms, was analogous to the political and economic dualism that Rousseau could find in Montesquieu. Just as Montesquieu’s concept of monarchy relied on a combination of a monarch and a nobility, together with a commercial and a non-​commercial sector and a clear set of physical signs indicating the line of demarcation between the two, so Rousseau’s concept of a republic relied upon a combination of a sovereign and a government, together with a political and a non-​political sector and an equally clear set of physical signs indicating the line of demarcation between the two. The resulting dualism was, as Rousseau put it in Emile, the reason why a woman was “the judge of her judges” and, by extension, why conscience had a social dimension which meant that it would never be a matter of purely individual reflection and choice.38 Importantly, however, it was Rousseau himself who showed how it would be possible to keep the dualism, but drop its gendered character. The idea of 38 Rousseau, Emile, in Rousseau, CW, 13, Bk. V, p. 561.

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graduated promotion that he proposed as the basis of a Polish, Corsican or federal electoral system meant replacing a mechanism of selection based on property and inheritance by one based on office and election. Instead of Montesquieu’s property-​based system of institutional and occupational continuity, with the rules of inheritance ensuring that one member of one generation would follow on from the last, Rousseau’s electorally-​based graduated system transferred something like the same filtering mechanism to the process of renewing and maintaining the institutional hierarchy and occupational continuity of an office-​based system. But if, as Rousseau showed, elections and graduated promotion could take property and inheritance out of the process of determining the right to rule, then it was equally possible to conceive of a distinction between the political and the moral parts of a system without having to rely on the emotional dynamics of the relationship between men and women to keep the two parts of the system separate. If conscience could be kept alive by giving moral scrutiny a different source, then the dualism could be maintained but the politics of gender could be dropped. Rousseau, clearly, did not do this, but two of his most attentive French readers, Sieyès and Condorcet, clearly did (both, it is worth remembering, endorsed Rousseau’s initial assessment of the bias towards manufacturing industry built into the division of labour, but, unlike Malthus, then proceeded to take it in a firmly productivity-​oriented direction).39 Here too, the idea of a legion of honour could be said to have had a real Rousseauian pedigree. So too, for equally Rousseauian reasons, was the way that novels, dramas and, later, the cinema came to be taken to have an ability to supply a robust alternative to the politics of gender in the form of an endlessly changing supply of fictional versions of the inner life that could, imaginatively, throw an exemplary or consoling light upon the difficulties and dilemmas of real life. Here, the initial model was Goethe’s Rousseau-​inspired Werther.40 So too, it has sometimes been claimed, can sport and the differences in values associated with bread and circuses on the one side and chariots of fire on the other. Here too, it could be said, the differences have a real Rousseauian pedigree in the imagination’s ability to identify or highlight radically different qualities in the same thing.

39

40

With Condorcet and, perhaps, Sieyès, the emphasis on productivity was connected to a concept of capital that was derived from Turgot:  see Michael Sonenscher, “Sociability, Perfectibility and the Intellectual Legacy of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau”, History of European Ideas, 41 (2015), pp. 683–​98 (especially pp. 690–​91). See, though without the dualism, Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights:  A History (New York, 2007) and, earlier, but with the dualism, Georg Lukacs, The Historical Novel [1937] (London, Merlin, 1958).

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More immediately and directly, however, Rousseau’s moral and political dualism gave a new significance to the old distinction between the public and private. It did so partly because of the importance that Rousseau attached to private life and the emotional and erotic relationship between men and women as the means to keep the claims of conscience alive. But it did so too because of the broader institutional and electoral structure of Rousseau’s concept of a federal system. Put crudely, the system in question was simply a unit made up of other units. On this basis, however, it would not be easy to see why a federal system was different from an administrative system, an organised bureaucracy, or a centralised chain of command. It is well known that the idea of a federal system originated in the concept of an alliance or league. It began with the idea of a union of states rather than a united states or, as the German language has it, a Staatenbund rather than a Bundesstaat. A federal state is different because it is both more united than an alliance but more differentiated than a unitary state. The combination looks very like the type of arrangement that would fit what Rousseau called humanity’s third and last state, where the public good would have to coincide with the private good. The idea was already visible in his Discourse on Political Economy. “A given deliberation” he wrote there, “can be advantageous to the small community and pernicious to the large one. It is true that, since particular societies are always subordinate to those that contain them, one ought to be obey the latter in preference to the former.” Usually, however, the opposite was the case because “personal interest is always found in inverse ratio to duty, and it increases in proportion as the association becomes narrower and the engagement less sacred.”41 A federal structure could accommodate these proliferating interests because it could house several different distinctions between the public and the private. Here, the private could mean the individual, whether a person or a household, but it could also mean the local, municipal, regional or, simply, particular. In this latter sense, there could be substantial variations in the size, resources, economic activities or customary arrangements of each unit, but they could still be part of something larger, like Corsica or Poland. This would mean that a political system in which the public good was made to coincide with the private good would, in fact, be a modern federal system. On this interpretation, it too had a Rousseauian pedigree. The addition of this federally-​oriented distinction between the public and the private to the initial distinction between sovereignty and government makes it easier to see rather more of the peculiar properties of Rousseau’s 41

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Political Economy [1755], in Rousseau, CW, 3, p. 144.

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concept of a general will. For most readers, Rousseau’s distinction between sovereignty and government has been taken to refer to the longstanding distinction between legislation and execution, implementation or administration, with the legislative power equated to sovereignty and, in Rousseau’s case, with a purely general scope, and the executive power equated to government, with a purely particular scope. Adding a distinction between the public and the private meant, as Rousseau wrote in his Discourse on Political Economy, multiplying the number of general wills. In an elective aristocracy, he added in the Social Contract, there would be “two, very distinct, moral persons, namely the government and the sovereign and, consequently, two general wills, one related to every citizen and the other related to the members of the administration.”42 Increasing the number of different levels and responsibilities of governmental agencies would, therefore, increase the number of general wills. Although there would still be one ultimate general will, its existence would ordinarily be so heavily refracted through so many other different agencies and institutions, each with their own more localised general will, that its final authority would be reserved for the very last instance. Only in extraordinary circumstances, would the general will ever be general. In a federal system, the sovereign would be largely asleep.43 This aspect of a federal system did not pass without comment. “The foundations of a federal state”, wrote the British jurist and legal philosopher Alfred Venn Dicey towards the end of the nineteenth century, mainly with the United States in mind, “are a complicated contract.” In many respects, Dicey continued, “a federal constitution has the nature of a treaty and, like a treaty, its provisions could be modified only with the assent of all its signatory parties.” This, as he put it, meant that although under “a federal as under a unitarian system there exists a sovereign power”, the sovereign in “a federal state is a sovereign hard to rouse. He is not, like the English Parliament, an ever-​wakeful legislator, but a monarch who slumbers and sleeps.” The sovereign of the United States has been roused to serious action but once during the course of more than a century. It needed the thunder of the Civil War to break his repose, and it may be doubted whether anything short of impending revolution will ever again arouse him to activity.44 42 43 44

Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract, Bk. iii, ch. 5, in Rousseau, CW, 4, p. 174. On the metaphor, see Richard Tuck, The Sleeping Sovereign:  The Invention of Modern Democracy (Cambridge, cup, 2015). Alfred Venn Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution [1885], ed. Roger E Michener (Liberty Press, 1982), pp. 79–​81. I am grateful to Isaac Nakhimovsky of Yale University for pointing out this passage to me.

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Recently, the idea of a sleeping sovereign has been associated with the invention of modern democracy. On Rousseau’s terms, a federal system was required to provide the institutional framework that would make modern democracy work. As Dicey recognised, constitutional change would be rare. But change itself would still occur, either locally or regionally, and mainly as an indirect effect of public opinion as it was refracted through other economic, social or cultural causal mechanisms. Under a federal system, domestic politics would become more like the politics of the balance of power, but with the additional presence of the rule of law, and, as Fénelon had predicted, a balance of power that was predicated upon change at home rather than change abroad.45 45

Interestingly, the use of the metaphor by Dicey and its bearing on the idea of a federal system is not visible in Tuck’s characteristically wide-​ranging Sleeping Sovereign.

chapter 6

Rousseau’s Legacy 1

Theodicies and Their Properties

Towards the end of the long, largely hostile, discussion that followed the publication of his first Discourse in 1751, Rousseau described the content of his prize essay as “that grand sad system, the fruit of a sincere examination of the nature of man, his faculties and his destiny.”1 We are, he implied, on our own, with nothing to hope for except what we think we can do. The description has lived on, partly because of the poignancy that it has added to Rousseau’s subsequent examination of human nature and its history, but partly too because of the surprisingly early appearance of the claim about the systemic quality of his thought that was to become a recurrent theme of Rousseau’s publications. The early appearance of the claim could, somewhat implausibly, mean that Rousseau really did think of everything all at once but decided to reveal it only piecemeal, a thought that could also be applied to the comment that Rousseau made at around the same time about beginning to disclose only some of his principles in his Preface to Narcissus. It could, however, also mean that although Rousseau began with the idea of a system, he still spent most of his intellectual life trying to work out all the implications of its proliferating details so that he could find a way to put its components together coherently. Either interpretation gets something of the measure of scale of the whole enterprise because both, in fact, are compatible with Rousseau’s parallel claim that his later works help to explain the content of his earlier works. In this sense, it does not seem to matter very much whether the content was revealed slowly or only discovered slowly because what, in the end, comes gradually into view is still something like a system. Getting the full measure of both its sadness and its grandeur means, however, trying to identify something able to capture the causal dynamics of the whole moral and political story that Rousseau set out to tell. The term that has usually been adopted for this purpose, if only because it conveys something

1 “Ce triste et grand système, fruit d’un examen sincère de la nature de l’homme, de ses facultés et de sa destination”: Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, Preface to a Second Letter to Bordes, in Rousseau, CW, 2, p. 183. For discussion of the claim, see the introductory notes by the editors of this volume, Roger D. Masters and Christopher Kelly, in Ibid, pp. 200 & 222.

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020 | DOI:10.1163/9789004420335_007

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like the right measure of grandeur, has been a theodicy.2 It is less clear, however, whether the concept of a theodicy also conveys quite the right measure of sadness. Curiously, the phrase that helps to capture something more like Rousseau’s original meaning now has almost the opposite set of connotations. This is the phrase “the end of history”.3 In the twentieth century, the phrase came to mean something more triumphantly conclusive than anything usually associated with the more perceptibly tragic connotations of the idea of a grand sad system. In the early nineteenth century, however, the concept of the end of history had little to do with rival philosophies of history, clashing political ideologies or, more narrowly, the conflict between marxism and its liberal, capitalist or democratic alternatives. Instead, it was used initially to refer to something more like Rousseau’s own description of his system because, as his thought came to be discussed and refracted through the thought of Kant, Hegel and Rousseau’s other German admirers, the idea of the end of history came to form something like a counter-​concept to the idea of a theodicy. While the idea of a theodicy presupposed or implied some kind of justificatory historical outcome, with, notably, the rewards of a future life offsetting the trials of this life, Rousseau’s system offered nothing beyond the potentially endless dynamics of perfectibility. When, in 1784, Friedrich Schiller famously described world history as the world’s judgment (Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht), the bleak title of the poem –​“Resignation” –​in which he coined the phrase was designed to make the same Rousseauian point.4 This life, the poem announced, was for enjoyment; the next life was for hope; but there was nothing to link the one to 2 For the best recent interpretation of Rousseau’s thought in this conceptual framework, see Frederick Neuhouser, Rousseau’s Theodicy of Self-​Love: Evil, Rationality and the Drive for Recognition (Oxford, oup, 2008) and his later Rousseau’s Critique of Inequality. Reconstructing the Second Discourse (Cambridge, cup, 2014). 3 The phrase was given its recent resonance by Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York, Free Press, 1992), but was given its initial status first by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and then by Hegel’s twentieth-​century Russian-​French commentator, Alexandre Kojève. For an assessment of Hegel’s original claim, see Eric Michael Dale, Hegel, the End of History and the Future (Cambridge, cup, 2014)  and, on Kojève and his intellectual legacy, see Dominique Auffret, Alexandre Kojève: la philosophie, l’état, la fin de l’histoire (Paris, Grasset, 1990) and, with a stronger emphasis on the Russian dimensions of Kojève’s thought, Stefanos Geroulanos, An Atheism That is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (Stanford, Stanford UP, 2010), pp. 156, 161–​62, 296–​97. 4 For an English version of the poem, see Frederick Morley (ed.), Schiller’s Poems and Plays (London, Routledge, 1890), pp. 156–​58 and, for a bilingual German-​French version, see Schiller, Poèmes philosophiques, ed. Robert d’Harcourt (Paris, Aubier, 1954), pp. 64–​71. For helpful interpretations of its content, see Frederick Beiser, Schiller as Philosopher: A Re-​Examination (Oxford, oup, 2005), p. 31, as well as Edmond Eggli, Schiller et le romantisme français, 2 vols. (Paris, 1928), vol. 2, p. 20, and Reinhart Koselleck, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories

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the other –​which was why the only conceivable judgment was the judgment of world history. According to Schiller’s first French translator, Germaine de Staël’s admirer Prosper de Barante, this meant that “what has been, has been, and that is the end of the matter” which, Barante continued, was “certainly to deny providence and morality.” But to persist in endorsing disinterested virtue was to seek to combine, if it was possible, what Barante called “scepticism with faith” or “the revolt of a religious heart against a harmful error of the mind.”5 From this perspective, the poem was something like Schiller’s version of the Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar that Rousseau had incorporated into Emile. On its terms, there were choices, not goals, because the one goal that mattered was simply to hope for further choice. The term “theodicy” was first used by the late seventeenth-​century German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to illustrate the idea that explaining the origin of evil in human affairs amounted to holding an imaginary trial of a putatively good, just and omnipotent divinity in order to come to terms with what, at first sight, could look like entirely unmerited human misfortune. The point of the metaphorical trial was, therefore, to try to show that there were, in fact, more deep-​seated, hidden reasons underlying the apparent randomness of catastrophe. From this perspective, the concept of a theodicy had two main implications. The first was simply that evil was not divine in origin. The second implication was more practical because, with a fuller understanding of the origins of evil (in, for example, human pride, social inequality, private property, the rise of patriarchy, the invention of money, or the division of humanity into separate sovereign states), it would then be possible to adopt a correspondingly more effective response to both the problem and its underlying origins. In this sense, what appeared to be a misfortune could, on closer historical inspection, turn out to be a gain, not a loss, while history itself could be seen as something more than an exemplary school of life (magister vitae) because the lessons that it could supply were lessons from misfortune, not fortune, and from adversity, not example. From this perspective, the subject of historical causation came to form the core of the subject of a theodicy and, in the nineteenth century, came (Stanford, Stanford UP, 2018), p. 124. Thanks to Charlotte Johann of Cambridge University for guidance with the German original. 5 “Dire ‘l’histoire du monde, voilà le jugement du monde’ ou, en d’autres termes, ‘ce qui a été a été, et tout est fini par là’ c’est assurément nier la Providence et la morale. Mais professer en même temps le culte désintéressé de la vertu, c’est rapprocher s’il est possible le scepticisme de la foi; c’est la révolte d’un cœur religieux contre une funeste erreur de l’esprit.” Prosper de Barante, “Vie de Schiller”, in Schiller, Œuvres dramatiques (Paris, 1834), p. 50. See also the endorsement of Barante’s reading of the poem in John Herman Merivale (ed.), The Minor Poems of Schiller (London, 1844), pp. 12, 371–​72.

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to mean that much of what came to be called the philosophy of history grew out of the eighteenth-​century concept of a theodicy. Setting the concepts of a theodicy and a philosophy of history alongside one another makes it possible to see how far Rousseau’s distinctly Epicurean version of a theodicy diverged (with the striking exceptions of Immanuel Kant and, in some measure, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel) from those of most of his contemporaries and, since it did, how it also makes it possible to see how it combined the grandeur of a more conventional theodicy with a more identifiable measure of sadness. In Epicurean philosophy, the gods played no part in human affairs and the same absence of providential involvement in human life applied to Rousseau’s system. Rousseau’s system had no clear telos or goal. It could look backwards, towards a better past, but it pointed forwards, towards an unspecified, but potentially catastrophic, future. In this respect, it differed significantly from two, equally ambitious, moral and political systems that began to circulate intellectually alongside his own publications. The first, as has already been indicated, was the very explicit theodicy that was launched in 1767 under the name of Physiocracy. The second was the equally explicit account of the ruin and recovery of mankind informing the moral and political vision of the German pietist philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder. Although their respective publications had little to do with one another, both the Physiocrats and Herder shared a common commitment to reform as well as a common interest in trying to enlist a revised and corrected version of Rousseau’s thought to their cause. Physiocracy, meaning the rule of nature, was a claim about sequencing and, more specifically, about restoring the right sequence after the wrong sequence of economic and social development had taken hold.6 Its starting point, and the reason for its name, was the fact that humans, like other living beings, have to eat in order to live. Eating happens daily, while more intellectually oriented human activities, like writing books, drafting laws or even making manufactured goods, happen more intermittently. In principle, therefore, the regular and durable human demand for food should set a floor beneath the prevailing prices of basic foodstuffs and secure a stable and predictable income to the producers of agricultural goods. In reality, however, this was not the case. Part of the explanation had something to do with the vagaries of harvests and the age-​old oscillation between lean years and fat years. Most of the explanation, however, had to do with what the supporters of Physiocracy called the

6 On this interpretation, see Sonenscher, Before the Deluge, pp. 189–​222 and Céline Spector, “Le concept de mercantilisme”, Revue de métaphysique et morale, 3 (2003), pp. 289–​309.

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“unnatural and retrograde” order on which modern political societies were based. On Physiocratic terms, the order in question had, in fact, two fundamentally unnatural and retrograde features. The first was the way that agricultural development had followed the wrong sequence, with agriculture having come to rely, from the time of the Greeks and Romans onwards, on the growth of the urban trades and the pricing policies of manufacturers and merchants for its development and prosperity. The second was the way that, from the time of sixteenth-​century European conquest of the New World and the influx of gold and silver coin that it had produced, the various markets for agricultural goods had become entangled with a range of mercantile commercial, financial and monetary policies, with all the self-​defeating economic and political consequences that this self-​centred concern with trade and payments balances had brought in its wake. Together, they pointed towards something like the same type of social catastrophe as Rousseau’s repeated predictions of revolution. Getting out of the wrong sequence and into the right sequence meant relying, initially, on the physical properties of the human constitution. Since humans have to eat and need to do so several times a day, demand for food will, other things being equal, be regular and predictable. Removing every obstacle to free trade in cereals and other basic foodstuffs would, in principle, eliminate local shortages or gluts because the supply of food would move to wherever demand was most pronounced. The growing predictability and consistency of demand, notably from the producers of manufactured goods, would mean that prices would stabilise around a predictably narrow spectrum of levels over an increasing broad range of geographically dispersed markets. As returns to agriculture grew, so too would the scale of demand for manufactured goods and other items of a more discretionary nature. The result would be a virtuous circle which would feed its way back to a growing pool of taxable wealth formed by the rental income of the owners of land. This rental income would then become the basis of a single tax on what the supporters of Physiocracy called the “net product”, meaning the taxable surplus remaining with the landowners after the costs of all the initial agricultural and manufacturing inputs had been covered. To its supporters, Physiocracy not only followed the logic of Rousseau’s second Discourse in explaining the origins of the unnatural and retrograde order on which the modern world was based, but then proceeded to go further than Rousseau because it also supplied a detailed prescription, with a graphic zig-​zag shaped illustration of income and expenditure flows, of how to stop Rousseau’s property-​based drive to catastrophe. A single tax on the net product, levied on the owners of landed wealth, would not only set a ceiling on social and economic inequality but would also favour a gradual redistribution of wealth away from the landowners and the urban-​based consumer economy

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towards agriculture and the real producers of sustainable wealth in a slow, but inexorable, way. Physiocracy was a very rational programme of reform. It relied on using the signals supplied by the predictable sequence of human needs (or évidence, as its supporters called it) to establish a price-​driven system of fiscal redistribution and economic equalisation. Given the similarity between their respective diagnoses of modern economic and social conditions and, too, the proselytising energy of Physiocracy’s chief promoter, the marquis de Mirabeau –​father of the comte de Mirabeau, the dominant political figure of the early years of the French Revolution –​it is not surprising that Mirabeau set out to enlist Rousseau’s support. Rousseau, however, flatly refused. It is not hard, in the light of his long-​drawn-​out investigation of the imagination, to see why. Since humans could eat or drink almost anything, there was simply no evidence of anything evident in the content or sequence of human needs or any identifiable line separating needs that were putatively consistent from desires that were putatively arbitrary or discretionary. The same indeterminacy applied not only to those many parts of life that lay beyond the human diet, but also to the individuals and agencies responsible for implementing the whole Physiocratic system. In this sense, Rousseau wrote, Physiocracy was like a perfected form of Hobbism, with a sovereign state, or a legal despotism, that would be responsible for maintaining the rules corresponding to the self-​evident causal sequence generated by the physical properties of human needs. This, Rousseau pointed out, meant that perfect Hobbism would really, if impossibly, be rule by God. In the real world, however, there would still be causal ambiguity, unexpected emergencies, difficult choices and no clear-​cut alternatives. Ultimately, Rousseau reported to Mirabeau, Physiocracy could not escape the difficulties and dilemmas of political judgment. Herder’s theodicy relied more on culture than on rationality. It too began with an aspect of Rousseau’s second Discourse. In Herder’s case, the starting point was Rousseau’s treatment of the problem of language rather than, as with Physiocracy, his assessment of the problematic relationship between agriculture and industry. With Herder, it was the imagination that, on the one hand, aligned his thought with Rousseau but, on the other, also separated his concept of culture from Rousseau’s concept of freedom. Although Rousseau was not the only target in Herder’s discussion of the origin of language (the French philosopher Etienne Bonnot de Condillac and the German divine Johann Peter Süssmilch were others), he was particularly exercised by Rousseau’s minimalist description of human nature. “Condillac and Rousseau had to err in regard to the origin of language”, he wrote, “because they erred in so well known a way and yet so differently…in that the former turned animals into

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men (in his Traité sur les animaux) and the latter men into animals (in his Sur l’origine de l’inégalité).”7 Both, Herder went on to argue, failed to pay enough attention to the properties of the human mind and, in particular, to the part played by the imagination in differentiating humans from animals. This meant that, for Herder, the imagination was a more deep-​seated feature of human nature than it was for Rousseau. It was not something that sprang into life only with puberty or, originally, with the first blush, the first admiring glance or the first moment of recognition. It was, more fundamentally, the basis of human freedom. Animals, Herder argued, could rely on instincts to perform the relatively limited range of actions required for their way of life. Humans had no instincts, but were capable of an immense array of actions and a huge variety of different types of knowledge and belief. Language was the means that enabled them not only to establish them but also to invent new courses of action and to devise new ways of life. Language was, therefore, the medium that made human life historical in a sense that did not apply to animals or even to the idea of natural history itself. It equipped humans with a capacity for purposeful action that was broader and larger than anything that instinct could supply. The basis of this capacity, Herder went on to claim, was the human imagination because it was the source of the conceptual power and inventiveness that language served to express. Here too the initial model was given by the animal-​instinct combination. Instincts were unerring, but narrow in focus. Humans had no instincts and, consequently, could focus on anything and everything. The imagination, however, enabled them to focus purposefully because it allowed the human mind to cross the boundary between what Herder, following a distinction made by Leibniz, called perception and apperception. The existence of these two types of perception enabled humans to switch the focus of their attention from their perceptions to their perceptions of their perceptions. Language, according to Herder, was the product of this reflexive capability. It was a continuously changing system of signs that enabled humans to store and use information supplied by the imagination’s reflexive power.

7 Johann Gottfried Herder, Essay on the Origin of Language, in Alexander Gode and John H. Moran (eds.), Jean-​Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder, Two Essays on the Origin of Language (Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 1966), p. 103. On Herder, see R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (Oxford, oup, 1946), pp. 88–​93 and, recently, Kristin Gjesdal, Herder’s Hermeneutics: History, Poetry, Enlightenment (Cambridge, cup, 2017).

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Rousseau’s neologism “perfectibility”, Herder noted, was simply another name for this specifically human capacity.8 But since it was a capacity that was built into human nature, the neologism was redundant. Humans, Herder asserted, have a natural capacity for apperception (or perceiving oneself perceiving) and this “new, self-​made sense of the mind is, in its very origin, a means of contact!” I cannot think the first human thought, I cannot align the first reflective argument without dialoguing in my soul or without striving to dialogue. The first human thought is hence in its very essence a preparation for the possibility of dialoguing with others. The first characteristic mark which I conceive is a characteristic word for me and a word of communication for others.9 From this perspective, the human capacity for society was generated before society itself came into existence by each individual’s own initial apperceptive relationship to him or herself. On Herder’s terms, language, the imagination and society were seamlessly connected. Reflexion, or the mind’s apperceptive capacity, enabled humans to give characteristic marks to particular things. These might be associated with a sound or a sight but, since signs were not necessarily produced by physical needs or by an emotional response to something external, the character of the sign itself was determined solely by the active power of the human mind. Language worked like Bildung. Its range, variety and conceptual precision grew in conjunction with increasing epistemic competence and with the size and linguistic proficiency of any particular community. The interactive process of establishing common signs would, progressively, enable individuals to transfer what was on the inside to the outside and, under the weight of this slow process of cultural and historical osmosis, turn every language into the cement of society. The process would unfold gradually and particularly, which would mean that every society would have its own history, its own language and its

8 Herder, Essay, pp. 124–​25. In this light, it is perhaps worth asking whether the argument of the article by Ryan Patrick Hanley, “Rousseau’s Virtue Epistemology”, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 50 (2012), pp.  239–​63, could be applied more appropriately to Herder than to Rousseau. For a parallel discussion of the relationship between pedagogy, politics and political economy in Rousseau’s thought, see Brianne Wolf, “The Economic Education of Emile:  Reinterpreting Rousseau’s Use of Robinson Crusoe”, History of Political Thought, 39 (2018), pp. 662–​89. 9 Herder, Essay, p. 128.

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own culture. But it would also do so cumulatively, which would mean that what was specific to each society would be matched by what, increasingly, was common to all. As the spiritual side of human nature gradually came to envelop its more localised physical counterpart, humanity would become as real as it had once been merely ideal. 2

From Metapolitics to Civil Society

Rousseau’s version of this story of ruin and recovery was at once less sanguine and more political. This was because it did not look forward to any future turning point comparable in its clarity and decisiveness either to those set out by Herder and the advocates of Physiocracy or even to the three initial steps that gave his own, more problematic, version of a theodicy its historical orientation and its melancholy grandeur. With Herder, culture offered the prospect of a way out, as too, for the advocates of Physiocracy, did the rational and practical implications of physical évidence. For Rousseau, there was nothing outside the historicity of human decision-​making and choice. First there were solitary, silent, sentient creatures. Then there were settled households, common knowledge and joint decisions. Finally there was economic and social interdependence and a proliferating array of different selves, some individual, others collective, but all locked into arrangements that were not their own. On Rousseau’s terms, the third step was also the final step, with only the endless interplay between the public and the private, and the endless possibility of choice that it would still house, remaining to form a framework that would be able to prevent the progressively narrowing horizons of human perfectibility from closing in. Left to itself, human industry would destroy human agriculture, just as the human imagination would supply ever more encouragement to human industry. If this really was Rousseau’s system, there is good reason to call it both grand and sad. It was a system that, ultimately, meant that there was a world to lose, rather than a world to win. It was also one that meant that the world in question would be one in which money and markets were as essential to its future as states and governments had been to its past. If the resulting combination of politics and economics did not point towards a future historical turning point comparable to those that had once separated the first times from those that came later, it also did not point towards any post-​political future or any new version of the timeless present of the natural state. Instead, it pointed to the politics of dualism or, to describe it more fully, to thinking about politics in commercial society or, in an earlier idiom, politics as a combination of

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individuals, civil society and the state.10 Once, the two phrases and the cluster of subjects, problems and concepts to which they referred were associated very readily with the thought of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau. This was because they lay at the heart of nineteenth-​century, British, but mainly German, discussions of Rousseau’s place both in political theory and in the history of political thought. These were the discussions that formed the intellectual context in which David Ritchie and Leo Strauss made the two characterisations of Rousseau’s thought set out at the beginning of this book. An initial indication of the component parts of this context can be found in a large book on Kant’s thought published in 1889 by one of Ritchie’s contemporaries, the Scottish philosopher and, later, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, Edward Caird.11 As Caird presented it, Kant’s concept of autonomy gave rise to a dilemma. It did so because it seemed to be incompatible with both of the usual ways of thinking about sovereignty and its origins. “If”, Caird wrote, “we adhere to the idea that the individual as such is a law and an end to himself, in the sense that in him, as an individual, the moral end is realised, or capable of being realised, then society can have no essential relation to the individual; it is an accident that other individuals exist with whom he stands in external relation of reciprocal right and obligation; and this accident brings with it the further result that a power, separate from these individuals, must be brought in to maintain by force their reciprocal rights.”12 But if the power in question was a purely extraneous power, then those subject to it would be reduced to slavery. If, on the other hand, that power was based on the idea of a social contract, then, Caird argued, every individual would seem to have willed to give up “his personality and all its rights.”13 There was, in short, no obvious way to reconcile Kant’s concept of individual autonomy with political sovereignty, irrespective of whether, as Thomas Hobbes had put it, sovereignty took the form of a commonwealth by acquisition or a commonwealth by institution.

10

Here, as shown by Istvan Hont, Politics in Commercial Society (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 2015), pp. 1–​10, it is the preposition that counts. 11 On Caird, see Henry Jones and John Henry Muirhead, The Life and Philosophy of Edward Caird (Glasgow, 1921)  and, more recently, Colin Tyler (ed.), Unpublished Manuscripts in British Idealism:  Political Philosophy, Theology and Social Thought, 2  vols. (Bristol, Thoemmes, 2005), vol. 2, pp. vii-​xiii, as well as the earlier, 12 volume, edition of Caird’s Collected Works, ed. Colin Tyler (Bristol, Thoemmes, 1999). 12 Edward Caird, The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, 2 vols (Glasgow, 1889), vol. 2, p. 355. The same passages appear in the second (1908) edition of Caird’s book, vol. 2, pp. 329–​31. 13 Caird, Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, vol. 2, p. 356.

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“The difficulty we are now considering”, Caird continued, “is one which showed itself very prominently in the discussion as to the Social Contract which was started by Rousseau and which had so much influence upon Kant.”14 It gave rise, Caird explained, to the very unusual concept of a social contract set out by Rousseau in Book 1, Chapter 6, of the Social Contract and the solution that it offered there to the problem of how, as Rousseau had put it, “to find a form of association which shall protect with the whole common force the person and property of each associate and in virtue of which every one, while uniting himself to all shall obey only himself and remain as free as before.”15 As Caird emphasised, this was a version of a social contract that differed radically from all its predecessors. According to this view the social power has only to reinforce and not to limit the individual will, except in so far as it is already self-​limited apart from society. Society brings no obligations to the individual which he had not apart from it; it only brings, or at least should only bring, new means whereby he may realise an end which is his already, apart from the social relation. Man is not essentially social; the constitution of society is only an arbitrary act in which the individual avails himself of a means, which owing to external circumstances has become necessary, to realise his natural end.16 The social contract had, in short, to supply common means to enable individuals to pursue purely individual ends. This, Caird concluded, meant that the “volonté générale of society must arise from the volonté de tous and it cannot legitimately contain anything which is not in the volonté de tous from which it arises.17 There were, it followed, three, not two, components of a political society. As with other theories of the social contract, there were individual wills and the general will. In addition, however, there was also the will of all. This, Caird claimed, was the tripartite distinction that was built into Rousseau’s version of a social contract, even if Rousseau himself had not shown how to articulate and combine the three parts as fully and clearly as Kant and, above all, Hegel were to do. Caird, like Ritchie, was a British Hegelian. Both described Hegel’s concept of political society as organic or a whole made up of a number of interdependent 14 Caird, Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, vol. 2, p. 356. 15 Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, SC, Bk. 1, ch. 6, in Rousseau, CW, vol. 4, p. 138 (translation modified). 16 Caird, Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, vol. 2, pp. 356–​57. 17 Caird, Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant, vol. 2, p. 357.

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parts. It was a description that bordered on the tautologous because it did not provide a non-​circular explanation of how the parts were related to the whole.18 Either they seemed, mysteriously, to be predestined to perform their allotted role or they seemed, all too transparently, to be subordinate parts of an all-​encompassing totality. In this form, meaning neo-​Hegelianism misliked, this was the concept of political society that, in the early twentieth century, came to be projected negatively on to Rousseau’s political thought by the most prominent Rousseau scholar of that time, Charles Edwyn Vaughan. “The analogy of the animal organism is not expressly brought forward in the Contrat Social”, Vaughan wrote in the “Introduction” to his influential two volume edition of Rousseau’s Political Writings, “but, throughout the more abstract part of the treatise, it is manifestly present to Roussseau’s mind.”19 It, Vaughan argued, was responsible for the vicious circularity that lay at the heart of Rousseau’s state theory. “If we press his words”, Vaughan wrote, “he is in fact the sworn foe not only of individualism, but of individuality. The individual is, for him, absolutely merged in the community, his freedom utterly lost in the sovereignty of the state.”20 It is not hard, in the light of the earlier association between Rousseau and the idea of the state as an organism on the one side, and the later condemnation of the metaphor by Vaughan on the other, to see how the totalitarian interpretation of Rousseau’s thought began. Vaughan’s verdict on Rousseau was based on a very hostile evaluation of the similarity between an organism and the combination of individual wills, the general will and the will of all that Caird had noticed. It overlapped chronologically, but not analytically, with a far more subtle version of the same combination that, because of its focus on the subjects of money and the law, was able to avoid the circularity of the organic analogy. This version of the combination was set out fully and clearly early in the twentieth century by a prominent,

18

19

20

For a good example of the circularity, see the summary of Caird’s thought in Jones and Muirhead, Life of Edward Caird, pp. 324–​25. On the general orientation of Caird’s historical and political evaluations, see James Schmidt, “Inventing the Enlightenment: Anti-​ Jacobins, British Hegelians and the ‘Oxford English Dictionary.”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 64 (2003), pp. 421–​43. Charles Edwyn Vaughan (ed.), The Political Writings of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, 2  vols. (Cambridge, cup, 1915), vol. 1, pp.  20  & note 7, 57–​58. On Vaughan and Rousseau’s putatively organic state theory, see the illuminating comment by A. G. Little in his introductory “Memoir of C.  E. Vaughan”, in C.  E. Vaughan, Studies in the History of Political Philosophy Before and After Rousseau, edited by A.  G. Little, 2  vols. (Manchester, Manchester UP, 1925), vol. 1, p. xxii. For fuller commentary, see Spector, Au prisme de Rousseau, pp. 56, 179. Ibid., p. 59.

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originally Austrian, Heidelberg University law professor and political theorist named Georg Jellinek at the beginning of a large book on what he called the general theory of law (Allgemeine Staatslehre) which he began to publish in 1900 and which was translated into French four years later.21 In it, Jellinek initially associated Rousseau with the thought of a late eighteenth-​century Göttingen University lawyer, historian and statistician named August Ludwig von Schlözer and then went on to associate both Rousseau and Schlözer with the concept of civil society and the political thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The term “civil society”, Jellinek wrote, had originated with a distinction that Schlözer had made between what he called a societas civilis sine imperio and a societas civilis cum imperio, meaning a civil society with or without an empire, where empire, or imperium, did not mean territory, but the power to command (as in being imperious or having the quality of “imperiousness”), so that the two phrases meant, substantively, civil society with or without a sovereign state. Here, according to Schlözer, the best example of a civil society without a state was Switzerland and, as he went on to show, the difference between a civil society with or without a state was connected to a further difference between what he called Metapolitik and Politik, or between metapolitics and politics. In this pairing, metapolitics had the same conceptual and practical relationship to politics as metaphysics had once had to physics. Just as metaphysics referred to concepts like being, time and space as prerequisites of physics, so metapolitics referred to subjects like population, agriculture, industry and trade as prerequisites of politics. For a time, the term seems to have circulated quite widely. It was picked up in 1814 and translated with much the same meaning as métapolitique by the French royalist political thinker Joseph de Maistre.22 By then, however, it 21

22

On Jellinek, see Sara Lagi, Georg Jellinek storico del pensiero politico 1883–​1905 (Florence, Centro Editoriale Toscano, 2009), and her edition of a further selection of texts in Sara Lagi (ed.), Georg Jellinek:  ‘Il Tutto’ e ‘l’Individuo’ (Rubbettino, Catanzaro, 2015), as well as her “The Formation of a Liberal Thinker: Georg Jellinek and his Early Writings”, Res Publica, 19 (2016), pp. 59–​76. See too Bart van Klink and Oliver W. Lembke, “Exploring the Boundaries of Law:  On the Is-​Ought Distinction in Jellinek and Kelsen”, in Sanne Taekema, Bart van Klink and Wouter de Been (eds.), Facts and Norms in Law (Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2016), pp. 201–​22. More broadly, see Duncan Kelly, The State of the Political. Conceptions of Politics and the State in the Thought of Max Weber, Carl Schmitt and Franz Neumann (Oxford, oup, 2003) and his “Revisiting the Rights of Man: Georg Jellinek on Rights and the State”, Law and History Review, 22 (2004), pp. 493–​529. “J’entends dire que les philosophes allemands ont inventé le mot métapolitique pour être à celui de politique ce que le mot métaphysique est à celui de physique.” Joseph de Maistre, Essai sur le principe générateur des constitutions politiques [Saint-​Petersburg, 1814] (Lyon, 1833), p.  vi. A  similar, and earlier, parallel between “metapolitics” and “metaphysics”

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had been superseded by another, now much better-​known, concept. This was Hegel’s concept of bürgerliche Gesellschaft, a term that echoed Schlözer’s distinction between a societas civilis sine imperio and a societas civilis cum imperio. In English, Hegel’s term is usually translated as “civil society”, but in French it was translated as société bourgeoise, or bourgeois society. The latter translation actually captures more of what was original in Hegel’s usage because the English phrase “civil society” was already in use as a synonym for political society, while Hegel’s term referred instead to what was non-​political or pre-​political in human life, like production, distribution, exchange and consumption, together with the array of what could be called metapolitical activities, arrangements and institutions with which they were associated.23 For Jellinek, writing in 1900, the real source of this three-​sided conceptual relationship between individuals, civil society and the state was Rousseau. Although, Jellinek wrote, Schlözer had been responsible for the term, it was Rousseau who had established the concept. Right from the outset, Jellinek pointed out, and over a long period of time, Schlözer had failed to establish a school. “On a different path from his, but with far more success,” he continued, “an autonomous concept of society had taken shape in France.”

23

can be found in Jean-​Louis Delolme, The Constitution of England [1775], new edn. (London, 1788), p. 419, note (a). On the German usage, see Hans Erich Bödecker, “On the Origins of the Statistical Gaze: Modes of Perception, Forms of Knowledge and Ways of Writing in the Early Social Sciences”, in Peter Becker and William Clark (eds.), Little Tools of Knowledge: Historical Essays on Academic and Bureaucratic Practices (Ann Arbor, Michigan, U of Michigan Press, 2001), pp. 169–​96; Gregory B. Moynahan, Ernst Cassirer and the Critical Science of Germany 1899–​1919 (London, Anthem Press, 2013), pp. 12–​ 16; Manfred Riedel, Metaphysik und Metapolitik. Studien zu Aristoteles und zur politischen Sprache der neuzeitlichen Philosophie (Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1975); and Stéphane Caporal, “Actualité du problème théologico-​politique:  catholicisme romain et théorie politique de notre temps”, in Michel Ganzin (ed.), Pensée politique et religion (Aix-​en-​ Provence, Presses Universitaires d’Aix-​Marseille, 2017), pp. 465–​78. For later, and different, usages, see Charles Edward Merriam, American Political Ideas (New York, Macmillan, 1920), p. 373; and Peter Viereck, Metapolitics [1941] (New Brunswick, Transaction Books, 2004). These usages seem to have originated with a passage in Coleridge’s The Friend, essay 3, and its assertion that “so might the philosophy of Rousseau and his followers not inaptly be entitled metapolitics and the doctors of this school, metapoliticians.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Friend [1809] (London, Pickering, 1844), p. 243, note*. On the concept, but without either Schlözer or Rousseau, see Jerrold Seigel, Modernity and Bourgeois Life (Cambridge, CUP, 2012), pp. 114–49; Z. A. Pelczynski (ed.), The State and Civil Society: Studies in Hegel’s Political Philosophy (Cambridge, cup, 1984); Adam B. Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society (Princeton, Princeton UP, 1992); Frank Trentman (ed.), Paradoxes of Civil Society: New Perspectives on Modern German and British History, 2nd edn. (New York, Berghahn Books, 2003). On Schlözer’s terms, see too Norberto Bobbio, Democracy and Dictatorship: The Nature and Limits of State Power (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1989), p. 22.

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Like Schlözer’s concept, it too had its basis in natural jurisprudence. In this school, Rousseau was the first to counterpose society to the state, even if, in his terminology, the distinction did not appear in all its precision. This terminological uncertainty makes it possible, without much difficulty, to explain why even those who have done the most to establish a deeper understanding of the history of the doctrine of the state have failed to understand the scale of the developments that Rousseau brought to this subject.24 Here, Jellinek was referring to the work of one of his Heidelberg predecessors, a law professor named Robert von Mohl, on the history of state theory. According to von Mohl, Rousseau had no self-​standing concept of society. Jellinek disagreed. To support his assertion, he went on to quote the long passage from Rousseau’s Discourse on Political Economy that announced that “every political society is made up of several different types of smaller ones, each with its own interests and maxims” and that “every individual united by a common interest amounts to so many other, passing or permanent associations, whose strength is no less real for being less apparent.”25 This insight, Jellinek claimed, was the real basis of the fundamental distinction between the general will and the will of all that Rousseau had made in the Social Contract. The general will, Jellinek explained, referred to the will of the state, while the concept of the will of all 24

25

“Schlözer était resté, dès l’abord, assez longtemps sans faire école. Sur une autre voie que lui, et avec beaucoup plus de succès, une conception autonome de la société a pris corps en France. Elle procède elle aussi dans ses bases, du droit naturel. Dans cette école, Rousseau, le premier, opposa l’état à la société, et toutefois, dans sa terminologie, la distinction n’apparait pas en toute netteté. Lorsqu’on constate cette confusion dans la terminologie, on comprend sans peine que ceux-​là même qui ont le plus approfondi l’histoire de la doctrine de l’état n’aient pas compris la portée des développements de Rousseau en cette matière.” Georg Jellinek, L’état moderne et son droit, 2 vols. [Paris, 1904 & 2013], ed. Olivier Jouanjan (Paris, Editions Panthéon Assas, 2005),vol.1, pp. 150–​51. Jouanjan’s introduction to this 2005 reprinted edition is a very fine presentation of Jellinek’s life and work. See the passages from the Discourse on Political Economy, in Rousseau, CW, 3, pp. 142–​44; OC, 3, pp. 245–​46, cited more fully in ­chapter 4 above. One example of the way that this aspect of Rousseau’s thought disappeared gradually from view can be found in an article published two generations later by the Yale University political scientist, Robert Dahl, where the same passage was used to illustrate Rousseau’s putative hostility to multiple associations as against Alexis de Tocqueville’s later endorsement of them and, by extension, to explain the relatively recent origins of the mixture of polyarchy and pluralism that Dahl, rightly, took to be among the hallmarks of modern representative democracy: see Robert A Dahl, “Polyarchy, Pluralism, and Scale”, Scandinavian Political Studies, 7 (1984), pp. 225–​40 (particularly p. 233).

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referred to “the will of society divided by conflicts of interest.”26 This, as Rousseau had shown, meant that partial associations would each also have their own general will, at least as this applied to their own members even if, from the standpoint of society as a whole, each of these localised general wills would still be no more than particular. The proliferation of general wills meant, as Jellinek went on to emphasise, that the general will of the state would have to be different from the multiple general wills housed by civil society. If these were to coexist alongside the will of the state, then the state, peculiarly, would have to have a will that would be compatible with all the other general, but particular, wills scattered over civil society. It would, in short, have to be a Rechtsstaat and, possibly, a Bundesstaat. 3

Theories of the Political State

“It seems certain”, Jellinek concluded, “that these developments by Rousseau inspired Hegel to establish his concept of civil society.”27 But, as Jellinek then went on to indicate, Hegel’s distinction between civil society and the state had several, not entirely compatible, lines of descent. The first centred on the state, while the second centred more fully on the concept of civil society. The reasons for the difference are not hard to identify. In the most immediate sense, they were connected after 1815 to the question of Germany and the problematic relationship of Prussia on the one side and Austria-​Hungary on the other to the 36 other states, plus 4 free cities, of the German Confederation. Behind these geo-​political divisions were a cluster of further divisions –​between Prussian Protestantism and Austrian Catholicism; between the urban and the rural, the industrial and the agricultural, the rich and the poor –​which, whether jointly or severally, made it easier to envisage a federal Germany than a unitary Germany. As these divisions were played out over the course of the nineteenth

26 Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, pp. 151–​53. 27 “Il parait bien certain que ces développements de Rousseau ont inspiré Hegel dans sa conception de la société civile.” Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, p.  153. It is worth considering, both in the light of this German-​language interest in Rousseau’s legacy, and in the light of Emile Durkheim’s interest in German thought, whether this type of claim formed part of the intellectual context of Durkheim’s early twentieth century lectures on Rousseau’s Social Contract, posthumously published by the great French Fichte scholar Xavier Léon in the Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 25 (1918), pp. 1–​23, 129–​61, and, in translation, as Montesquieu and Rousseau: Forerunners of Sociology (Ann Arbor, U of Michigan Press, 1960).

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century, the initial distinction between the state and civil society came to occupy a more central position in modern political thought. Looking back from the vantage point of the early twentieth century, Jellinek highlighted four major positions. The first was one that he associated with another Austro-​German legal and political thinker, Lorenz von Stein, whose influential study of the social movement in France before and after 1848 relied very heavily on Hegel’s state-​civil society distinction (Stein had, in fact, been one of Jellinek’s teachers at the University of Vienna).28 But, Jellinek pointed out, Stein also owed as much of his understanding of the state-​civil society distinction to the French socialists, Pierre-​Joseph Proudhon on one side and the followers of Claude Henri de Saint-​Simon on the other, as he did to Hegel. Their rather different assessments of the distinction amounted to a second position which placed more emphasis on the concept of civil society than the state. In addition, Jellinek argued, there was also a third position with more of a focus on the idea of a legal system as a bridge between the state and civil society which had begun with the thought of another great Austro-​German legal and political thinker, Rudolf von Jhering. Finally, Jellinek went to considerable length to differentiate all three of these positions from a fourth which he identified as the pluralism of the German legal historian Otto von Gierke whose thought is now usually associated with the concept of a Genossenschaft, meaning a fraternity, fellowship or guild. Although, he argued, all four positions were variations on the initial, Rousseau inspired, state-​civil society distinction, the first three entailed maintaining the distinction, while the fourth, deliberately

28

For a helpful introduction to Stein’s thought, see Felix Gilbert, History:  Choice and Commitment (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 1977), pp.  411–​21. More generally, see Pasquale Pasquino, “Introduction to Lorenz von Stein”, Economy and Society, 10 (1981), pp.  1–​6; Olivier Jouanjan, “Lorenz von Stein et les contradictions du mouvement constitutionnel révolutionnaire (1789–​1794)”, Annales historiques de la révolution française, 328 (2002), pp.  171–​91; Peter Koslowski (ed.), The Theory of Ethical Economy in the Historical School (Berlin, Springer Verlag, 1995); and Norbert Waszek, “L’état de droit social chez Lorenz von Stein”, in Olivier Jouanjan (ed.), Figures de l’état de droit:  Le Rechtsstaat dans l’histoire intellectuelle et constitutionnelle de l’Allemagne (Strasbourg, Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2001), pp. 193–​217. On some of the reverberations of Stein’s thought, see Robert D. Miewald, “The Origins of Wilson’s Thought. The German Tradition and the Organic State”, in Jack Rabin and James S. Bowman (eds.), Politics and Administration:  Woodrow Wilson and American Public Administration (New  York and Basel, 1984), pp.  17–​30; Christian Rosser, “Woodrow Wilson’s Administrative Thought and German Political Theory”, Public Administration Review, 70 (2010), pp.  547–​56. Thanks, particularly, to Diana Siclovan of the British Library for allowing me to read her thesis, “Lorenz Stein and German Socialism”, Cambridge University, PhD (2014).

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or inadvertently, involved collapsing it into a single, organic, concept of political society. As Jellinek presented them, Hegel was the central figure in the political thought of both Stein and the French socialists, even though, he added, Stein was more of a follower of Hegel, while the French socialists owed more to Hegel’s German critics. Even in Stein’s case, however, the Saint-​Simonian strand of French socialism helped to reinforce Stein’s own Hegelian politics and meant that their common state-​oriented approach to politics and political theory was carried through into the political arrangements of both the French Second Empire and, after 1871, the German Second Reich. The second strand of French socialism, meaning the one that Jellinek associated with Proudhon, had a different theoretical and practical orientation. In it, criticism of Hegel helped to weaken the significance of the state in socialist political thought. Although its outcome was largely French, its origins were initially German, beginning with an early nineteenth-​century critic of Hegel named Karl Friedrich Christian Krause and with the thought of one of Krause’s political followers, a German law professor named Heinrich Ahrens, who taught at the Free University of Brussels between 1830 and 1848 and whose publications, particularly a frequently reprinted course on natural law, were mainly in French.29 The emergence of these three strands of socialist thought meant that Hegel’s political thought could be seen as the starting point of the socialism of Saint-​Simon, the socialism of Pierre-​Joseph Proudhon and, finally, the social democracy of Lorenz von Stein. But, as Jellinek pointed out, for Stein and the French Saint-​ Simonians, the significant part of the state-​civil society pairing was the state, while for Krause and his French followers, the significant part of the pairing was the concept of civil society. The result of this switch of emphasis was, ultimately, a fully-​fledged theory of society that, Jellinek claimed, was increasingly hard to distinguish from the sociology of Auguste Comte in France and of Herbert Spencer in Britain. “In this sociological doctrine”, Jellinek concluded, “society and the state were not set against one another, as had been the case in the theories just described. Instead, the state now appears to be no more than one of the forms of society.”30 This was the position that he associated with the thought of Otto von Gierke. 29 Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, p.  156 (erroneously numbered p.  165 in the text). On Krause, Ahrens and Krausism, see Michael Sonenscher, “Krausism and its Legacy”, Global Intellectual History (2019), https://​doi.org/​10.1080/​23801883.2019.1586787. See too the dismissive comments about them by the twentieth-​century jurist Hermann Heller, La crise de la théorie de l’état [1926], ed. Olivier Jouanjan (Paris, Dalloz, 2012), pp. 12–​13. 30 Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, p. 158.

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Jellinek was unsympathetic to this development. His concept of political society was emphatically two-​sided, with the state and its institutions on the one side and the assortment of economic and social activities involved in industry, agriculture, finance and trade on the other. As he announced at the beginning of his Allgemeine Staatslehre, “the juridical theory of the state is a science of norms. These norms should be distinguished strictly from those enunciations dealing with the nature of the state as a social phenomenon. A large number of methodological arguments in public law are an effect of the lack of clarity about the double nature of the state and the resulting division within the sciences concerned with the state.”31 As Jellinek went on to show, the key problem in politics was how to maintain what he called “the double nature of the state” as a stable and durable system. Here, he referred mainly to two possible options. One, which he associated with Lorenz von Stein, was money and, more specifically, the state’s ability to create money by means of public debt. The other, which Jellinek claimed had begun with the thought of Rudolf von Jhering, was the law and, more specifically, the idea that the rule of law had the ability to limit the rule of the state. Jellinek called this capacity “auto-​limitation”. It was, in a real sense, the other side of Stein’s monetarily-​based concept of state autonomy. Both, it could be said, were developments of the complementary relationship between Rousseau’s two concepts of the general will and the will of all, with the general and unitary character of the former forming a negative counterpart to the multiple and particular attributes of the latter. Describing the two in turn makes it possible to clarify what Jellinek meant by giving his concept of the state what he called a double nature. 4

Lorenz von Stein

Stein’s version of the state-​civil society pairing centred on money, credit and public debt. He set out his own concept of the double nature of the state in 31 Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, pp.  82, 90–​91 (translating Georg Jellinek, Allgemeine Staatslehre, 3rd edn. Berlin, 1914, pp. 50–​51). For commentary on both the details of the publishing history of Jellinek’s book and his “two sided” state theory, see Olivier Jouanjan, “Aux frontières du droit public et de la politique: relire Georg Jellinek”, in Georg Jellinek, Révision et mutation constitutionnelles, ed. Olivier Jouanjan (Paris, Dalloz, 2018), pp. 7–​30 (p. 15 for the passage cited here), as well as his earlier, 2005, “Introduction” to Jellinek, L’état moderne, together with his “Le monde subjectif dans lequel se joue la vie du droit… Une interprétation de Georg Jellinek”, in Michel Coutu and Guy Rocher (eds.), La légitimité de l’état et du droit: autour de Max Weber (Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Laval, 2005), pp. 115–​54.

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1850 in the long introduction that he wrote for his most famous book, The History of the Social Movement in France. Its title –​“the concept of society and its laws of motion” –​was, as Stein went on to show, designed to indicate that the concept of the state had to be matched by a concept of society.32 Putting the two together, Stein claimed, would be the basis of a theory of state action that really would be compatible with, but also distinct from, society. Its starting point, as with Rousseau and, later, Hegel, was the tension between needs and desires, on the one hand, and time and ability on the other. The first solution to this tension, Stein wrote, was the division of labour. But the development of the division of labour gave rise to a further array of problems about information, coordination and rules. Something, in short, was needed to provide a common will to meet these common needs. This, Stein argued, was what a state could do. It was also why it made sense to claim that a state was simply “a community manifesting its actions and will through its personality.”33 Personality, according to Stein, was, thus, the principle of the state. It was the name that could be given to what was best described as the state’s ability to unite individual wills in order to realise all that was best in each and every individual personality. It was, in short, Stein’s version of a moi commun equipped with a general will. As with the original general will, it also had a clear orientation. Given, Stein wrote, that the state was made up of individuals, it followed that “the measure of development of every individual is the measure of development of the state itself.”34 Stein’s initial argument had two apparently contradictory implications. If, on the one hand, the state’s development was based on every aspect of individual material, cultural and spiritual development, it followed that its constitution had to make as much provision as possible for all its members to be as fully involved as possible in the life of both the state and its government. From another point of view, however, the same emphasis on the symbiotic relationship between individual personality and the personality of the state meant that the state-​person would be radically dependent on its members’ resources. If, as the locus of the division of labour, society seemed to be secondary to the state, the reality, in fact, was the opposite. “The state”, as Stein put it, “has no real existence outside of society.”35 But society was, by definition, an acquisitive society 32

33 34 35

Lorenz Stein, Le concept de société, trans. Marc Béghin, ed. Norbert Waszek (Grenoble, ellug, 2003). Originally published as Geschichte der sozialen Bewegung in Frankreich, von 1789 bis auf unsere Tage (1850). Reference in what follows is to the Waszek edition, here indicated simply by “Stein” and the page number, as in this case, Stein, p. 63. Stein, pp. 79–​80. Stein, pp. 101–​02. Stein, pp. 80–​81, 145.

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(a phrase that Stein was one of the first to use) because, in an important sense, it was predicated on a multitude of increasingly differentiated individual personalities, while the state was predicated on a single common personality. In a state, individual personality was combined with the unitary personality of the state, but in society individual personality was differentiated from every other individual personality. This, Stein wrote, meant that while personality, or a single will made up of an integrated combination of unity and multiplicity, was the underlying principle of the state, the underlying principle of society was actually interest, or a centrifugal combination of diversity and difference generated by the division of labour.36 The two principles were not only radically at odds, but were also locked into a power relationship in which the state would, in effect, be little more than a target waiting to be captured by one or other of its predatory components. The contradiction not only supplied a framework for explaining why, as Stein went on to describe it, the history of the social movement in France was a history of class struggle, but, more generally, it also seemed to show that any claim about the compatibility between individual personality and the personality of the state was condemned to end in a double bind.37 If the personality of the state supplied the means to manage the division of labour, the division of labour was, inversely, the source of the individual drives and inequalities of property, capital, time and money that ruled out the idea of a state-​personality. The dilemma was redolent of the initial set of problems that Fénelon had highlighted over a century earlier and which had been transmitted to the nineteenth century by Rousseau and Hegel. One solution, usually associated with Marx and his followers, was to try to eliminate the state. Another, associated with Karl Friedrich Christian Krause and his followers, including Robert von Mohl, was to try to dissolve the state into as many self-​governing institutions as possible. Stein’s solution was to keep a concept of the state, but to combine it with a radically different theory of state power and state action. Stein’s theory of state power and state action was fiscal and financial in character. It was fiscal because a functioning fiscal system required a comprehensive administrative system, made up not only of a body of tax-​officials, but also of further clusters of legal, financial and property-​related offices to supply the information and procedures required by the functional ramifications of the fiscal system itself. This meant that a bureaucratically organised administrative system would have to be the other side of what, as Stein emphasised,

36 37

Stein, pp. 107–​10; see pp. 190 & 196 for the phrase “acquisitive society”. Stein, pp. 121–​25.

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would be a highly inclusive political constitution. While a constitution was the means by which individual personalities could have a real relationship to the personality of the state, an administrative system was the means to ensure that the two types of personality would be kept distinct. Without a constitution and with no proper administration, Stein argued, individuals would simply turn towards monarchy as the most obvious embodiment of the idea of the state.38 Trying to maintain the same distinction between individual and state personalities under the aegis of a genuinely democratic regime would be even more difficult, because the separation of the public from the private built into a bureaucracy would dissolve into a reiterated and more morally demanding game of role-​switching. Representative government, from this point of view, required a bureaucratic state. The core of Stein’s theory of state power and state action was, however, more financial than fiscal and relied as much on monetary as on administrative or bureaucratic means. This, Stein claimed, was because the one self-​evident sign of a sovereign state was its ability to create money and, by extension, to manage and preserve a stable currency. The claim meant that public debt was the key to reconciling the state and civil society because the financial resources that public credit could generate had the potential to overcome the contradiction between multiple individual personalities and the unitary personality of the state. They would do so, Stein argued, because the funds borrowed by the state could be added to the pool of private financial resources and private capital by means of a decentralised system of interest-​free loans. This state-​backed flow of resources would be managed by the bureaucracy, but the resources themselves would be allocated by means of decisions within a constitutionally specified institutional network. Monetary and financial policy would be used to offset the divisions generated by private property and enable the propertyless to acquire the education, skills and capital required for economic survival in an acquisitive society. “A state without a debt”, Stein commented famously, “either cares too little for its future or demands too much from its present.”39 Trade without credit, he wrote elsewhere, was “like a bird without wings”, while credit itself was rather like the clothes that parents would buy for their

38 39

Stein, pp. 106–​07. The passage (from the 1871 edition of Stein’s textbook on public finance, Lehrbuch der Finanzwissenschaft, p. 666) is quoted by Carl-​Ludwig Holtfrerich, Government Debt in the Economic Thought of the Long 19th Century (Discussion Paper 2013/​4, School of Business and Economics, Freie Universität, Berlin, 2013), pp. 17–​18. See also his “Public Debt in Post-​1850 German Economic Thought vis-​à-​vis the pre-​1850 British Classical School”, German Economic Review, 15 (2013), pp. 62–​83.

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children: the right measure had to be several sizes too large.40 Seen like this, Stein claimed, public debt went together with “social democracy”. In his usage, there was a real significance to both parts of the phrase. The democratic side applied to the constitution and its arrangements, while the social side applied to the bureaucracy and its provisions. “The principle of social democracy”, Stein concluded, “is therefore universal suffrage inasmuch as it has to do with the constitution and the abolition of social dependence in the working class and inasmuch as it has to do with the administration. In social democracy, the constitution is the democratic element, while the administration is the social element.” The combination, he added, was the “natural and unavoidable outcome of the liberal movement.”41 5

Rudolf von Jhering

Jellinek’s version of dualism complemented Stein’s but had a clearer and stronger legal dimension. If Stein’s version of the state-​civil society distinction relied, in the last instance, on public debt and the state’s ability to create money, Jellinek’s version relied more directly on the concept of law and the idea of law as a combination of a legal right and a legal rule that is more apparent in the overlapping connotations of the German or French words Recht and droit than in the English-​language distinction between a law and a right. Here, the key initial move was an insistence on the historical and analytical priority of rights-​claims generated from below, rather than rule-​claims issued from above, in giving the law its dual quality. This was the move made by Rudolf von Jhering, in two books published relatively late in his career, Der Kampf ums Recht (The Struggle for Law) of 1872 and Der Zweck im Recht (Law as a Means to an End) of 1877 and 1883. For Jhering, the sequence was the key to understanding the combination of a legal right and a legal rule that made a law something more than a written formula. It was also the basis of his insistence on the need for a further programme of legal and political reform to bring back the combination of subjective and objective rights into a viable and robust working order. In the Kantian and Hegelian language that became the lingua franca of nineteenth-​century German legal and political thought, legal rights were subjective rights, while legal rules were objective rights. At first, as Jhering presented them, subjective rights were all that there was. These were straightforward 40 41

The phrases are quoted in Maurice Block, Les progrès de la science économique depuis Adam Smith, 2 vols. (Paris, Guillaumin, 1890), vol. 1, p. 403. Stein, p. 202.

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assertions of entitlement: either to this fish, that river bank, or those trees, in order to meet a physical need, a common interest or a collective activity. Their basis and justification was, therefore, utility. But utilities could clash and the resulting conflict could give rise to various mechanisms or procedures for dispute settlement, like trials by combat, pronouncements by oracles, or rulings by elders. Here two developments came to have a durable significance. The first, Jhering argued, was the concept of a fault which arose when a largely shame-​based culture gave way to a largely guilt-​based culture. The second, which mattered more in a guilt than a shame-​based culture, was the concept of evidence which began to arise when it became usual to establish various degrees of responsibility and measures of punishment for some particular act. Together, the combination of finding fault and using evidence came to give the law an objective dimension. Alongside rights, there were now also rules. This meant that subjective rights, or rights that could be exercised by individuals or groups, now went together with objective rights, or rights that could be exercised only by states or other agents of authority. Together, the combination of subjective and objective rights amounted to laws. For Jhering, the struggle for law began as a struggle to exercise a monopoly of legitimate violence in a given territory. It amounted to the imposition of a rule-​based system upon a rights-​based system by adding a system of objective rights to a heterogeneous cluster of subjective rights. In this setting, both the positive and negative aspects of the idea of the rule of law were visible. In a positive sense, adding a system of rules to a system of rights injected a new type of moral evaluation into what, at bottom, was still an interest-​based claim. Once a right was compatible with a rule, it acquired a quality of legality and legitimacy that formed a bridge between the subjective and objective sides of the law. In this sense, the law was the medium that could turn a subjective interest into an objective rule and, by doing so, the law had the further ability to turn a claim about interest and utility into a more highly motivating claim about status, process and personality. The resulting alignment between the subjective and objective dimensions of the law meant that a struggle over something real was also, more importantly, a struggle over something ideal and it was this additional quality that, ultimately, gave the law its force. “This connection between the law and the person”, Jhering wrote, “gives all rights, whatever their nature, that incommensurable value which I call ideal to distinguish it from the purely material value that it has in terms of interest.” The law, which on one side seems to tie people to the lower regions of egoism and calculation, raises them up to an ideal above the level of subtlety and calculation that they have learned on the scale of utility and

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enables them to fight fully and purely for an idea. Although it will be prose in the sphere of purely material things, the law becomes poetry in the personal sphere and in the struggle to defend personality. The struggle for law is the poetry of character.42 What began as a simple assertion of an interest took on a new lease of life once it had been given the further quality of a subjective right. In this sense, the interplay between subjective and objective rights that enabled an interest to become a right was similar in form to the interplay between amour de soi and amour-​propre in Rousseau’s thought. Just as amour-​propre supplied the motivating power to bring amour-​de-​soi and its attendant love of order into play either as conscience or resentment, so the existence of a system of objective rights supplied a similar motivating force to turn subjective claims about rights into publicly recognised legal rights. Jhering called this reflexive motivation a “feeling of legal right” or a “sense of justice”. Whether, he wrote, the sense in question was individual or collective it was “the root” of the whole legal system.43 On his terms, the struggle for law began from below. Later, in his Der Zweck im Recht, Jhering pointed out the similarity between this way of thinking about the law and Rousseau’s concept of the general will. The “opposition” between “the particular and the common interest”, he wrote, had been what Rousseau had also emphasised in book 1, ­chapter 7 of his Social Contract. “Indeed”, Jhering added, quoting Rousseau’s own words, “each individual can, as a man, have a private will contrary to, or differing from, the general will he has as a citizen.” His private interest can speak to him quite differently from the common interest. His absolute and naturally independent existence can make him think that what he owes the common cause is a voluntary contribution whose loss will be less harmful to others than its payment is to him. And, considering the moral person of the state to be a figment of the imagination because it is not a man, he will seek to enjoy the rights of a citizen without fulfilling the duties of a subject, an injustice whose progress would cause the ruin of the political body.44 42 43 44

Rudolf von Jhering, La lutte pour le droit [1872], ed. Olivier Jouanjan (Paris, Dalloz, 2006), pp. 46–​47. Ibid., p. 81. Rudolf von Jhering, Law as a Means to an End [1877] (Boston, The Boston Book Company, 1913), pp.  420–​21, and note 122, quoting Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, SC, Bk. I, ch. 7, in Rousseau, CW, 4, pp. 140–​41.

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What was important, in the context of this opposition, was the need for a third term to bridge the gap between the particular and the general. For Jhering it was the law, just as for Rousseau it had been the general will. 6

The Concept of Sovereignty

Jellinek added a further concept to the combination of financial autonomy and legal authority that he took over from the thought of Stein and Jhering. This was the concept of sovereignty. As Jellinek presented it, the concept of sovereignty was the key to a state’s capacity for self-​limitation.45 In itself, he argued, a state was simply organised force. In this sense, states were a generic feature of human history. They were as widespread and powerful, at least on their own terms, among the ancients as among the moderns and among republics as despotisms. In this respect, they were straightforward engines of power. Paradoxically, Jellinek argued, it was the concept of sovereignty, with its emphasis upon supremacy and finality, that gave the further qualities of legitimacy and authority to the idea of a state. It did so because these, importantly, were qualities that required the initial existence of a relationship, like the relationship between one large association and many smaller associations that Rousseau had been the first to identify as the basis of the combination of the state and civil society. Adding sovereignty to a state meant, on the one hand, highlighting the one quality that distinguished the state from every other form of association while, on the other hand, predicating that quality on the continued existence of exactly those same forms of association. From this perspective, sovereignty had a built-​in capacity for self-​limitation that was unavailable to the states themselves. It was the extra ingredient that turned force into law while, at the same time, adding force to the law. As Jellinek himself described his conceptual move, “in order to supply a foundation to public law, I transferred the central idea of modern ethics, ethical autonomy, by analogy, to the state.”46 Adding autonomy to force meant that, despite appearances to the contrary, sovereignty was the key to the overlapping distinctions between the state and civil society and between public law and private law. Without it, 45 46

The idea was foreshadowed in the talk that Jellinek gave in 1891, entitled (in the modern Italian edition that I  have used) “La politica dell assolutismo e quella del radicalismo. Hobbes e Rousseau”, in Lagi (ed.), Georg Jellinek: Storico del Pensiero Politico, pp. 53–​69. The passage is cited in Peter Ghosh, “Max Weber and Georg Jellinek:  Two Divergent Conceptions of Law”, Saeculum, 59 (2008), pp.  299–​347 (p.  312 for the passage in question).

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the distinctions would collapse, leaving the state either in total command or at the mercy of an increasingly fragmented civil society. Jellinek’s interest in the distinction between sovereignty and the state and his insistence that the former was modern while the latter was generic was the product of a more protracted historical and political argument over the status of Roman law in modern European, particularly German, legal and political life. In his version of the argument, Jellinek established a position that combined important aspects of the old Roman-​law concern with the state, status and the res publica with a new emphasis on sovereignty as a peculiarly modern concept whose origins went back no further than the middle ages and the doctrinal fallout of the long-​drawn out struggle for power between Europe’s medieval emperors and popes together with their respective clients and vassals. “The Greeks and the Romans”, Jellinek wrote in his Allgemeine Staatsrecht at the beginning of a historical examination of the concept of sovereignty, “were equally unaware of the notion of a sovereign state”. The Greek states were too small and too similar for any one of them to stand out above the rest, while the Roman state was too large and powerful to need to use the type of comparative conceptual vocabulary to which the concept of sovereignty belonged. The ancient world, Jellinek claimed, “lacked the one single thing that could have given rise to the concept of a sovereign state, namely the opposition between political power and other powers.”47 This, instead, was the legacy of the middle ages and the explanation of why the three-​sided struggle between popes, emperors and their urban or rural retainers had eventuated in the modern concept of a sovereign state. Jellinek’s concept of sovereignty relied on an initial distinction between political power and other forms of power. In this sense, sovereignty was to the state as Rousseau’s concept of the general will was to the will of all. It supplied the additional level of legality and legitimacy that turned power into authority and decisions into rules. Sovereignty was singular, not plural, but could still maintain institutional and social pluralism. However contradictory it appeared to be, sovereignty was simultaneously law-​generated and law-​based, but was still somehow sovereign. The mechanism responsible for this fluidity of status was the law itself. Importantly, however, this was not because the law functioned in a positive way but, especially in conditions of social and institutional complexity, because the law functioned negatively. It was responsible for maintaining the positive rights, entitlements and attributes of the various individual and collective arrangements that fell under its aegis. It was, at least 47

Georg Jellinek, L’état moderne et son droit, vol. 1, pp. 78–​79.

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in Jellinek’s rendition, both a bridge between the state and civil society and, more fundamentally, the other side of politics. The rule of law could add the authority of a command to the utility of a contract and, by doing so, impose a minimal set of legal obligations to the divisions and arguments of civil society. Where politics itself had no determinate content, the concept of sovereignty endowed the law with a peculiarly modern ability to give politics a relatively stable content. Sovereignty, in short, made the law something like Rousseau’s concept of a civil religion. 7

Otto von Gierke

Jellinek’s legal philosophy followed the logic of Rousseau’s political thought, buttressed by the three-​sided Hegelian, but Rousseau-​inspired, distinction between individuals, civil society and the state. From this perspective, Rousseau’s political thought formed the basis of a line of descent that ran from Kant and Hegel to Stein, Jhering and Jellinek. In this line of descent, the key analytical concepts were sovereignty, legality and the state, while the main emphasis fell on the modern origins of their substantive relationship. As Jellinek recognised, however, there was also a second line of descent. This one also took its intellectual cue from Rousseau and Hegel, but focussed on civil society rather than the state, and on self-​government rather than government, as the basis of individual and collective liberty. In this second line of descent, the key concepts were civil society and what came to be known as a Genossenschaft or fellowship, while the main emphasis fell on the continuities between Roman history and modern society. The continuities were described initially and very fully in a long book review published in 1856 by one of Jellinek’s intellectual mentors, a Swiss-​German jurist and political philosopher named Johann Caspar Bluntschli whom Jellinek twice succeeded as a law professor, first at the University of Basel in 1889 and then at the University of Heidelberg in 1891, and who went on to become the author of a textbook on the idea of the state used in universities all over late nineteenth-​century Europe.48 Both the title of the review  –​“On the New Foundations of Social Right”  –​and, more particularly, its subtitle –​“Saint-​Simon, Cabet, Hegel, Ahrens, Robert von Mohl” –​help 48

Johann Caspar Bluntschli, “Uber die neuen Begründungen der Gesellschaft und des Gesellschaftsrechts:  Saint-​Simon, Cabet, Hegel, Ahrens, Robert von Mohl”, Kritische Überschau der deutschen Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft, 3 (1856), pp.  229–​66. I am grateful to Samuel Garrett Zeitlin for translating the text. All the passages cited in the next two paragraphs are from this article.

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to underline both the transnational quality of the line of intellectual descent produced by the concept of civil society and, more substantively, the range of different implications that it had for thinking about how the distinctions between sovereignty and government and the public and the private could now be articulated. Bluntschli was intensely hostile to the concept of civil society, far more so than even Jellinek was to be. Once, he argued, there had a been a clear distinction between public and private law. This, he claimed, was what the Romans had first established. “Already, nearly two thousand years ago,” he wrote, “the Roman jurists instructed the world that public law presupposes and encompasses the state of the Roman nation (statum res Romanae), while private law presupposes and encompasses individual utility (singulorum utilatatem).” Although, he continued, there would always be arguments about where to draw a line between the two types of law, the distinction itself was what mattered. Public law was “indispensable for the welfare and majesty of the modern state”, just as private law was “irremissible for the protection of individual freedom and legal security.” Together, they had once supplied the foundations of political society. Recently, Bluntschli complained, the two concepts had turned into three. A new doctrine, he announced, had emerged which, “in place of the two major concepts, aims to set up three, and talks of a third sphere of social life midway between individual lives and the collective life of the nation.” It had originated with the socialists and Saint-​Simon, and had become more pronounced and crude in the thought of the communists and Cabet, but its most elaborate but, ultimately, contentless formulation had been made by Hegel. Everything in Hegel’s thought, Bluntschli wrote, came in threes. First there were individuals, families and property; then there was civil society, morality and corporate life; finally, there was religion, rationality and the state. The difficulty was to see how they were connected, or to understand why Hegel had jettisoned the old binary distinction between the family and the state in favour of the strange new triad of individuals, civil society and the state. Hegel’s critics, Bluntschli continued, were no better. Although, he wrote, the law professor Heinrich Ahrens (whose Juristische Encyclopädie [Legal Encyclopaedia] was the target of this part of Bluntschli’s review), was a very different type of thinker from Hegel, he too distinguished civil society from the state. Unlike Hegel, however, Ahrens saw civil society as “the fulfilment of human relations” and not as a preliminary and subordinate sphere of largely instrumental economic activity. But, Bluntschli argued, adding corporate diversity to state uniformity was still incompatible with the original Roman distinction between public law and private law because, he insisted, it meant that the unity of the state “would then be broken from the ground up”, leaving no more

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than “a plurality of different independent organisms” –​with as much potential for conflict as for cooperation –​as a basis for coexistence in a state which now had no clear public function or distinctive identity. The same problems, Bluntschli went on to claim, applied to the more scholarly Geschichte und Litteratur der Staatswissenschaften (The History and Literature of State Theory) that had been published in 1855 by the legal theorist and Heidelberg University professor Robert von Mohl. Here the key term, later popularised by the now better-​known legal historian and political theorist Otto von Gierke, was a Genossenschaft, meaning a fellowship or association, as well as the multiplicity of collective associations or group personalities located between individuals on the one side and states on the other to which the term referred.49 These collective entities could be classes, occupations, mutual societies, religious communities or cultural associations, but they all shared the common characteristic of being different from either private life or the life of the state. Together, they formed “a third sphere of life and of law” that, as Bluntschli presented it, housed all the attractions, and all the dangers, of Hegel’s original political vision. The outcome was the concept of a Genossenschaft. The term was first used in a political sense by a German jurist named Georg Beseler (who was one of Gierke’s law professors) and then by the Heidelberg law professor Robert von Mohl. According to a later historian, von Mohl was also the first to point out, in the course of making a critical assessment of the uses to which the concept of civil society had been put, that “a mass of groupings, schools, churches, economic associations, etc.”, still did not add up to “any general conception of society in contradistinction to the state”.50 Under Gierke’s aegis, this was what the concept of a Genossenschaft was intended to do. His most important move was to change the sense of the Roman-​law concepts of a universitas and a societas. Before the nineteenth century, the two concepts were associated with the medieval idea of a legal fiction. That idea made it possible to explain why an entity like a corporation, a university or a commercial partnership could be endowed with a legal existence that would still, however, be distinct from the 49

50

On Gierke and his legacy, see David Runciman, Pluralism and the Personality of the State (Cambridge, cup, 1997). See too Damiano Canale, Paolo Grossi and Hasso Hofmann (eds.), A History of the Philosophy of Law in the Civil Law World, 1600–​1900 (Heidelberg, Springer, 2009), pp. 301–​54. On the concept of a Genossenschaft, see Gerhard Dilcher and Bernhard Diestelkamp (eds), Recht, Gericht, Genossenschaft und Policey (Berlin, Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1986), particularly pp. 114–​76. Nikolaĭ Mikhaĭlovitch Korkounov, General Theory of Law [1903] (New York, Macmillan, 1922), p. 334. On Beseler and von Mohl, see Michael Dreyer, “German Roots of the Theory of Pluralism”, Constitutional Political Economy, 4 (1993), pp. 7–​39.

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legal existence of its real human members. With the concept of a Genossenschaft, the concept of a legal fiction began to turn into a collective agent with a real personality and what was earlier taken to be no more than a setting for a fictive personality now began to take on a life of its own. “Take away our relationship to a nation and a state”, Gierke wrote, “to religious bodies or churches, to profession and family and all kinds of unions and guilds, and we would not be able to recognise ourselves in the miserable remnant that would remain”.51 From this perspective, the association was as real as its members, with the same type of holistic unity as a real individual. This, as a later commentator put it, implied that the idea of a “moral person” was “in no way a fictitious being devised by lawyers in order to facilitate certain business operations”, but was instead “a real union” able to ensure that “a craft-​guild, a city, a state” would be “real beings, who live in the life of their members and possess a distinct consciousness and a common will”. They would all, in short, “be subjected to all the consequences of the notion of real personality.”52 Gierke used the concept of a Genossenschaft as a way to reconcile the rival camps of Romanists and Germanists in nineteenth-​century German legal and political thought. Although, he argued, the name was German, its more remote origins and real content were, in fact, Roman because the attributes of the concept were as applicable to the comitiae, centuriae and other subdivisions of Rome’s republican and imperial forms of government as they were to medieval guilds or modern corporations. The idea of a Genossenschaft was, therefore, equally salient to both the ancients and the moderns because its corporate and communal orientation made the combined legacies of the Romans and the Germans a genuine social and legal antidote to the atomism of modern individualism and the centralised power of the modern state. As Gierke emphasised, without this type of antidote, political power would be entirely in the hands of a sovereign defined on Hobbist specifications. “Hobbes’s account of the similarity and difference between the monarchical and republican sovereign”, he argued, “illustrates particularly how much he identifies the ‘personality’ of the Ruler with the physical substance of a man or a body of men. The republican sovereign only really exists for him as long as it is actually in session; in the interval it sleeps, and this sleep becomes death if the right of meeting is not at its 51

Paul Vinogradoff, Outlines of Historical Jurisprudence, 2 vols. (Oxford, oup, 1920), vol. 1, pp. 132, note 2, citing Otto von Gierke, Das Wesen der menschlichen Verbände [1902], p. 22. 52 Vinogradoff, Outlines, vol. 1, pp. 133–​34. Interestingly, the chapter in which Vinogradoff made this description of Gierke’s thought was entitled “Nationalists”. On the broader subject of holism and individualism, see Susan James, The Content of Social Explanation (Cambridge, cup, 1984).

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own discretion.”53 As with Dicey, active citizenship, this time in the guise of the Genossenschaft, was the real alternative to a sleeping sovereign. This, however, was not the only antidote that Gierke discovered. Some years after the publication in 1868 of the first volume of his huge deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht (German corporate law) he also discovered an antidote to Rousseau. He found this second, complementary, antidote in the thought of an early seventeenth century German-​Dutch Calvinist named Johannes Althusius. Althusius was a monarchomach. His most famous work was a treatise on politics published in 1603 under the title of Politica methodice digesta atque exemplis sacris et profanis illustrata or Politics Methodically Set Forth and Illustrated from Sacred and Secular Examples, as it has been entitled in a more recent abridged translation. For Gierke, Rousseau had copied Althusius. “In fact”, he wrote in the large book on Althusius that he published in 1880, “the Social Contract shows a remarkable agreement with Althusius in respect to several fundamental and salient ideas which do not occur at all in any of his predecessors, at any rate in such precise terms.” Although, Gierke acknowledged, “strict proof” of plagiarism was hard to find, the “often striking similarity” between Althusius and Rousseau was enough to ensure that “whoever makes a fair comparison of the two books will hardly fail to receive the impression that this is something more than a mere accident.”54 But, as Gierke also acknowledged, there was still a significant difference. Althusius was a sociability theorist, while Rousseau was not. For Althusius, human societies were based upon expanding networks of social ties. They began with families, kin and clans. They grew to become communities, peoples and nations. In early modern European thought, the mechanism underlying these widening circles of association was usually said to be the ancient Greek Stoic concept of oikeiosis or the human ability to make something one’s own. The thing in question could be property, but it could also be a language, a craft, a skill or, in the case of a sexual relationship, a person. For Gierke, the significance of this aspect of Althusius’s thought was its striking compatibility with the concept of a Genossenschaft and its equally striking difference from the concept of a state. Together, he claimed, these two features of Althusius’s thought meant that there was a more acceptable version

53

54

Otto von Gierke, Natural Law and the Theory of Society 1500–​1800 (Cambridge, cup, 1934), p. 267, note 153, cited by Miguel Vatter, “Liberal Governmentality and the Political Theology of Constitutionalism”, in Bas Leijssenaar and Neil Walker (eds.), Sovereignty in Action (Cambridge, cup, 2019), pp. 115–​43 (p. 121). Otto von Gierke, The Development of Political Theory [1880], translated by Bernard Freyd (London, Allen & Unwin, 1939), pp. 16, 18. For Gierke’s assessment of Rousseau, see too pp. 98–​112, 181–​85, 257–​98.

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of Rousseau’s thought already in existence long before Rousseau himself had written a word. Instead of the type of individually-​oriented and individually-​ generated social contract that Rousseau had adopted from Hobbes, there was a double contract involving what, echoing Althusius, Gierke called a contract of union and a contract of rulership which eliminated the need for a strong state because society would be held together by the interdependent character of its multiple components. Rousseau’s “revolutionary act”, Gierke concluded, was to remove “the contract of rulership from the contractual theory.” This, in essentials, meant that “he completed the picture of the social contract by borrowing from his democratic forerunners the purely social framework adapted to the liberty and equality of all members, filling this up with the absolutist content of the Hobbesian contract.” With Rousseau, “despite all individualist beginnings and endings”, there was “the absolute despotism of the sovereign displayed in every majority vote.”55 With Althusius, on the other hand, there was a federal system of government, but no general will. It was civil society without Rousseau’s version of political sovereignty. In the early twentieth century, the combination came to be called pluralism. Pluralism’s fate is well enough known.56 “This theory”, wrote Jellinek, “has been developed in detail by Gierke.” But, he continued, Gierke had “not sufficiently separated a theory of association from an organic theory and has gone so far as to declare himself to be a supporter of the latter. In addition he has not differentiated these two ways of conceiving of the state.”57 A state, according to Gierke, could be an organism but could also, according to Jellinek, be a union of associations. In this latter sense, it would have a legal side and a social side with politics keeping the two sides separate. Ultimately, as Rousseau had written, “everything depended radically on politics”.58 But quite how it did, or

55 Gierke, Development, pp.  97, 109. For a parallel presentation, see Hans Kelsen, “Foundations of Democracy”, Ethics, 66 (1955), pp. 1–​101 (pp. 21–​24, on Rousseau). 56 See, notably, Runciman, Pluralism and the Personality of the State. For one, early, example of the problems to which pluralism was exposed, see Erich Hahn, “Rudolf Gniest and the Prussian Rechtsstaat, 1862–​78”, Journal of Modern History, 49 (1977), pp. D1361-​D1381. 57 Jellinek, L’état moderne, vol. 1, pp.  263–​64. For further commentary, see Sandrine Baume, “L’état organique. Enjeux critiques d’une analogie”, Revue européenne des sciences sociales, 40 (2002), pp. 119–​39, and her “Hans Kelsen and the Requirement of Self-​ Determination:  How the Austrian Jurist Takes Inspiration from Rousseau and How He Emancipates Himself from the Swiss Philosopher”, in Peter Langford, Ian Bryan and John McGarry (eds.), Hans Kelsen and the Natural Law Tradition (Leiden & Boston, Brill, 2019), pp. 188–​214 (see also the contribution by Maurizio Cau in the same collection). 58 Rousseau, Confessions, in Rousseau, CW, 5, p. 340.

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what it meant, were the two questions that lay at the heart of the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau. The problem, as Jellinek emphasised, was that despite his repeated claims about the systematic quality of his thought, Rousseau’s system was never spelled out in full. This, he continued, was why even the best historians of political thought had not recognised Rousseau’s contribution to the theory of the modern state. In this sense, the title of Ernst Cassirer’s 1932 article on the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau rehearsed a longstanding assessment of Rousseau’s thought, one which ran all the way from the period of the French Revolution into the twentieth century. From this perspective, the real significance of Cassirer’s article had less to do with the problem and more to do with the solution. “As an opponent of the representative system” but “as a supporter of federative republics”, wrote the Göttingen historian and political theorist Arnold Heeren in 1807, Rousseau “would have been doubly destined for the guillotine” had he been alive during the period of the French Revolution. But this, however, was not the real problem because, to Heeren, the real Jean-​ Jacques Rousseau problem lay elsewhere. This was not a matter of Rousseau’s insistence on the sovereignty of the people which, Heeren recognised, was “the principal maxim on which his system rests” but was instead an effect of “Rousseau’s belief that this sovereignty may be associated with monarchy.” This, Heeren wrote, had ensured that “the boundary line between monarchy and republicanism was thus wholly effaced, and the way prepared to errors for which Europe has already in part atoned and still atones most dearly.” It meant that “Europe, after having apparently escaped from the dangers of democracy, is on the verge of seeing either monarchical republics or republics under the name of monarchies occupying the chief places among her states.”59 The allusion to Napoleon Bonaparte and, perhaps, to his first political and intellectual sponsor, Emmanuel-​Joseph Sieyès, is not hard to see. The problem resurfaced a century later, this time in a German context. It was laid out very fully in the long introduction to what is still the best scholarly edition of Althusius’s Politica, published in 1932 by a German exile in the United States named Carl Joachim Friedrich, who subsequently went on to have an influential career as a Professor of Government at Harvard University.60 In this case, however, Friedrich’s target was Gierke as much as Rousseau. Both, he claimed, were guilty of the same analytical and political failure that Heeren had identified a hundred years earlier. By taking Althusius as the real source 59 60

Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren, Historical Treatises [1807] (Oxford, 1836), pp. 180–​82. Carl Joachim Friedrich (ed.), Politica methodice digesta of Johannes Althusius (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard UP, 1932).

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of Rousseau’s putatively federalist vision of politics (a claim that Friedrich did not entirely accept), Gierke had fallen into the same trap that Heeren had already highlighted. This was because without some additional source of moral or political authority the many different components of a federal system were as likely to fall apart or become hopelessly entangled as to coexist peacefully. Once, in the age of Althusius, that additional resource had been Calvinism. But, with the erosion of Calvinist dogma and the disenchantment of the world (Friedrich had been a student of Max Weber’s brother, Alfred Weber), there was now nothing to block the centrifugal process that threatened to erode the ideological foundations of the political lineage which, Gierke had claimed, ran from the Reformation to modern pluralist states. “Only by succeeding in his calling”, Friedrich warned, “the function to which he is called, can mortal man contribute to the glory of God, can he hope to be among the select. Nothing shows as clearly as this notion of one’s vocation that a corporate cooperative commonwealth, a democracy, can last only among men motivated by Christian and more particularly Calvinist morality. The disappearance of these so-​called puritan morals threatens the ideological foundations of modern democracy.”61 In the last analysis, Friedrich warned, “Althusius’s state devours the entire community, becomes one with it.” Instead of a federal state, it would become a corporate state, as in fascist Italy or the Soviet Union and, as Friedrich recognised, as Germany under the Nazis would soon become.62 This, he argued, was why modern democratic politics called for the existence of something able to enforce and maintain the unitary quality of political sovereignty and the existence of a single decision-​making agency that was the hallmark of the thought of Thomas Hobbes and, more recently, of the German jurist Carl Schmitt.63 Friedrich’s indictment of Gierke was similar to Heeren’s indictment of Rousseau. Both were published after a period of war, revolution and hyperinflation. Both, however, focussed almost entirely on the failures of institutional 61 Friedrich, Althusius, p. lxxiii. 62 Friedrich, Althusius, pp. lxxiii, lxxxviii. See too pp. lxxxiv-​lxxxv. 63 On Friedrich, see recently Carl Joachim Friedrich, Pouvoir et fédéralisme, ed. Gaëlle Demelemestre (Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2012) and, on Friedrich and Schmitt, see Carl Joachim Friedrich, “Dictatorship in Germany?”, Foreign Affairs, 9 (1930), pp. 118–​32; “The Development of the Executive Power in Germany”, American Political Science Review, 27 (1933), pp. 185–​203; and “The Political Thought of Neo-​Liberalism”, American Political Science Review, 49 (1955), pp. 509–​25. See too Friedrich, Althusius, pp. xci-​xciv. Curiously, Schmitt does not appear in Friedrich’s Constitutional Reason of State (Providence, Brown UP, 1957), nor in the recent examination of Friedrich’s thought by Udi Greenberg, The Weimar Century:  German Emigres and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War (Princeton, Princeton UP, 2014).

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design and the problems of democratic politics that, in somewhat different ways, they took to be largely responsible for the scale and scope of first Napoleon’s and then Hitler’s rise to power. 8

Epilogue: the Jean-​Jacques Rousseau Problem in Historical Context

Friedrich’s edition of Althusius, with its muted indictment of Gierke, was published in 1932, the same year that Ernst Cassirer gave his lecture on the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau. Setting the two texts alongside one another, it is hard not to think that Friedrich’s endorsement of Schmitt and his rejection of Althusius were not also aimed at Cassirer’s interpretation of Rousseau as a pluralist theorist of a Rechtsstaat. There is no evidence, however, that either scholar knew of the other, still less of their common interest in Rousseau. But what is clear, despite this mutual ignorance, is that both took there to be something about Rousseau’s legacy that even, or perhaps especially, in 1932 still had a salience to thinking about some of the most dangerous and potentially destructive features of modern politics. What is equally clear, however, is how little of the nineteenth-​century afterlife of Rousseau’s thought in Germany survived the legacy of the First World War. By 1932, for both Friedrich and Cassirer, the combined intellectual legacies of Kant, Hegel, Stein and Jellinek belonged to another world or, more immediately, had been overwhelmed by the combined intellectual force of Weber and Schmitt and by the more immediately urgent setting in which their thought took hold. When, after the Second World War, Rousseau studies began to be taken up again, their new intellectual foundations had now been established by scholars like Cassirer and Friedrich and, in the United States of America, were soon visible in Peter Gay’s translation of Cassirer and in the work of one of Friedrich’s most able students, Judith Shklar, on Rousseau. By then, three subjects had disappeared almost entirely from Rousseau studies. One, recently, has begun to come back, but the two others still seem to belong to other, apparently quite different, areas of inquiry. The subject that has begun to come back, largely under the aegis of comparisons between Rousseau’s thought and the thought of David Hume and Adam Smith, has been the relationship between stadial history and political possibilities as Rousseau conceived them. It is hard, now, to think of any major Rousseau scholar who has not noticed that Rousseau’s “sad, grand system” had something to do with the switch from independence to interdependence and from self-​sufficiency

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to the division of labour.64 Two other subjects, however, remain. The first is money and, in particular, the state’s ability to create money by borrowing it indefinitely and by funding its debt commensurately. The second is the law and, in particular, the way that the rule of law seems to call, paradoxically, for adding sovereignty to the state to limit, rather than magnify, state power. Rousseau did not address either of these two subjects in their own right. But he wrote enough about money, markets and the state on the one hand, and about sovereignty, government and the law on the other, for some of his nineteenth-​ century readers to claim that Rousseau’s thought really was the starting point of what they themselves had come to think about these subjects and their bearing on the question of the properties and attributes of a federal system of government. The question of what this involved for Rousseau has formed the subject matter of this book. The question of what it involves for us is why it is still worth reading Rousseau. 64

See Paganelli, Rasmussen and Smith (eds.), Adam Smith and Rousseau and the other works referred to, above ch. 1.

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Index accountability 46 administration 82–​83, 138, 161, 163. See also graduated promotion advertising vii aesthetics viii, ix, 7, 103 agreements 113 agriculture xi, 40–​41, 44, 54, 57, 58–​61, 65–​66, 86, 95, 96, 144–​46, 149, 153 Ahrens, Heinrich 158, 168, 169 Althusius, Johannes 172–​73, 174, 175, 176 and Stoics 172 amour-​de-​soi xi, 14, 52, 100, 101, 103, 118, 119–​20, 122–​31, 132–​34, 165 amour-​propre 13–​14, 15, 52, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 108, 119, 122, 124–​25, 127–​31, 132–​34, 165 animals 62–​64, 147. See also diet; instincts; perfectibility Antraigues, comte d’ 12–​13 apperception 147–​48 aristocracy, elected 76. See also federal government; government; gradated promotion arts and sciences 2, 10, 16, 115–​16 autonomy 84, 112, 150, 166 of society 153–​54. See also civil society; Hegel; individualism; Jellinek; Kant balance of power 21–​22, 28, 68, 84–​85, 140 Barante, Prosper de 143 Beaumont, Christophe de vii, 122–​25, 127 beauty 103, 118. See also aesthetics Bernardi, Bruno 53 Beseler, Georg 170 Bildung 148 bitcoin vii Bluntschli, Johann Caspar 168–​70 body, political 74. See also organism Bonaparte, Napoleon 174 Brissot, Jacques-​Pierre 6 Britain 31–​32 Bundesstaat 23, 138, 156 Burke, Edmund 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 87, 91, 116 and Marie-​Antoinette 4 on revolution 7–​8 Butler, Joseph 9

Cabet, Etienne 168, 169 Caird, Edward 150–​52 Capet, Hugues 38 Carthage 32 Cassirer, Ernst 13, 14, 16, 30, 52–​54, 174, 176 and the problem of Jean-​Jacques Rousseau, 13–​14, 52–​53, 174, 176 causation 29, 31, 43–​44, 54, 58–​59, 63–​64, 86, 89, 140, 143. See also theodicy centralisation x, 27, 28, 31, 36, 52–​54, 171 chemistry, “philosophical” 93 China 45 citizenship, and sovereignty 69, 70, 71, 150 civil religion 71, 168 civil society xiii, 72, 150, 153–​54, 156–​57, 158, 160, 166, 168, 169, 173 or bürgerliche Gesellschaft 154 or société bourgeoise 154. See also Althusius; Bluntschli; Gierke; Hegel; Jellinek Clarke, Samuel 9 Cloots, Anacharsis 6 commerce. See trade competition, commercial 26, 85 Comte, Auguste 158 Condillac, abbé Gabriel Bonnot de 95, 146 Condorcet, Marie-​Jean-​Antoine-​Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de 137 conquest, peaceful 26 conscience 53, 86, 116, 118–​26, 128, 129–​31, 132, 133, 165 and love of beauty 118 constitution 21, 32; English 32, 39–​43 federal 139, 175 in Montesquieu 32, 36–​43 continuity 46 Corsica 23, 80, 82–​83, 138. See also Rousseau credit 41–​42, 159–​63, 177 credulity, and complexity 3–​4, 16–​17, 25, 27, 28, 88 culture 146–​49 currency, fiat 82, 162, 177. See also money d’Alembert 10, 12, 17, 65, 74, 89, 92–​93, 117, 119, 135

198 Index debt. See public debt decentralisation x, 27, 28, 84 democracy xiii, 4–​5, 15, 27, 49–​50, 69, 73, 113, 140, 163, 174 social 163. See also Stein Dent, Nicholas 53 Derathé, Robert 16 Derrida, Jacques 16, 53 desire 59–​60, 97. See also imagination Dicey, Alfred Venn 139–​40, 172 Diderot, Denis 2, 3, 10, 12, 17, 22, 74, 89, 117, 135 diet, human 19, 55, 56, 58, 65, 86, 95, 98, 145–​46 disenchantment 16 division of labour 4, 7, 29, 30, 54, 55, 57, 60–​61, 63, 65, 67, 68, 80, 95, 115, 136, 149, 160, 176 double-​bind, in Rousseau 88, 99, 102, 122, 123, 125, 149, 161. See also Fénelon problem; Stein dualism xi, 40, 46, 117, 136–​37, 138, 149, 152, 159, 163 Dubos, Jean-​Baptiste 101 duelling 92–​93 Dupin, Claude 33 Durkheim, Emile 156 n27 economics, and politics 36 elections 22, 45–​46, 72–​73, 77, 84–​85, 137, 163. See also gradated promotion emotions 19, 88, 98, 116, 121 empire 26 enthusiasm 98, 103, 104–​05, 118 Epicureanism, and Rousseau 61, 90, 100, 144 equality 57, 113. See also inequality evidence 164 exchange 113 faction, and party 79 Fall 133; in Rousseau and Kant 94. See also Cassirer; theodicy fault 164 federal system vii, ix, xi, 6, 12, 21–​22, 23, 24, 77, 84–​85, 138, 174–​75, 177. See also government; state Federalist ix

feelings. See emotions Fénelon, François de Salignac de la Mothe 22, 31, 42, 84, 140 and Fénelon problem 26–​30, 31–​33, 36, 43, 47–​50, 51, 52–​53, 68 and Rousseau 47–​50, 51 and Telemachus 26–​27, 28, 30 feuds 37 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb xii, 84 fiction, legal 170, 171. See also Genossenschaft; law, Roman forced to be free, Rousseau on 20, 69 forming the nation for the government, Rousseau on 21, 23, 78–​79 Frederick ii, king of Prussia xii freedom 56–​57, 62, 63–​64, 66, 67, 68, 94, 95, 118, 120, 131, 132. See also conscience; liberty; perfectibility Freud, Sigmund 53 Friedrich, Carl Joachim 174–​76 and Alfred Weber 175 Gans, Edouard 43 Gay, Peter 13 n28, 176 general will viii, 17, 68, 70, 71, 74, 76–​77, 79, 84, 112, 113, 119, 139, 151–​52, 155–​56, 159, 160, 165, 167 Geneva 8–​9, 10, 30, 81, 117 Genossenschaft 157, 168, 170–​73. See also Gierke; Mohl German idealism viii, 12, 52. See also materialism of the wise man Germans, and Romans 37, 167, 171 Gierke, Otto von 157, 168, 170–​73, 174–​75, 176 and Althusius 172–​73 and Roman law 170–​71 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang 111, 137 government x, 5, 15, 17, 21, 47, 53, 68, 72–​73, 76, 113, 135, 138–​39 federal vii, 12, 21, 24, 65, 76, 138–​39, 177 of laws 49 of men 49 national 24 representative 162 and self-​government 168 gradated (graduated) promotion 74, 76–​79, 82–​83, 84, 137 Grotius, Hugo 1, 34, 36 growth, economic 26, 28, 29, 36

Index Hamilton, Alexander ix Harrington, James 39, 44 Heeren, Arnold 174, 175 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich vii, viii, xii, xiii, 43, 47, 71, 72, 142, 144, 151, 153, 154, 156, 160, 161, 163, 168, 170, 176 and civil society 154, 156–​59, 160, 169 and Rousseau 154–​56 Helvétius, Claude-​Adrien 47, 57, 117, 120 Herder, Johann Gottfried 144, 146–​49 Hirzel, Johann Caspar 30 history, end of 142, 144 philosophy of 144, 176 Hobbes, Thomas viii, xii, 1, 34, 36, 53, 117, 146, 150, 171, 173, 175 and Hobbism 49–​50, 146 honour, and shame 92–​93. See also duelling Hont, Istvan 134 Humboldt, Wilhelm von 110 Hume, David 3, 4, 9, 16, 17, 24, 27, 48, 87, 91, 93, 116, 176 ideas, general and particular 95, 98, 102, 116 identification 134–​35 identity, 51, 99. See also moi commun imagination xi, 19–​20, 59–​60, 63, 64, 86, 94–​95, 96, 97–​98, 102, 105, 106, 108, 109, 112, 114, 116, 128–​29, 131, 137, 147, 149. See also conscience; language of signs; love; perfectibility in libertate labor, in servitute dolor 5–​6, 64 independence 14, 30, 60, 66, 70, 131 176. See also division of labour individualism, and individuality 150, 152, 154, 160, 171 industrialism 66–​67 industry xi, 5–​6, 40–​41, 54, 58–​61, 64, 65–​66, 84–​85, 86, 95, 96, 144–​46, 149, 153. See also agriculture; credit; division of labour; luxury; perfectibility; trade inequality 17, 27, 31, 47, 51–​52, 54, 84, 134 instinct 56–​57, 63, 64, 94, 147 interdependence 60–​61, 66, 149, 176. See also division of labour interest 3, 5, 22, 24, 32, 35, 46, 74, 81, 87, 101, 115, 120–​21, 124–​26, 129, 133–​34, 138, 143, 155–​56, 161, 164–​65. See also Jhering rate of 40–​41, 45, 162

199 Jacobitism 47 Jansenism 62, 79, 101 Jay, John ix Jellinek, Georg xii, 153, 154–​56, 157–​59, 166–​68, 173 on Gierke 173 on Rousseau 155–​56, 174 Jhering, Rudolf von xii, 157, 159, 163–​66, 168 on rights and rules 163–​64 jury 40 justice 120, 165 Kant, Immanuel vii, viii, x, xii, 13–​14, 20, 47, 94, 112, 134, 142, 144, 150–​51, 163, 168, 176 and neo-​Kantianism 13–​14. See also Cassirer Kliyogg (the Rural Socrates) 30 Krause, Karl Friedrich Christian 158, 161 language 51, 88, 95, 147–​49. See also Herder language of signs 20, 86–​93, 114, 133, 135 and ancient politics 87 in republican Rome, 87–​88, 91–​92 law xiii, 2, 17, 113, 115, 135, 152, 157, 159, 163–​64, 166–​68 and politics 168 and rights 163–​64 Roman 167, 169, 170 rule of 159, 164, 167–​68 and sovereignty 166–​68, 177 Law, Edmund 9 Law, John 31, 44, 47, 48 Le Mercier de la Rivière, Pierre-​Paul 48 Legion of Honour 93, 137 legislator 114 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 143, 147 liberty 6, 39–​40 negative and positive 134. See also freedom; political economy Lindet, Robert 28 Locke, John 1, 101, 114 love 19, 51, 99, 100–​112, 118, 127, 135 absolute 127 of beauty 118, 135 comparative 127 of order 119, 122–​24, 129, 134. See also amour-​de-​soi; amour-​propre luxury 27, 36, 37, 115

200 Index Mably, Gabriel Bonnot de 47 Machiavelli, 42 and grandezza 22 Madison James ix, 46 Maistre, Joseph de 153 majority, and minority 76 Malebranche, Nicolas 119 Malthus, Thomas Robert 56–​57, 61, 137 mandarins 45 Mandeville, Bernard 31–​32 manners 36 Marie-​Antoinette, 3, 4 and Rousseau 3 and cake 3 markets x, xi, 40–​41, 43–​44, 58, 60, 82–​83, 145, 149, 177 marvellous, in life 3–​4, 20, 24–​25, 27, 116 Marx, Karl Heinrich 161 materialism, of the wise man 89, 90, 91, 93, 133, 135. See also German idealism; language of signs; Rousseau, Confessions Mercier, Louis-​Sébastien 83 metapolitics 149, 153, 154 and metaphysics 153. See also civil society Mirabeau, Victor de Riqueti, marquis de 48, 49, 50, 101, 146 modesty 105, 106, 108 mœurs 36 Mohl, Robert von 155, 161, 168, 170 moi 99, 131 and moi commun viii, 74, 76, 110, 113, 160. See also self Molinism 101 monarchy xi, 27, 31, 36–​43, 77, 174 and reform 26–​30, 52–​53 money xiii, 82, 113, 149, 152, 159, 162, 177 Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de x, 31, 32, 33–​36, 43, 44, 47, 50, 51, 67, 68, 86, 137 and credit 41–​42 and English constitution 32, 39–​41 and intermediate powers 36, 37–​38, 39 and Machiavellism 42 and monarchy 36–​43 and Rousseau 33–​36, 67 and trade 36–​37, 40–​41 prophecy by 32

morality 35, 50, 109, 116, 118, 120, 128, 131, 134, 136. See also conscience; moi; self; women motivation 35, 50, 86, 89, 114, 136 Muralt, Beat de 122 music 1, 88, 91, 109 natural rights. See rights nature, state of 51, 131–​32 needs 51, 52 Netherlands 31 Neuchâtel 30, 65–​66, 80, 124 Newton, Isaac  and Rousseau, compared by Kant 20 Nietzsche, Friedrich 15, 17, 53, 130 noble savage 29 Novalis 110 Ogilvie, William 47 opinion. See public opinion organism, as metaphor of political society 4, 74, 151–​52, 158, 173 Ovid 108–​09 Paine, Tom 50 painting, and music 91 Paley, William 9 party-​system 46, 47 perception 147 perfectibility xi, 62–​64, 66, 67, 68, 95, 98, 142, 148. See also freedom perfection 103–​04, 105, 118 personality 15, 150, 160–​61, 164, 171 of state, 160–​61, 162. See also Genossenschaft; Gierke; Jellinek; Stein Physiocracy 44, 45, 47–​50, 51, 144–​46, 149 pity 18–​19, 99–​100, 106, 119, 120, 122, 129–​30 Platonism, and division of labour 57 pluralism 173, 176 Poland 23, 76–​77, 138. See also Rousseau political economy of liberty 80; of modern Europe 55, 167 political obligation 70, 134–​35 politics, ancient and modern 4–​6, 87–​88, 109–​10, 116, 129, 132, 140, 153, 167–​68, 171 Rousseau on 20, 54, 149–​50, 173. See also federal system; metapolitics polyarchy xi, 50 population 54, 55, 61 possession 51–​52

Index price theory 54, 59, 144–​45 pride. See amour-​propre property 1, 2, 51–​52, 61, 80, 114, 162. See also possession; taxation prose 88 Proudhon, Pierre Joseph 157, 158 public debt 159, 162–​63, 177. See also money, Stein public, and private 47, 54, 70, 73, 76, 79, 112, 124–​25, 126, 138, 165 public law, and private law 79, 165, 166, 169. See also general will; will of all public opinion vii, 7, 46, 91, 92–​93, 102, 135 Pufendorf, Samuel 1 Rawls, John 16 reason 88, 131 Rechtsstaat 14, 15, 31, 52, 54, 156, 176 recognition theory 15 reform 26–​33, 36, 43–​47, 52, 53, 78–​80, 146. See also Physiocracy remorse 119. See also conscience representation, political 31, 68. See also government republics 41, 49–​50, 174. See also federal system; government; politics; social democracy ancient 132 bourgeois xiii compound ix federal ix, xi, xiii, 24 modern ix, xiii types of ix, xiii resentment 165. See also conscience reserve bank 82–​83 revolution, Rousseau on 7, 59, 145. See also Burke right, positive 113 rights, natural 70 rights, objective and subjective 163–​64, 165 rights, perfect and imperfect 70 Ritchie, David George viii, xi, xii, 150, 151 Robespierre, Maximilien viii, 28–​29 Rome 32, 76, 87, 145, 167, 168, 170 Rousseau, and concept of civil society 154, 156 Gierke on 173 Hegel and 154–​56 Jellinek on 153–​56 Kant and 94 on Montesquieu 33–​35, 80.

201 scholarship on viii–​ix, 13–​17, 53–​54, 174–​176 See also Corsica; division of labour; Fall; federal system; general will; Geneva; gradated promotion; imagination; love; nature; Neuchâtel; Poland; politics; sovereignty; state; system; theodicy; will of all; women Works by:  Confessions xiii, 3, 12, 20, 86, 89–​90, 115 Considerations on the Government of Poland xiii, 6, 7, 11, 18, 23, 50, 55, 76–​77, 84, 86 Discourse on Political Economy 74–​75, 76, 86, 135, 138, 155 Discourse on the Arts and Sciences 2–​3, 13, 55–​56, 86, 141 Discourse on the Origin of Inequality 1, 11, 13, 18, 28, 51, 55, 56, 57–​59, 63, 64, 67, 80, 86, 88, 95–​96, 99, 100, 101, 102, 115, 120, 123, 145, 147 Emile 7, 9, 13, 17, 34–​35, 36, 50, 59–​61, 64, 67, 76, 86, 88, 89, 97, 98, 102, 103, 104, 105, 108, 113, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 126, 130, 131, 132, 136 Essay on the Origin of Languages xiii, 11, 18, 86, 88, 89, 91, 99, 100, 101, 106 Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse 17, 30, 50, 86, 90, 96–​97, 104, 117, 118 La morale sensitive 12, 89 Le matérialisme du sage 12, 89, 133 Letter to Christophe de Beaumont vii, 18, 122–​25, 126, 127, 128, 133, 135 Letter to d’Alembert 65–​66, 92–​93, 106, 117 Letters from the Mountain 4, 5, 6, 8, 68 Lettres morales 119–​20, 122, 132 Narcissus 115, 119, 125, 141 Plan of a Constitution for Corsica xiii, 12, 21, 23, 50, 77–​79, 82–​84, 86 Political Institutes 12 Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar 119, 143 Pygmalion 108–​10 Rousseau, Judge of Jean-​Jacques 3, 10, 11, 18, 115, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133 Social Contract 1–​2, 9, 12, 13, 17, 20, 35, 50, 52, 63, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 76, 79, 80, 86, 91–​92, 112, 151, 152, 155, 165 The Levite of Ephraim 89, 135 rules, legal 163

202 Index Saint-​Just, Louis-​Antoine viii Saint-​Pierre, Charles Irénée Castel, abbé de 13, 29, 48 Saint-​Simon, Claude Henri, comte de 157, 168, 169 Salentum 26, 29 Salic laws 37 Say, Jean-​Baptiste 29 Schiller, Friedrich 110, 142 Schlegel, Friedrich 110 Schleiermacher, Friedrich 110–​11 Schlözer, August Ludwig von 153 Schmitt, Carl 175–​76 self 99; 109, 131–​32, 134, 149 common viii, ix, 110 physical and moral 131 and self-​approval 134 and self-​interest 120–​21, 164. See alsoamour-​propre; interest; moi sensibilité 127 positive and negative 127, 128, 130–​31, 132 separation of powers 40, 46, 136 shame xi, 92, 106–​07. See also modesty Shklar, Judith 176 Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph 47, 50, 71, 72, 137, 174 signs. See language of signs slavery 4, 6, 150 Smith, Adam 9, 93, 134, 176 social contract 51–​52, 67–​68, 69, 72–​74, 84, 112–​13, 114, 150, 173 social democracy 163 and liberalism 163. See also Stein socialists 157, 158, 169. See also Saint-​Simon society 153–​54, 157–​58, 160 acquisitive 160–​61, 162 and individual 150, 152, 154. See also civil society; individualism sovereign 72, 112 sleeping 139, 140, 171–​72. See also federal system; government; sovereignty sovereignty x, 5, 15, 17, 47, 52, 53, 68, 69, 70, 72–​73, 113, 138–​39, 150, 152, 162, 166–​68 absence of concept in Rome and Greece 167 in Jellinek 166–​68 and monarchy 174 and state 166–​68, 177 Sparta 32 Spector, Céline 53

Spencer, Herbert 158 Staatenbund 23, 138 Staël, Germaine de 110, 143 Stanislas Leszczynski, king of Poland 5, 6, 64 Starobinski, Jean 16, 53 state 135, 150, 152, 155, 161, 166, 168, 171 auto-​limitation of 159, 166–​68 bureaucratic 162 and civil society 72, 152–​55, 157, 158, 160, 166 federal 139 fiscal 81 and general will 155, 160, 165, 167 personality of, 160–​61, 162 sovereignty and 166–​67, 177 two-​sided nature of 159–​60, 166–​68. See also federal system; government; Jellinek; law; sovereignty; Stein Stein, Lorenz von xii, 157, 158, 159–​63, 168, 176 on public debt, 162–​63 Steuart, Sir James 47 Strauss, Leo viii, xi, xii, 16, 53, 150 subject 69, 70 subject, autonomy of 15–​16, 54, 134, 150 subsistence goods 54, 65 suffrage 163. See also elections Süssmilch, Johann Peter 147 Switzerland ix, 153 system, in Rousseau’s thought 10–​11, 15, 115, 116, 141–​42, 149, 176 Tacitus 39 taxation 54–​55, 68, 80–​82, 83, 145, 161 theodicy 14–​15, 141–​44, 146, 149. See also causation Tocqueville, Alexis de 17, 24 totalitarianism, and Rousseau xii, 20–​21, 54, 152 trade 36–​37, 40–​41, 82–​83, 115, 153 Tuck, Richard 53 Tucker, Josiah 9 United States of America 24, 139 universitas and societas, in Roman law 170 utility 120, 164–​65, 169 and the arts 60 and the law 165, 169. See also imagination; luxury

Index Vaughan, Charles Edwyn 152 Vauvenargues, marquis de 101 Villers, Charles de 110 virtue 21, 29, 35, 36, 45, 53, 63, 77, 82, 90, 103, 104, 115–​18, 124, 129, 132, 135, 143 simulacrum of 115, 116, 119, 125, 135 volonté de tous 151. See also will of all volonté générale viii, ix, 151. See also general will Voltaire, François Arouet de 10, 29, 31, 32, 57, 61

203 war 9 Weber, Alfred 175 Weber, Max 4, 17, 175, 176 will, and freedom 62, 132. See also general will; sovereignty will of all viii, 24, 71, 75, 113, 151–​52, 155–​56, 159, 167 women 33, 37, 103, 105–​08, 109–​11, 136–​37 words, spoken and written 88 work, and freedom 5–​6, 64