Privately Printed for the Members of the Aldus SocietyJean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th century. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological, and educational thought.
These are the famous opening words of a treatise that has stirred vigorous debate ever since its first publication in 1762. Rejecting the view that anyone has a natural right to wield authority over others, Rousseau argues instead for a pact, or 'social contract', that should exist between all the citizens of a state and that should be the source of sovereign power. From this fundamental premise, he goes on to consider issues of liberty and law, freedom and justice, arriving at a view of society that has seemed to some a blueprint for totalitarianism, to others a declaration of democratic principles.
Translated by Quintin Hoare With a new introduction by Christopher Bertram
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