Rousseau · Social Theorists

Jean Jacques Rousseau


(my notes from the podcast called “Foundations of Modern Social Theory”):

He was famous for being both an artist and sociologist. His famous sociological work has been written in the form of a novel, and called Emile. In Emile, written in the first person, Jean Jacques is the tutor to Emile, from when he was a child till the time he fully grows, and in it Rousseau examines how society molds the character of the pure child into what  the social human he becomes.


Key concepts developed by Rousseau:

  • What is legitimate rule? One derived by consent and general will.
  • The transition of man from nature to civil society, takes away his freedom,  but through a social contract gives him civil freedom and property;
  • Justice has to be diluted in order to be accepted in a society => meaning our individual sense of justice has to be overruled by the general will;
  • Popular sovereignty = rule by the majority of men (he is supporting the right for every man to vote);
  • General will => it should support the majority will and not view;
  • Rousseau condemns the concept of the Bourgeois class in Emile. He is suggesting that citizens and bourgeois are different, because the bourgeois are self-conceited businessmen who are not committed to the general will and the interest of the majority.
  • Nature is good, but society corrupts;
  • Fear of death is not natural, and has been imposed on us by those in power (priests, philosophers, doctors, …);
  • Entering civilization is equal to forgetting the erotic-love aspect of sex, and using it in a utilitarian way;
  • Pity and misery make societies => He says “it is man’s weakness which makes him sociable: It is our common miseries which turn our hearts to humanity. (Emile 221)



One thought on “Jean Jacques Rousseau

  1. He is kind of an interesting person. There was a recent article in the New Yorker that claimed he predicted Trump with his analysis of elites. I have to wonder if he ever covered the topic of sexuality and its role in society.

    Liked by 1 person

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