Conflicting readings of the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Slane, Elliot A.
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote extensively on his ideal political system, as well as in-depth biographical works, throughout his life. Within his political philosophy there is a great amount of varied interpretations, primarily based upon his concept of the general will, which is supposed to be exemplified by unanimous support as well as total input by all members of the community. In one sense it is highly democratic because all individuals in the society are involved in its expression, yet the means to cultivate such unanimity can be seen as restrictive upon individual liberty. Because of this complex issue, there are authors who interpret Rousseau’s work as authoritarian and others view him as a radical democrat with a desire to integrate a new form of liberty into modern political structures. This work intends to analyze this divide based upon his body of work and his intentions as expressed in his biographical writings.