Synopses & Reviews
A lively new translation of Rousseau's best-known work, accompanied by additional political writings
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" are the famous opening words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract
, a work of political philosophy that has stirred vigorous debate ever since its publication in 1762. Rejecting the view that anyone has a natural right to sovereignty, Rousseau argues instead for a pact—a "social contract"—that should exist among all the citizens of a state and that should be the source of governing power. From this premise, he goes on to consider issues of liberty and justice, arriving at a view of society that has seemed to some a blueprint for totalitarianism, to others a declaration of democratic principles.
The Social Contract describes the basic principles of democratic government, stressing that law is derived from the will of the people.
"Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains"
These are the famous opening words of a treatise that has not ceased to stir vigorous debate 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.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Rousseau's powerful treatise expresses views on the rights, liberty and equality of all people. It remains a classic of political theory and one of the most influential works of abstract political thought in the Western tradition.
About the Author
(1712–1778) is the author of numerous political and philosophical texts as well as entries on music for Diderot's Encyclopédie
and the novels La nouvelle Héloïse
. Quintin Hoare
has translated from Italian, French, German, Russian, and Bosnian and is a winner of the John Florio Prize, the Scott-Moncrieff Prize, and the Schlegel-Tieck Prize. Christopher Bertram
is a professor of social and political philosophy at the University of Bristol in England. He is the author of Rousseau and the Social Contract
and is a past president of the Rousseau Association.
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