Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Of The Social Contract and Other Political Writings
  • Of The Social Contract and Other Political Writings

  • Brought to you by Penguin.

    'Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.'

    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 2012 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

RELEASED 19/05/2022

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712. He spent much of his life travelling around Switzerland and France, working variously as a footman, seminarist and tutor. His writings included entries on music for Diderot's Encyclopédie, the novels La nouvelle Héloise (1761) and Émile (1762), and numerous political and philosophical texts. He also fathered five children - all of whom he abandoned to a foundling home - by Thérèse Levasseur, a servant girl. The crowning achievement of his political philosophy was The Social Contract, published in 1762. That same year he wrote an attack on religion that resulted in his exile to England. In 1770 Rousseau completed his Confessions. His last years were spent largely in France where he died in 1778.

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