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Book Sections Year : 2024

« Rousseau’s Case against Democracy »,

Abstract

In book III chapter 4 of the Social Contract, Rousseau takes up the political principle established by Montesquieu in the Spirit of the Laws by correlating the form of a polity’s government to the extent of its territory: it is impossible, in his view, to answer once and for all the question of the best regime, without considering the suitability of regime types for particular situations. Yet democracy could still have a crucial advantage in Rousseau's system: this kind of government confers most power to the people. A republican state seems to call for a democratic regime. This is why Rousseau’s response may come as a surprise: far from being the best form of government, democracy is the worst – or at least it is not suitable for a people of men, not gods. This essay will reassess Rousseau’s case against democracy. Why does Rousseau declare that democracy causes, so to speak, « a government without government », and threatens popular sovereignty itself? This paradoxical claim needs to be explained.
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Dates and versions

hal-04505031 , version 1 (14-03-2024)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04505031 , version 1

Cite

Céline Spector. « Rousseau’s Case against Democracy »,. David Lay Williams; Mathew Maguire. The Cambridge Companion to the Social Contract, Cambridge UNiversity Press, pp.252-272, 2024, 9781108989770. ⟨hal-04505031⟩
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