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Divergent Republics

Rousseau's Social Contract offers, on most accounts, a utopian picture of a society formed by social contract that creates a general will according to which its citizens are collectively ruled. For all the influence of republican thinking in the early American states, the Federalist Papers, defending the revised Federal Constitution in 1787, propose a wholly contrasting conception of the political order as a system of checks and balances of interest as an ideal. Why this divergence? And is it fair to think that Rousseau's conception is a wholly antiquated one, while that of Madison, Hamilton and Jay is a wholly modern one? And what are we to make of the fears for republics _ the inevitability of decline suggested by Rousseau; the fable of republican collapse in Montesquieu's Persian Letters, and the passionate repudiation of the Federal constitution in the pamphlet by Mercy Otis Warren?


What conception of freedom do the Federalist Papers work with, and how does it compare to that developed in Rousseau's work? If you used Montesquieu's account - how 'free' are citizens in America?

Could Rousseau tolerate the multiple states that made up the Federal Union? And why not? And do the Federalists in fact solve Rousseau's concerns?

Are Rousseau and the Federalists thinking about the same kinds of law and the same ends of legislation?

What were the concerns of anti-federalists with the Federalist vision? Were they seeing problems where there were none?

What makes a state legitimate? Who best helps us answer that question?

Core Reading:

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Du contrat social / The Social Contract, books one and two -

Jay, Hamilton, Madison, The Federalist Papers -

Mercy Otis Warren, Observations...

The seminar will focus primarily on the Federalist Papers. For that, can you make sure you read:

a. the US constitution! and Introduction Federalist 1

b. Federalist Papers Introduction (No 1) nos. 9, 10, 14, 39, 51, 69 and the conclusion No 85..

We will then split ou into three groups: A dealing with 9, 10, 14; B dealing with 39,51; and C dealing with 69 and 85.

Suggested Secondary Reading

On Rousseau:

C. Bertram, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Rousseau and The Social Contract (2004) - ebook

J. Cohen, Rousseau: A Free Community of Equals (2010) - ebook

N. Dent, A Rousseau Dictionary (1992) - reference only

R. Zaretsky and J. Scott, The philosophers' quarrel : Rousseau, Hume, and the limits of human understanding (2009) - ebook

On Federalist Papers:

Chapter in R. Hammersely, Revolutionary moments: reading revolutionary texts (2015) - at JC491.R489

J. Frank, 'Unauthorised Propositions?', Diacritics (2007), 103-120