Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

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 it is 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?

Core Reading:

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Du contrat social / The Social Contract, books one and two - http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon.htm

Jay, Hamilton, Madison, The Federalist Papers - http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/788

Mercy Otis Warren, Observations...

For the Federalist Papers can you make sure you read:

a. the US constitution! and

b). Although there are two presenters I will also divide you up into 6 groups: All to read Introduction and conclusion and Federalist Papers: 9, 10 &14 then Group 1: 37-41; Group 2: 45-48; Group 3: 52, 54; Group 4: 62-65; Group 5: 67-69; Group 6: 78-82.

Please come prepared to give a brief account of the sections of the Federalist Papers you have read for those in other groups (this can be done collectively or individually, whichever you prefer).

Class slides here

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