Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract

(1762)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau originally intended the political ideas expressed in The Social Contract (1762) to form part of a much larger and more elaborate work, but ironically it is the brief and pithy pamphlet-like style used throughout that, along with its banning in Paris, made it very popular. Heavily influenced by the Republican vocabulary of Rousseau's birthplace, Geneva, The Social Contract contains one of the most famous lines in eighteenth-century political writing: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”—a phrase that encapsulates the essence of his inquiry but...

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Portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Augustin de Saint-Aubin (Yale University Art Gallery)

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