Rousseau, the General Will, and Individual Liberty

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North American Philosophical Publications/University of Illinois Press


Within Rousseau scholarship there is serious disagreement concerning the correct way to understand Rousseau's social and political thought. For many, Rousseau does not allow for individual liberty, and also, for many, he is a muddled, confused, and inconsistent thinker. I would like to argue that Rousseau does allow for individual liberty and that his major social and political doctrines are much more consistent than is usually thought to be the case. In my view, Rousseau is a very careful thinker, but his thought is difficult to understand and it is often misunderstood.