Jean-Jacques Rousseau – texts of political intervention

Patrick Heron, Three Reds in Green and Magenta in Blue: April 1970, 1970


Presentation of the newly edited book

Imperceptible revolutions: Rousseau and political concreteness

In many respects, it is possible to affirm that the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who confessedly declares that he understood that “everything is radically linked to politics”, was intended to bring about a change in the way of thinking about the conduct of governments and society of his time. . Without ignoring the presence of an extemporaneous public to which Jean-Jacques Rousseau sometimes addresses himself in his works, this interpretation encompasses both texts that favor an eminently theoretical approach to the principles that make up his thought, as announced in the opening lines of the Social contract (1762), as well as other books whose same postulates of his system are revealed and disseminated under other formulations and genres, such as, for example, the epistolary novel Julie or The New Heloise (1761) or the treatise on education Emilio (1762)

From a general perspective, we can note that on more than one occasion, as in the Preface to Narcissus, Discourse on the sciences and the arts (1750) or in the fragment The luxury, commerce and the arts, Jean-Jacques Rousseau insists on highlighting the critical and reactive dimension that characterizes his philosophy, whose aim is to point out and erect aporias not against one or another author in particular, but against a modern thought still in the process of being constituted.

It is true, on the one hand, that the interventional character of a work is often underlying, and can sometimes even be secondary in relation to any primary intention that guides it. On the other hand, a very different expedient is found in works that manifestly announce their desire to reflect on a specific historical conjuncture or situation, aiming to contribute more immediately to the current state of a concrete political issue. From Plato to Foucault, the history of philosophy is full of examples of authors who, urged to manifest themselves or doing so voluntarily, sought to engage in view of a precise situation.

This last category includes works the letters written from the mountain (1763-64), the Draft constitution for Corsica (1765) and the Considerations on the Government of Poland and its Projected Reform (1771), texts by Rousseau written in a period in which the philosopher was already an author read and discussed throughout Europe, a moment in which his main concepts were consolidated in a political, moral and anthropological system initiated in the 1750s and whose apex is reached in the year 1762. Called “applied politics”, “concrete politics” or “practical” texts, these works form a set that could be conveniently identified as “texts of political intervention”, if we mean intervening both the act of issuing an assessment and opinion on a specific subject and seeking to influence the directions and developments of a factual event.

Whatever the name given to this group of texts, it is convenient to realize an important nuance within this triad: unlike the Letters, written by Rousseau as a reaction to the accusations made against the Emilio and the Contract and written in the midst of the exacerbation of the crisis with the republic of Geneva, the Project and Considerations they were works formally requested by third parties, that is, prepared at the request of Corsican and Polish politicians who represented interests of certain national groups, in order to gather support for their respective causes.

To this it must be added that, unlike the Letters, these last two works have an unfinished character and for a long time circulated clandestinely in the form of manuscripts, having been published only posthumously. These particularities already seem to offer enough reasons to justify the relevance of understanding the context in which both were written, since they help us to clarify some of the arguments and historical facts present in the text, as well as help to shed light on some strategies, decisions and recommendations conceived by Rousseau.


Let's start with the case of Corsica. In 1762, with the condemnation of Emilio and Social contract by the Parliament of Paris and the Small Council of Geneva, Rousseau begins his years of flight through Europe. It is in this turbulent period, more specifically in the same year in which the work Letters written from the mountain, that the philosopher is now sought after by Captain Matteo Buttafoco, a military aristocrat and supporter of the Corsican independenceists who carried out a work of convincing the cause with the European powers. Able to weave good political relations and respected among his compatriots, Buttafoco was part of the circle of trust of Pasquale Paoli, the top leader of the “Paolista” movement for the liberation of the island, and would also be a future foe of Napoleon Bonaparte, born in Ajaccio, and who in his youth was also an admirer of Paoli and an avid reader of Rousseau. Buttafoco sought to free Corsica from the dominion of the Republic of Genoa and, to that end, combined a pro-French inclination with an expectation of obtaining broad support from literate society, aiming to have in hand a prior plan of the institutions to be adopted at the moment when the desired liberation of Corsica would prevail.

Nothing more natural for Buttafoco than trying to persuade Rousseau to assume the role of intellectual patron of the island's political institutions. After all, not Social contract the philosopher had made an auspicious diagnosis: “there is still in Europe a country capable of legislation: it is the island of Corsica. The courage and constancy with which this brave people knew how to recover and defend their freedom would well deserve some wise man to teach them how to conserve it. I have a premonition that one day this little island will surprise Europe.” Excited by the praise and motivated by Rousseau's favorable disposition, in a notable exchange of correspondence Buttafoco persuades him to write a project for a political system for the Corsicans.

Let us summarize some of the different reasons that make the epistolary exchange an important record. Firstly, the correspondence illustrates the way in which the Corsican captain explains and sees the situation in Corsica and how Rousseau will react and respond to such information, as we see in the text found in the manuscript of the Project. Secondly, it demonstrates the philosopher's preparation for the elaboration of the text, since Rousseau intended to dedicate, from 1765 onwards, a year of study on the island and at least another three years for the final writing of the project.

This disposition reveals that the published plan was only part of the initial stage – or, as Rousseau writes, some meditations or “provisional ideas” – of the text that would finally be addressed to the Corsicans. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it exposes an important methodological procedure in Rousseau's information gathering process: the way in which he organizes, structures, and prepares documents to elaborate his arguments as a philosopher willing to write about a concrete political problem. . With this, it is also possible to understand how it was agreed to send the necessary materials and files so that the drafting of the project could begin.

The content of the letters demonstrates that Buttafoco, a dedicated military man, a notable Paulist supporter and zealous in serving the national interests of Corsica, was also a careful writer, assiduous reader of modern authors, as well as an individual attentive to the changes in theoretical perspectives observed in the political economy of your time. In his letters and documents, the captain does not hide the inspiration he found in Montesquieu, incorporating in several passages the theory of sweet trade, according to which trade would have the effect of softening customs, inspiring tolerance and replacing the belligerence of wars with exchanges. With a view to establishing good institutions for Corsica, Buttafoco sought to reconcile the principles found in From the spirit of the laws (1748) with those exposed in the Social contract. Briefly, we can say that the Corsican captain intended to combine the political independence of the island with a form of economic opulence obtained through trade, that is, he sought to establish a hybrid form that transited between the government of the laws of republicanism and the social mechanism of mercantile society, something close to the merchant republic advocated in the fourth part of Montesquieu's book. Let's see how some of these influences are reflected in Buttafoco's writings that were sent to Rousseau.

No Historical examination and justification of the revolution of the island of Corsica against the Republic of Genoa, the captain criticizes the bad government carried out by the Genoese who explored Corsica, explaining the reasons for the revolts and the right of the Corsicans to rise up against tyranny. The exam affirms that the island, a fertile country whose inhabitants could be willing to work, had been poorly managed by Genoa, which did nothing but despoil the Corsicans, end the productivity of the land, throw its inhabitants into laziness and inaction, allowing the proliferation of crimes and finally starting the decline of the population. Also according to Buttafoco, the people were burdened by taxes and individuals even sold furniture and utensils from their homes in order to obtain money to pay taxes, which deepened poverty and discouraged work.

In the scenario portrayed by Examination we observe an exploitative government, preventing the flourishing of an independent economy and keeping the nation in poverty: “We look for Corsica in Corsica and we no longer find her: she is no longer recognizable. What country can we compare to this? In what place do we see desolations, depopulation, the abandonment of agriculture, industry, commerce, being the fruit of pernicious measures and the perfidious policy of the government? Where do we see the prince setting up a system in which subjects are reduced to the most extreme and hideous indigence? Is it the fault of the Corsicans that they are miserable? Should they be admonished, or should the insatiable cruelty of the oppressors of that unhappy nation be blamed?”

According to this assessment, Genoa administered the country by maintaining the misery of its inhabitants, preventing any manufacturing, commerce or agriculture activity. Now, how can this country, oppressed by a foreign government, whose economy is in constant decline, prosper? Far from insisting only on the role of agriculture on the island, the Buttafoco documents emphasize freedom as the source of industry and abundance, and advocate the stimulation of work through a particular passion, love or incentive to gain.

This would be an affection capable of increasing production, boosting trade and ensuring the island's abundance: “It was enough to encourage agriculture, industry, trade and we would have seen what the inhabitants were capable of. It would be necessary to secure possessions, it would be necessary to observe severe justice, and then the people, far from giving themselves up to arms, would be linked to the cultivation of the land and to trade. The love of gain would have stimulated the love of work, and in a short time the nation would have enjoyed a well-being which it should never have boasted of enduring, for those means, advantageous to them, would not have been advantageous to tyrants. They wanted to secure possession of the island of Corsica and, to achieve this, they believed it more reasonable to make idleness, penury and crime reign more than work, opulence and virtue. Here are the fruits of such an infatuated government!”.

The Corsicans, claiming lower taxes for the export of goods, sought abundance and prosperity through insertion in the trade carried out between European nations. It was in this freedom to trade, combined with the protection of private property, that Corsica would ensure its abundance. As Buttafoco writes, “neighboring nations dock on the beaches to engage in barter trade; the Corsicans, who under the Genoese were used to taking nothing away from their kind, feel how advantageous it is to live under a good government and animated by the incentive of gain, by security, by protection” and, then, he concludes that “freedom it is the source of industry and plenty. Industry and opulence desire only the security of possessions.”

Finally, in the Vescovado Memorandum, another document prepared by Buttafoco that had been sent to Rousseau, the captain begins by paraphrasing the Contract to then praise the opportune moment for the receipt of new laws, institutions and customs: “the present situation of affairs in Corsica makes this island capable of receiving good legislation. As their government does not yet have a fixed and permanent constitution, the change of the political system would not, in itself, cause any inconvenience, since heads are still in a state of indecision and prepared to receive all kinds of new regulations”.

Here, then, is the description of the state of affairs in Corsica that Rousseau receives from Buttafoco: a country under the yoke of tyranny, observing a population decline, in which taxes oppress the people, in which there is no security either for individuals or for properties, where the fertile soil is poorly utilized by exploitative agriculture and, finally, a country where work is discouraged. Nevertheless, the island is a promising country, with a people able to be constituted in a well-ordered political body, although, as Rousseau writes in one of the manuscript fragments, “the Corsicans are almost still in their natural state and are, but it takes a lot of art to keep them there.” This interventional art is precisely the policy that, to be effective, must take into account the particularities of the nation to which it is directed and be carried out at the appropriate time.

As the first exchanges of correspondence reveal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau sees the task of establishing a government plan, and not the formation of a code or body of constitutional norms; much less did he feel “in a position to alter, so to speak, human nature”, a characteristic feature of the legislator's work. In keeping with the terms used by Buttafoco in his first letter, the philosopher is asked to provide a “plan of the political system” for the island. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that Rousseau did not intend to assume a role similar to that of Lycurgus or Numa Pompilius: rather, he acts as a philosopher who, faced with a concrete case, analyzes it according to the notions established in the Contract to then establish an accurate diagnosis and offer its prescriptions to the Corsican and Polish nation.

Thus, its principles are like necessary tools built by the philosopher himself for the operation of the science of political law, as they enable the execution of the office of political writer and make him capable of earning the legitimacy of the institutions of a nation, always taking into account the variety of conditions that determine each experiment. A small paragraph from Book V of Emilio summarizes this process: “Before observing, it is necessary to make rules for observations; we need to make a scale to relate the observations to the measures we take. Our principles of political right are that scale. Our measures are the political laws of each country”. In this sense, the title Draft constitution for Corsica, attributed later to the work, since the manuscript does not contain a title given by the author, can be misleading and mislead the real intentions and content of the text. In any case, and once these caveats are considered, it was decided to maintain in this edition the already usual and canonical title of the work, widely used by Rousseau's critical bibliography.

Finally, regarding the style presented in the writing on Corsica and the formulation of some ideas presented there, it is necessary to take into account the already mentioned unfinished character of the Project, published only in 1861 – that is, almost one hundred years after its writing – in the collection of unpublished works and correspondence organized by Georges Streckeisen-Moultou. In this sense, the present translation has notes and contextualizations, in addition to bringing notes and fragments found in the manuscript and in Rousseau's workbook, providing readers with instruments capable of providing a broader understanding of the process of writing the text. In draft form, the original version of the Project it lacks punctuation and capitalization revisions, meaning that even in the French editions certain important phrasing and vocabulary decisions are left to the interpreter or translator.

Thanks to the preservation of documents such as the Geneva manuscript, a first version of Social contract, and from the exchange of correspondence between Rousseau and his editor Marc-Michel Rey, we know that the philosopher used not only to consent to certain editorial revisions, but that he himself corrected and altered the text several times before its definitive version. The recent publications of Rousseau's works by the publishing house Vrin, carrying out a critical edition through a comparative work of the originals, demonstrate very well this genealogical, chronological and editorial process of the works, allowing us to see how the construction of the concepts was operated. and Rousseau's philosophical system.


Let's move on to the second part of the volume, the Thoughts on the Government of Poland. Written between 1770 and 1771, the Considerations they were only published in 1782. From 1772, Rousseau began to dedicate himself to his autobiographical writings, composed by Confessions; Jean-Jacques Judge Rousseau e The Daydreams of the Lone Wanderer, also published posthumously. With this, it is possible to state that the text on Poland is the last manifestly political work written by the philosopher.

As Considerations they were made at the request of the Polish Count Michel Wielhorski, sent by the Confederation of Bar to France with the aim of carrying out diplomatic work and gathering support for the cause of the insurgents. Fighting for the deposition of Stanislaus Antoni Poniatowski (Stanislaus II), a monarch susceptible to the interests of the Russian government and protégé of Empress Catherine II, the Confederation was formed in 1768 and was led by Józef Pulaski and other Polish nobles who sought to ward off Russian interference. in the country.

Throughout the 1733th century, the fate of Poland was disputed by major foreign powers, such as Russia, but also Austria, Prussia and Spain, not to mention the sympathy of French authorities towards the cause of the insurgents; along with this, from the War of Poland's Succession (1738-1764) until Stanislaus II's acquittal to the throne (XNUMX), the country had become a constant object of attention for political writers. It is in this context that Wielhorski starts to seek diplomatic and theoretical support, in order to have political, legal, educational, economic, geographic and historical reflections, intending to establish the best possible institutions for his country.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau is then contacted at the end of 1770 and, at the same time studying the documents sent to him and writing his reflections, he finalizes the work of the Considerations in 1771, sending it confidentially to Wielhorski. However, unauthorized copies of the manuscript quickly began circulating in Parisian bookstores; since the count was responsible for maintaining the secrecy of the philosopher's text, the breach of the agreement aroused an incurable distrust and caused a rupture between them. In the second and third dialogues of Jean-Jacques Judge Rousseau, Rousseau briefly describes, not without some biting, details about the episode.

In one of the excerpts, we read his impression about the work carried out and about the relationship with Wielhorski: “I must, however, add to the details I have just reported that JJ, in the midst of all this manual work, still spent six months in the same period both to examine the constitution of an unhappy nation and to propose ideas about the corrections that should be made in it, and this at the insistence, stubbornly reiterated, of one of the first patriots of that nation, who presented it as a duty the works that he imposed on him and who, as the only form of gratitude for the zeal and time he put into this work, made it clear that he did not want to have any obligations with him, and then wanted to send him wine”.

About the variety of documents forwarded to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we can highlight two that seem worthy of attention. The first consists of a set of physiocratic texts sent to the Poles, containing writings by Du Pont de Nemours (dealing with the educational system), Nicolas Baudeau and Le Mercier de la Rivière. In fact, Poland had come to interest all members of the group of economists, school led by François Quesnay. Baudeau, one of the editors of the physiocratic journal citizen's ephemeris, stayed in Poland for a while and, between 1770 and 1771, even published in the periodical the Economic Opinions to Enlightened Citizens of the Republic of Poland on How to Obtain Public Revenue, later collected in the Historical letters about the current state of Poland and the origin of its misfortunes, launched in 1772.

Riviere also writes The common interest of Poles, manuscript currently preserved in the National Archives of France. Rousseau, who had already read a relevant part of the physiocratic work and expressed his rejection of the ideas of that school in his famous correspondence with Mirabeau, had wide access to the texts of economists (referred to by the philosopher in the chapter economic system) which Wielhorski had available. The second case is the From the government and laws of Poland, to Mr. Count Wielhorski, prepared in the early 1770s and not published until 1789.

Written by the abbot Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, who had also spent some time in Poland, the manuscript – later organized in the form of a treaty – was sent to Rousseau through the Polish count. Just as Mably's text turns out to be an important counterpoint to Rousseau's considerations, the abbot (for whom Rousseau consented to open an exception to the confidentiality of the manuscript) was one of the first readers of the Considerations on the government of Poland, having addressed his objections in a manuscript entitled Remarks on the Government of Poland.

As for the content of Considerations, there are at least two points that make it especially relevant not only in relation to the Contracto, but which elevate it to the status of a fundamental piece for a nuanced understanding of Rousseau's political system.

The first concerns the criticism of the representative system. if not Social contract representation was seen with distrust in relation to sovereignty and it was concluded that “the moment a people grants itself representatives, it is no longer free”, in the Thoughts on the Government of Poland representation in the big states is seen as an inevitable fact (and, in this specific case, it will even be necessary for the proper functioning of the Polish Diets).

The philosopher, therefore, is urged in the face of political concreteness to establish unprecedented reflections on the matter, proposing means that would be able to curb the power of deputies and prevent the corruption of parliamentarians. Fixed terms for terms, removal of the irremovability of most senators, limitations on the king's power of appointment, limited numbers for re-election, production of ballots: although Rousseau recommends avoiding reforms that could give rise to democratic turmoil, referring above all to a rhetorical resource that raises inflamed passions and a state of agitation and turbulence that prevents the discussion of effective proposals for the common interest –, the text shows that its intention was to gradually insert elements of a representative democracy in an essentially feudal country, whose administration and bureaucracy was entirely dominated by families linked to the nobility and the Royal environment.

In the same sense, despite the chapter of the king start by noting that Poland is an extensive State that could not do without the maximum figure of royalty, that moment of Considerations presents one of Rousseau's most acidic criticisms of the monarchical form of government, especially the system of hereditary monarchy. Following Rousseau's advice, even the elective crown to be adopted by the Poles would end up being so limited that the monarchy, with a king devoid of actual power, would more closely resemble a kind of parliamentarism.

Finally, despite many of the principles explored in the chapter Means to keep the constitution be inspired by Contract, expressly cited several times throughout the text, the imperative nature of deputation in the specific case of Poland makes Rousseau develop instruments to ensure that representativeness actually expresses the will of voters and the nation. Not by chance, one of the philosopher's main proposals is to strengthen the procedures for choosing nuncios in the Dietines. After all, as they are limited to the provinces, control and the establishment of rules for representation would be more easily applied. In other words, the means of inspecting the deputies would be more effective there, since they would receive instructions directly from the citizens of that region, since they inhabit the same city or province as their electors, or, to quote Rousseau, in the provinces the nuncios “are better known and […] stand up to their competitors”.

The second point worthy of note is that, especially in the case of Poland – an already constituted country, characterized by certain customs and institutions –, an author is revealed to be much more inclined towards the gradual reform of the State than the figure of the radical revolutionary outlined after the publication of Social contract, whose portrait was definitely painted in the course of the French Revolution. In the Considerations, we read an author concerned with not making sudden ruptures that could throw Poland into new internal conflicts and deepen the anarchic state in which, according to how it was evaluated, the country found itself. Rousseau goes so far as to advise the Poles the following maxim: “nothing changes without there being a need, neither to subtract nor to add”.

Would the philosopher then have abandoned the transforming ideals of his principles of political right to conform to a reformist realism? Wouldn't this apparent difference between “writing” and “acting” be one of the contradictions with which one could accuse Rousseau of being paradoxical? This does not seem to be the case, and we can even briefly recall that Rousseau, far from having denied the concepts of Contract, uses excerpts from that work – sometimes expressly quoted by the author – throughout the texts from Poland and Corsica.

As for the details pertinent to the intricate treatment between theoretical and practical texts, the Brazilian critical literature constitutes a remarkable tradition in Rousseauian studies, to which we refer readers. Nevertheless, in this presentation of the intervention texts, it seems pertinent to emphasize two aspects present in the Polish text, to a certain extent also identified in the writing on Corsica, which can contribute to the approach of some of the difficulties raised by these questions.

In the first place, it is necessary to consider Rousseau's concern to prevent his transition plan, which would undoubtedly displease the officials and nobles who took advantage of the offices and the status quo, bureaucratic apparatuses that contribute to the social stratification typical of the monarchic regime, trigger a civil war or deepen the state of anarchy in the country. Thus, we read in Considerations a proposal for the complete reorganization of the nation through a gradual adjustment in the systems of promotions in state positions, in the restructuring of the military bodies, in the revision of the functions of the king, in the gradual liberation of the peasants and serfs who still submitted to a feudal system and nobility, so that, finally, a first breath of freedom could reach the villages and cities of the country.

This expedient, concomitant with the introduction of elections and the reform of the composition of parliamentary houses, aimed to make the Poles gradually move towards a mixture of democracy and aristocracy whose sovereignty resided in the power of the people. The notions of gradation, of “small modifications” or “subtle changes”, to use Rousseau's terms, are also present in Corsica's writings, especially with regard to the transition between forms of government and their relationship with the different economic systems.

Second, Rousseau sees civil society as being composed of “bodies” – associations, parties, military, parliamentarians, nobility, confederates, among others – that each have a particular will in relation to the general will of the political body, which is last formed by all the members of the society, without exception. Let us also remember that in both commission texts, whether in the case of Corsica or Poland, the applicants, whether they were truly devoted to national interests, participated in a cause composed of a specific group – in this case, Buttafoco and Wielhorski were part of a certain portion of the local nobility.

Now, if one of these “private bodies” within the State were to lead a revolution on behalf of the entire people, this would not only mean that the revolution would inevitably be based on the problematic representative model of political desires as a horizon of struggle, but it would also be verified there the triumph of the particular will of a body over all others, including the general will, which could very well be suppressed during and after the revolution. We could formulate this assertion in the form of a question in the following terms: to what extent would there be in Rousseau's philosophy the refusal of a revolutionary model that can only think and discipline itself according to the problematic model of representation of wills, liable to fall into the trap of reproducing the oppression through the new group that takes power?

If it is true that Contract one glimpses the existence of crises or revolutions capable of making the State rise from the ashes and recover its youth, the texts of political intervention only allow us to verify that the philosopher adopts a posture more inclined towards prudence, speaking of small and imperceptible revolutions, which gradually settle into political, social, economic and moral life through reforms. Faced with the Polish situation, the proposal for institutional, social, legislative, military and economic changes, aims at a gradual emancipation of the population, changing the constitution and the political regime then implemented, making it pass from a feudal monarchy to a mixed democracy with aristocracy.

In the words of Rousseau, it is necessary to operate this change “without perceptible revolution”, so that the Poles can “complete the operation on a large scale” restoring to the peasants and the poorest population “the right that nature gave them to participate in the administration of his country", but making it "absolutely necessary to do this in a way that, instead of the release of the servant being burdensome to the master, it should be honorable and advantageous".

With this, the thirteenth chapter presents the following conclusion: "it would succeed in reviving all parts of Poland, and binding them in such a way as to constitute only one single body whose vigor and strength would be at least ten times greater than those that they currently have, and this with the inestimable advantage of having avoided any intense and sudden changes and the danger of revolutions”. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that, at the same time that everyone feels that they are gaining particular advantages with the proposed reform, such benefits are, in fact, a means to implement a possible democratization and to guarantee the greatest degree of freedom, equality and legitimacy. of a body politic.

Writing for Corsica and Poland will require both the principles of political right and the assurance of a feasible, effective, safe, gradual and profitable plan for both nations. In both cases, the task of the political writer is to assess the conditions for establishing the most convenient and appropriate government under the circumstances, that is, to carry out a complete diagnosis of a specific political body, taking into account all the characteristics of each nation (population, territory, climate, available natural resources, etc.), in order to administer the best possible means to make or keep it prosperous and abundant.

It is necessary for a people to establish legislation that it can support and define an administration that, given the historical context in which it finds itself, is the best possible to carry out the purposes defined by the general will, as explained in this passage from the Contract: “[…] these general objects of every good institution must be modified, in each country, by the relations that arise both from the local situation and from the character of the inhabitants, and it is with regard to these relations that it is necessary to assign to each people a particular system of institution that is best, perhaps not in itself, but for the State to which it is destined”.

From this complex multiplicity inherent to the confluence or synchrony of circumstances that make a good institution possible derives the difficulty of constituting a State as perfect as it can be. The intervention texts are unique examples of how Rousseau's philosophy relies on the foundation of the immanence of political bodies and assumes that concrete conditions, when transformed over time, demand previously thoughtless responses: working in the open field of possibilities is, after all, an attribute of political art.

Thus, the scale offered by the principles of political right corresponds to the measure of the countless number of relationships that, in human history, characterize a country; and, in this case, the multiple modes of organization of society allow as many possible approaches as the number of peculiarities of a people. This opening to the world of possibilities achieved by the general concepts of Contract it combines, without contradictions, the political concreteness present in the intervention texts, embodied in the choice of projects capable of providing the adequate means and conditions for the greater utility and convenience of a given nation.

*Thiago Vargas is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Philosophy at the University of São Paulo (USP).


Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Political intervention texts. Organization and translation: Thiago Vargas. Technical review: Thomaz Kawauche. São Paulo, Unesp, 2022, 314 pages (

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