Desperately Clinging to Grotian and Kantian Sheep: Rousseau’s Attempted Escape from the State of War

  • David P. Fidler
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.’1 So begins the Social Contract (1762), Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s great effort to break the chains binding mankind so as to allow human nature to recapture some of the moral potential which civilisation had stolen. Much of the power in Rousseau’s political thinking comes from the cruel connection between the chains of corrupted human nature, tyranny and war. While Rousseau might have removed some links through his fierce personal independence and solitude and his theory of the social contract state, he found the chains of war the most difficult to loosen. Since amour propre, tyranny, and war connect in Rousseau’s thinking, any hope for even a slight moral regeneration in the individual was lost if the state of war was not somehow resolved. Man may be born free; but, in Rousseau’s thinking, international relations threatened that everywhere he would remain in chains.


Human Nature International Relation Social Contract Direct Democracy Moral Sensibility 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • David P. Fidler

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