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The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right


First published in 1782

Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique

Translated in 1920 from the French, and with an Introduction by, George Douglas Howard Cole (1889-1959), English political theorist, economist, writer and historian.

Edited by Ernest Rhys


This little treatise is part of a longer work which I began years ago without realising my limitations, and long since abandoned. Of the various fragments that might have been extracted from what I wrote, this is the most considerable, and, I think, the least unworthy of being offered to the public. The rest no longer exists.

"Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question I think I can answer."--from the Subject of the First Book

Fœderis æquas
Dicamus leges.--(Vergil, Æneid XI.)

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Recent Forum Posts on The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right

Rousseau help...

According to Rousseau was civil disobediance a legitimate course of action????:confused:

How social is The social contract?

I have recently encountered a rather elegant accusation of Rousseau's excluding women of his social equality cause and if anywhere implied in The Social contract I have obviously ignored it in reading the work.../ I suspect my motivation of reading it was somehow low, being exposed to constant threats/..Double standarts in Rousseau?...If indeed a part of his works, could the condescending attitude towards women be overlooked in Rousseau only for his well-built "masculine" social contract? How far does it depreciate the other efforts of the author, if in this case an appreciation is relevant at all? I welcome any information and comments...

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