Rousseau the neo-con?

That’s what Sullivan alleges, in an otherwise sane post. The point is small and does not alter the substance of his argument, but as a Rousseau-nut I could never let it go. There’s just no way that anyone can hijack the phrase ‘forced to be free’ and claim this laid the foundations for neo-conservatism. Rousseau had no such thing in mind. That phrase in The Social Contract refers, if we’re going to go there, to his belief that people find freedom (the word ‘liberation’ is probably more apt) by collectively embracing and following shared laws, so that anyone who dissents from a popular law is in fact best served by being subjected to it in the short term, until they grow to understand and endorse it. It refers to individuals within states and it’s a claim about what laws do. It is not, as Sullivan absurdly implies, an argument for storming into foreign lands and trying to manufacture democracy due to a moral imperative, regardless of the costs, consequences and efficacy of doing so.


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