Critics’ Reviews

“This superb new collection will be of invaluable assistance to students and scholars alike. With judicious commentary and an excellent selection of supplementary writings, it provides in one volume the essential tools to understand Rousseau’s fundamental political ideas and their tremendous resonance in his own time, and ever since.” — Darrin M. McMahon, Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor of History, Dartmouth College

“This is an excellent classroom edition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s key political works. It features clear, accessible translations of important texts — the First and Second Discourses, On the Social Contract, and, less conventionally, the Preface to Narcissus — and a well-chosen set of passages from canonical works designed to encourage comparisons, some of which influenced Rousseau, and some of which responded to him. In addition to providing important biographical details, the introduction beautifully situates the texts within the history of political thought.” — Melissa Schwartzberg, New York University

“The political writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau were immensely influential in their day and remain crucial for understanding contemporary discussions of diversity, rights, democracy, and the value of humanistic and scientific inquiry. This volume collects the key texts, including On the Social Contract in its entirety. Along with a useful overview of Rousseau’s life and career, it provides numerous thoughtfully selected excerpts from other thinkers. These illuminate the roots, context, and impact of Rousseau’s complex, often paradoxical interventions. Rousseau is a canny and controlled rhetorician, whose style ranges from terse simplicity to grandiloquence. Ian Johnston’s translation cleaves to the original while crisply rendering the author’s varied prose.” — James A. Steintrager, University of California, Irvine

“Readers of Rousseau are often frustrated that very few editions combine his great political writings into one volume. This edition does that, but also so much more. It includes Rousseau’s important Preface to Narcissus, as well as excerpts from many works that provide invaluable context for understanding Rousseau’s significance in the history of political thought. Williams’ and Maguire’s editorial introduction and notes offer an insightful and detailed guide through Rousseau’s text and beyond. An excellent edition for students and scholars.” — Jeffrey Church, University of Houston

“This superb volume introduces students to Rousseau’s principal political writings. The editors draw attention to the diversity of interpretations elicited by Rousseau’s writings and offer a robust introduction to the main angles and nuances of Rousseau’s political thought. The volume also presents the welcome inclusion of the lesser-known preface to Rousseau’s play Narcissus, in a new translation by Samuel Webb, and a comprehensive appendix of excerpts of key texts written by Rousseau’s predecessors, his contemporaries, French revolutionaries and modern philosophers, who have all grappled with his provocative and probing ideas in intriguing and diverging ways. Anyone interested in inequality, politics, philosophy and the challenges of modernity will benefit from this elegant volume. It makes for essential reading for students and specialists in political science, philosophy and the humanities.” — Masano Yamashita, University of Colorado Boulder

“The distinctive value of [this volume] comes from the editing…. The most interesting editorial choice was to include the Preface to Narcissus, which is rarely taught to students. To put a fine point on this decision, it is inspired. The Preface was written between the First and Second Discourse, and both develops the argument of the former discourse and anticipates the political argument of the latter. Importantly, it is in the Preface that Rousseau introduces the language of amour-propre and transforms his cultural critique of Parisian intellectual life into a political and economic one.” — Michael Locke McLendon, California State University, in Philosophy in Review

Posted on February 15, 2018