Rousseau on Freedom in Commercial Society

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Rousseau consistently declares that commercial society prevents us from being free because it makes us dependent on others and on endless desires in ways we cannot control. Yet, in Emile, Rousseau makes the surprising claim that it is possible for an elite to be free in commercial society. This possibility reveals a third way between the model of man and of citizen, that is, the model of natural man in society. I argue that it provides an original way of resisting dependence through a combination of distance from corrupt values and adaptation to the mechanisms of the economic market. Emile's ultimate function, however, is critical in addition to being practical and pedagogical. By following Emile's experiences, the reader learns the unbearably high cost of commercial society: Freedom within it is impoverished and available only to the few.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rousselière, G

Published Date

  • March 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 60 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 352 - 363

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1540-5907

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0092-5853

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/ajps.12222

Citation Source

  • Scopus