Rousseau Background and Key Concepts.doc

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Political Science
POL 1201
Elizabeth Beaumont

Rousseau Background and Key Concepts Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Historical Context • Movement from absolute kings to age of enlightenment ◦ 17th-18h c. Age of Absolute monarchs across Europe: in France, Louis XIV, the "Sun King" reigned fro 72 years, during much of which he personally controlled all of France, and also encouraged cultural progress in arts and sciences ◦ Divine Right of Kings: 17th-18th France, doctrine supported Kings possession of nearly unlimited power. The Catholic Church in France supported this doctrine, so political and religious power were entwined and mutually supportive ◦ Era of Censorship: Difficult to publicly call for reform in France. All written work had to be approved by official censors and carry the King's "Great Seal". Publications could contain nothing contrary to religion, public order, or royal authority. Books published without the seal could be burned and the printer and writer imprisoned Rousseau: His Ambivalent Position in Enlightenment Thought • Shared some enlightenment views: the goal of providing politics with "human" foundations ◦ As with Locke and Hobbes, Rousseau is developing a theory of human nature, a pre-political "state of nature" and/or natural features of human behavior. Such ideas could be used to critique, reform, justify the political status quo
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