Book #02

The Body Politic by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In this selection from The Social Contract, Rousseau asserts that a state's only legitimate political authority comes from its people.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a political person, but the work which inspired the French Revolution isn’t really something I could pass over.

My first observation, very early into Rousseau’s work, was how difficult it was to read. Although eloquent, the writing is long and winding, repetitive in places, and he seemed to take a long time to make his point. Upon reaching the point, I was enthralled, but getting there required a good few sentence re-reads to ensure I was following along properly. Whether the work itself is at fault, or my own intelligence, I have no idea and would prefer to keep it that way.

The second observation I had was how relevant this commentary still is today. Written in the late 1700s, Rosseau speaks of people thinking they are free, when in fact, they are enslaved by their government. He describes the lack of true democracy, and speaks of power and greed. This work details factually how his vision of a government could survive and flourish, yet there is high optimism here that we could eradicate the bad seeds.

A fascinating essay if you can stick at it – perhaps I’d have fared better had I been more politically minded.