Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract: Section 136

I have already said what civil liberty is; with regard to equality, it is necessary not to understand by this word that every degree of power and of wealth should be absolutely the same, but that, as to power, it should be above all violence and never exercised except in virtue of position and the laws; and as to wealth, no citizen should be so opulent as to be able to buy another, and none so poor as to be constrained to sell himself.

Commentary on Section 136

  1. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    To the above, Rousseau adds in a footnote: “Do you wish, then, to give stability to the State? Bring the two extremes together as much as possible: allow neither excess opulence nor beggars. These two conditions, naturally inseparable, are equally fatal to the common good; from one springs the fomenters of tyranny, from the other the tyrants: it has always been between them that the trading of public liberty transpires: one buys it, the other sells it.”

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was a Genevan social philosopher. His exerted a profound influence on the social and political thought of the Enlightenment in France and across Europe, including aspects of the French Revolution. Many of his ideas were foundational in the overall development of modern political and educational thought.