The general will--dangerous if taken too far--operates in many elements of our social and civic life. Immunizations that are compulsory for living in dorms serve the common good--the general will--regardless of individual will. The general will operates in society when individuals develop not only amour de soi, selfish love, but also amour propre, love of self in relation to others. Rousseau distinguished between bourgeois individuals who have amour de soi and citizens who exemplify amour propre. In addition to being a political and social thinker, Rousseau is an early and influential education theorist. In his book Émile, Rousseau argues that individuals are born good but are corrupted by society. He advocates "negative education" which aims at reducing mental errors that students may pick up in society. Negative education, Rousseau argues, is accomplished by focusing on educating students on how to think rather than training them in what to think.
Rousseau, Émile, or On Education
- Book 3, pp. 165-208
- Book 4, pp. 211-267
- Book 5, pp. 376-406
This course provides an overview of major works of social thought from the beginning of the modern era through the 1920s. Attention is paid to social and intellectual contexts, conceptual frameworks and methods, and contributions to contemporary social analysis. Writers include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.