Rousseau: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short by Robert Wokler

By Robert Wokler

Probably the most profound thinkers of recent historical past, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) was once a significant determine of the eu Enlightenment. He was once additionally its so much ambitious critic, condemning the political, fiscal, theological, and sexual trappings of civilization alongside traces that will excite the passion of romantic individualists and radical revolutionaries alike.

In this research of Rousseau's lifestyles and works, Robert Wolker indicates how his philosophy of historical past, his theories of song and politics, his fiction, academic, and spiritual writings, or even his botany, have been all encouraged via innovative beliefs of mankind's self-realization in a of unfettered freedom. He explains how, in regressing to classical republicanism, old mythology, direct communique with God, and solitude, Rousseau expected a few post-modernist rejections of the Enlightenment in addition.

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If, as I maintain, a political theory of work should address the problem of freedom, a political theory of freedom should also focus on work. ∞≥ Linking the previous distinction between class and work to this conceptual pair might help to clarify my concerns in this respect. Rather than a politics of class focused primarily on issues of economic redistribution and economic justice—particularly a politics that seeks to alter wage levels to redraw the map of class categories—the politics of work I am interested in pursuing also investigates questions about the command and control over the spaces and times of life, and seeks the freedom to participate in shaping the terms of what collectively we can do and what together we might become.

According to this account, we work because we want to: work provides a variety of satisfactions—in addition to income, it can be a source of meaning, purpose, structure, social ties, and recognition. But while both explanations are undoubtedly important, they are also insu≈cient. Structural coercion alone cannot explain the relative dearth of conflict over the hours we are required to work or the identities we are often expected to invest there; individual consent cannot account for why work would be so much more appealing than other parts of life.

To examine its social and historical specificity and understand its impact on our lives, this most familiar of doctrines must first be rendered strange. Indeed, given the normalization of these work values, perhaps the most important task and lasting achievement of Weber’s analysis is the powerful estrangement from the reified common sense about work that it manages to produce. In this case, the periodizing frame and story of the ethic’s religious origins serve Weber well; the alternative historical perspectives they identify provide the reader with the possibility of critical distance.

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