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A POLITICS OF THINGS

DELEUZE’S COURSE ON ROUSSEAU


Course by G. Deleuze – Sorbonne 1959-1960
Manuscript from the library of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de St.-Cloud.
Serie C1, No. 12167


Translated and edited by Arjen Kleinherenbrink
Center for Contemporary European Philosophy
Radboud University Nijmegen






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CONTENTS
Translator’s introduction 3

Translation 10

Edited Translation 37
1 - Three conceptions of the state of nature 37
2 - The New Heloise: virtue, objectivity, hierarchical stages 37
2.1 - First stage: the original goodness of the soul 43
2.2 - Second stage: natural goodness or love of virtue 43
2.3 - Third stage: virtue itself 45
2.4 - Fourth stage: wisdom 45
3 - The Social Contract and Emile are parallels 46
4 - The state of nature 47
5 - The meaning of ‘nature’ in Rousseau 50
6 - Is the state of nature a reality or a fiction? 53
7 - The unity of Rousseau’s works (I) 53
8 - How does one leave the state of nature? 55
8.1 - From state of nature to savage state 55
8.2 - The advent of morality and freedom 56
8.3 - Mystification, wickedness, and alienation 58
8.4 - How to leave? 61
9 - The unity of Rousseau’s works (II) 62
10 - The social contract 63
10.1 - The sovereign is irreducible 65
10.2 - How is the sovereign indivisible? 65
10.3 - What is the positive character of the Contract? 66
10.4 - Obligation, totality, instantaneity 67
10.5 - Why does the sovereign constitute a general will? 69
10.6 - What does the general will want? 70
10.7 - The idea of the civil law in Rousseau 73
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TRANSLATOR’S INTRODUCTION
In 1959-1960, Deleuze dedicated a year of coursework to J ean J acques Rousseau, a thinker
we are not used to rank among Deleuze’s famous ‘minor’ philosophical heroes. Indeed, it
would be easy to dismiss Rousseau as too romantic, too aristocratic, and too much of a State
thinker in order to have any profound connection with Deleuze. However, the course’s typed
summary of twenty-seven pages, never published but available at several places online
1
,
suggests otherwise. The document is a surprising encounter between Deleuze and Rousseau,
one in which Deleuze explicitly transforms Rousseau into a thinker of genesis, virtuality, and
actuality, each a key concept in Deleuze’s own thought. This connection or transformation
disappears (or is rendered implicit) in the single essay Deleuze published on Rousseau in
1962
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, as does much of the internal structure Deleuze discerns in Rousseau, which makes the
course summary a unique source to turn to. We will shortly return to how this Deleuze-
Rousseau encounter might be relevant for those interested in Deleuze as well as those reading
Rousseau, but first we turn to the question of what Rousseau becomes in Deleuze’s hands.
Deleuze tells us that all of Rousseau’s work concerns a single problem, which is not
that of freedom, but rather that of reconciling virtue with the interest of society (p.3), which is
the same as resolving the tension between the human individual and the species (p.18).
Rousseau’s entire oeuvre is read as a single effort to solve this problem, which exists at
different levels. Regarding The New Heloise, the problem involves four different stages. First,
original goodness of the soul. It is a state of reliance of things, of each being whole onto
oneself and one with the sentiment of existence. It is a state in which no wickedness is
possible, but, as we will learn later, this state must be thought as a virtual point of departure of
a genesis of actual states. Second, the natural goodness of the soul. This is the point at which

1
Most notably at http://www.webdeleuze.com/php/sommaire.html.
2
Desert Islands, pp. 52-55.
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relations between people give rise to wickedness. The original goodness subsists and there
emerges a love of virtue, a desire to retain goodness despite the situation. This results, thirdly,
in an attempt to make virtue the interest in being wicked. Deleuze here mentions the
‘materialism of the wise man’, consisting in a use of things and situations to allow human
beings to change. The fourth and final stage is that of wisdom, of a restoration in which one
discovers the ease of existence, and is liberation from the reliance of things in favor of an
emptiness. This ‘reverie’, even though it is the final stage, is heavily implied to still remain
insufficient, a point confirmed at a later moment
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.
Deleuze next asserts that these four stages are also found in the Emile and the Social
Contract, which he insists must be read as a diptych: ‘there is a relation of essential
succession between the Contract and the Emile. The contract presupposes the educated,
formed, private man’ (p.8). We start with a pre-social state of nature, characterized by
dispersion and a complete absence of society. Hence, individuals are identical to the species
as a whole, because nobody is trying to distinguish him- or herself as an individual with
regards to others. Since wickedness only arises at the societal level, this state is not beyond,
but before good and evil. In addition, Deleuze-Rousseau tells us that this state is never actual:
‘the state of nature must be understood as a genetic element, heavy with potential, with
virtualities’ (p.10). The state of nature is never a fact of observation, but more of a
transcendental condition for actual society.
The second stage is that of ‘natural man’ or ‘private man’, whose development is
governed by ‘natural law’ (which is precisely the process of virtualities becoming actual,
Deleuze tells us). This second stage refers to Emile’s domestic education of nature and of
things, engendering consciousness, reason, society, and sociability. As with The New Heloise,

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‘the actual situations that incarnate this reverie are always ambiguous. They turn out badly: either we behave
poorly, or we end up the odd man out, or both’. Desert Islands, p. 53.
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we also find a genesis of vice. This leads to the third stage, simultaneously the advent of the
corrupting social state and that of moral man. Property and inequality lead to a deceiving
agreement with which the rich subjugate the poor, but nevertheless there also emerges a
certain morality and sense of justice, again as a result of the virtual aspect of an earlier stage:
‘the law of nature permits formation in a corrupted society’ (p.12).
The fourth and final stage is that of the Social Contract. This contract presupposes the
formed, private man of Emile, because it is through a return to the second stage that we can
get from the third to the fourth stage. Privately, an act of moral will must restore the
subjective unity between individual and moral species, after which a political act must follow
to realize the objective unity. The Contract actualizes freedom, which is already present in the
state of nature, without us being conscious of it. When the people, as a whole, engender their
total alienation into the Sovereign to become subject, everything is instantaneously restored to
them: being simultaneously individual subjects and members of the sovereign, everybody
rules themselves through the general will.
There is a surprising end to Deleuze’s treatment of Rousseau. He reminds us that the
Sovereign only has the law itself as its object, in a purely formal sense. In other words, after
the completion of the fourth stage, we know how to legislate, but we do not know what to do.
One more thing must be added, and this is precisely the relation with things or with concrete
situations which confront the people: ‘to determine a law, the general will does not suffice.
The formal determination of the will must be joined to the content of objective circumstances
of a given society’ (p.26). Deleuze sees the figure of the legislator as referring to this
‘injection’ of material circumstances: ‘without the legislator, the general will formally know
what it wants. But it needs him to be determined materially. A good law must not consider
particular persons – formal aspect – and adapt itself to concrete situations – material aspect –‘
(p.27).
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What are the remarkable aspects of this manuscript? First, of course, how Rousseau is
staged. There has always been a debate on the nature of Rousseau’s thought: is it a single
system?; is it riddled with paradoxes or merely acknowledging tensions?
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; is it a positive
program or a meditation on an ideal and its failure?; and so on. Deleuze remains unequivocal:
Rousseau is a thinker of genesis, of the actualization of virtual potential, and as such, all his
work can neatly be arranged on a single genetic line. Rousseau’s considerations of (civil)
religion are casually ignored, and the well-known problems surrounding the legislator and
educator (where does he come from?; who is his teacher?; how did he remain unaffected by
our miseries?) are dissolved. Though it remains highly doubtful that Rousseau based all his
writing on a single, rigid structure of four stages and their dynamic interactions, it is
nonetheless fascinating to see how very plausible Deleuze manages to make this idea.
Regarding Deleuze himself, I would argue that even though Rousseau is barely present
in later works
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, this manuscript still shows us a surprising way in which Deleuze himself
could be read. In general, Deleuze’s political philosophy is interpreted as one with an almost
exclusive focus on resistance, escape, locality, and minoritarian gestures. It is always the war
machine versus the state, the nomads versus the royals, and the moleculars versus the molars.
If there is such a thing as a ‘Deleuzian political theory’, it is predominantly presumed to be a

4
Recall the well-known critique of Edmund Burke: ‘[Rousseau has] a tendency to paradox, which is always the
bane of solid learning […] has prevented a great deal of the good effects which might be expected from such a
genius [as Rousseau]’ (1963: 89).
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Rousseau re-appears in the Postulates of Linguistics in A Thousand Plateaus, once in relation to the order-word
(p.81), once in relation to voice and music (p.96). Yet more interesting is the sudden statement in Anti-Oedipus
that ‘the unconscious is Rousseauistic, being man-nature’ (p.112).
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manual of how to escape ‘the system’ for as long as possible
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. Yet the Rousseau manuscript
spells out an alternative. Here, genesis, virtuality, and actuality are placed in the service of the
construction of a just and good society. From the actual situation of inequality, one returns to
the virtual conditions which have engendered it. A discovery is made, namely that ‘natural
goodness’, the ‘before good and evil’, has always subsisted, which provides the opportunity
for a new actualization (a counter-actualization, a reterritorialization). Only this time, the
result is formal. Not an actual distribution of power and prestige in a hierarchy, but an empty
method which allows us to focus on things. In other words, the people henceforth decide to
focus on that which truly unites them, which can only be those situations in which they find
themselves (not abstract ideas determined in advance). Such a society would not cling to the
past, but instead open up the present to the future. J ustice would be synonymous with
jurisprudence. It would forego all teleology (a projection of the past into the future) in favor
of pragmatism and constructivism. It would, as much as possible, abandon all transcendent
overcoding in order to become capable of acting according to immanent criteria concerning
the things (machines, assemblages) that present themselves in a situation. It is obvious that
much of this is highly compatible with both the letter and spirit of Deleuze’s thought.
Moreover, Eugene Holland, in his guide to Anti-Oedipus (1999), has already suggested that
the entire book alludes to a possible fourth society (after the savages, the despots, and the
capitalists) which can be created. Recently, J oe Hughes (2012) has convincingly argued that a
return to Deleuze’s Hume reveals a positive political program centering on a specific way of
constructing institutions. Thirdly, Ronald Bogue’s writings on the notion of ‘a people to
come’ also insist that even though this concept finds its origin in art, it ultimately designates

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One notable exception is the work of Paul Patton (f.i. 2000), who has always seen Deleuze as a thinker relevant
to positive, large-scale politics concerning the construction of societal infrastructure itself, rather than merely a
philosopher who tells us to find the interstices in this infrastructure.
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the real possibility of concrete realization at a societal level
7
. So this is perhaps where the
greatest value of this manuscript lies: the possibility of mobilizing all the well-known
Deleuzian concepts in order to think the construction a society at its largest scales, rather than
to merely evade it at the local level. We could then perhaps conclude that even though
Deleuze has ‘strictly no political program to propose’
8
, this would only amount to a refusal of
determining aprior content and hierarchy. Yet what, one wonders, would a society look like
when based on Deleuzian principles with regards to its formal method? In this regard, it is
particularly interesting to consider the possibility of a Deleuzian variant of the ‘redeeming’
movement in his interpretation of Rousseau: from a corrupted collectivity (molar, royal,
State), one returns to a private, individual level (deterritorialization, line of flight), a
movement which must be completed by a return to a societal level after the collectivity has
learnt something about its own nature, allowing it to construct a better world
(reterritorialization, counter-actualization, people to come). At the very least, it would clearly
be a society that strives to abandon, as much as possible, all idealisms, all a prioris, all
burdens inherited from the past, precisely in order to engage all the better with the real,
material circumstances in which we find ourselves. No longer a politics of abstract ideas, but
instead a true politics of things.
Two translations
The French document has been converted to two English versions. The first is a literal
transcription of the French text into English, including, to a significant degree, the physical
positions of words on the pages. However, at several points the manuscript is little more than

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‘The goal […] is to break the continuities of received stories and deterministic histories, and at the same time to
fashion images that are free of the entangling associations of conventional narratives and open to unspecified
elaboration in the construction of a new mode of collective agency’ (2006: 221, emphasis added).
8
Anti-Oedipus, p. 379.
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quick notes or single words. Possible rhizomatic advantages notwithstanding, this led to the
decision to also create an edited version of the text which would read as a single, unbroken
article (this has obvious risks and possible disadvantages, and the reader should primarily
refer to the literal transcript).

A note on terminology
Amour de soi has been translated as ‘self-love’; Amour propre as ‘pride’; and convention as
agreement. ‘Power’ translates pouvoir, unless mentioned otherwise in parentheses.

Sources
Burke, E. (1963) [1759]. Review of Rousseau’s Letter to d’Alembert. In: Edmund Burke:
Selected Writings and Speeches. Ed. P.J . Stanlis. Garden City

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1983) [1972]. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. By R. Hurley, M. Seem &
H.R. Lane. University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987) [1980]. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. By B. Massumi.
University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, G. (2004) [2002]. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. Trans. by M.
Taormina. Semiotext(e).

Holland, E. (1999). Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis.
Routledge.

Hughes, J . (2012). Philosophy after Deleuze. Continuum.

Patton, P. (2000). Deleuze & the Political. Routledge.
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TRANSLATION
COURSE OF MR. DELEUZE – Sor bonne 1959- 1960

ROUSSEAU

2 possi bl e concept i ons of t he St at e of nat ur e.

1) Anci ent concept i on = st at us nat ur ae. Thi s cont i nues i nt o t he Mi ddl e Ages ( Pl at o,
Ar i st ot l e, St oi c, Ci cer o, St . Thomas) . Rel at ed t o nat ur al r i ght . Al ways def i ned i n an
or der of per f ect i ons. Fi nal i zed mot i on. Nat ur al r i ght = conf or mi t y wi t h Nat ur e. I t s
soci abi l i t y and soci et y ar e nat ur al l y par t of and def i ned i n t he or der of per f ect i ons. A
st at e of nat ur e i s never evoked as a pr e- ci vi l or pr e- pol i t i cal st at e ( cf . Ar i st ot l e.
Ci cer o’ s De Fi ni bus) .
The soci al pr obl emi s not t hat of t he est abl i shment of a soci et y wi t h a cont r act or
anot her t hi ng. I deal l y, peopl e sear ch f or t he best gover nment , whi ch i s t hat of t he wi se.
I n f act , t he wi se no l onger have t he desi r e t o gover n men, and men do not want t he wi se.
What i s needed i s a gover nment t hat r epl aces t he wi se. Whence t he pr obl emof t he best
r egi me. ( Pl at o = t he l aws. The nomos i s necessar y as a r eal subst i t ut e f or wi sdom) .
Thi s concept i on cont i nues i nt o moder n pol i t i cal phi l osophy, not wi t h t he phi l osopher s, but
wi t h t he t heol ogi ans and t he l awyer s.

2) New meani ng wi t h Hobbes
- The st at e of nat ur e i s def i ned as a mechani smof f or ces. That whi ch i s nat ur al i s no
l onger t he or der of per f ect i ons, but r i ght under st ood as a syst emof power : r i ght
becomes absol ut e. React i on agai nst t he Ar i st ot el i an t r adi t i on: man i s not a soci abl e
ani mal . The st at e of nat ur e l et s ever yone j udge: abol i t i on of t he pr i vi l ege of t he
wi se.
- Soci et y i s t her ef or e j ust i f i abl e f r oman or i gi n whi ch bot h af f i r ms i t sel f i n nat ur e
and mar ks t he ext r eme l i mi t of t hat whi ch i s nat ur al .
The conf l i ct s bet ween i ndi vi dual s aut omat i cal l y ( mécaniquement) l ead t o i nt er nal
conf l i ct s i n t he i ndi vi dual ( bet ween ambi t i on and t he f ear of a vi ol ent deat h) .
Soci et y appear s as t he onl y means t o over come t hese cont r adi ct i ons t hr ough a speci f i c
act = t he cont r act .

- How does Rousseau accept and t r ansf or mt hese t er ms? Wi t h Hobbes, he r ecogni zes t hat
soci abi l i t y i s not nat ur al . However , he opposes t he not i on of cont r adi ct i ons whi ch
f or ce man t o exi t t he st at e of nat ur e.
I n what consi st s t he cont r act ?
Legal def i ni t i on of cont r act as a r el at i on bet ween t wo par t i es
- I t endows each par t y wi t h r i ght s and dut i es, r el at i ve t o each ot her , f or a
det er mi ned t i me.
- I t i s vol unt ar y.
- I t i s not bi ndi ng f or t hi r d par t i es.

The not i on of t he soci al cont r act r ecast s t hi s def i ni t i on: i ndet er mi nat e t i me, appl yi ng t o
t hi r d par t i es…

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 2

But t he aut hor s who have used t hi s t er mi nsi st on i t s vol unt ar y aspect = pol i t i cal phi l osophy
as phi l osophy of t he wi l l .

Who ar e t he par t i es t o t he cont r act ? Subj ect s and sover ei gns? That i s t he poi nt of vi ew of t he
l awyer s. I f so, who wi l l j udge whet her t he cont r act i s obser ved wel l ? The sour ce of power wi l l
be doubl e: a t hi r d par t y i s needed t o j udge. Yet t hi s t hi r d par t y wi l l be t he sover ei gn
( obj ect i on by Hobbes, whi ch we agai n f i nd i n Rousseau) .
HOBBES: t he cont r act ual r el at i on i s onl y est abl i shed bet ween t hose who wi l l become subj ect s.
We need t o concei ve of a ser i es of cont r act s of ever yone wi t h ever yone, by whi ch ever yone
est abl i shes hi msel f as subj ect of a t hi r d par t y whi ch does not ent er i nt o t he cont r act .
( moder n t ype: cont r act wi t h st i pul at i on f or ot her s. Exampl e: l i f e i nsur ance) .

ROUSSEAU t akes up Hobbes’ cr i t i que agai nst t he f i r st expl i cat i on, but r ej ect s Hobbes’
sol ut i on.

What i s t he obl i gat i on t hat r esul t s f r omt he cont r act ?
The pr obl emof a f i nal i t y of t he cont r act ,
f i nal i t y whi ch must be r ecogni zed i n t he pr oduct of t he cont r act .
Commonpl ace i n pol i t i cal phi l osophy of t he 18
t h
cent ur y. Di scover y of a man- ci t i zen dual i t y
whi ch di d not exi st i n t he anci ent wor l d. Man was capabl e of “vi r t ue”. The moder n f act i s t he
dual i t y: man has become pr i vat e man and ci t i zen.
I n f act , pr i vat e man i s i ncapabl e of bei ng a ci t i zen, and “vi r t ue” as det er mi nat i on of t he
ci t i zen i s i mpossi bl e. I t onl y r esi des i n pr i vat e vi r t ue.
MONTESQUI EU: “We have gai ned i n humani t y, but we have l ost i n vi r t ue”. ( Car net s) .

The r easons: - i deol ogi cal = r el i gi on – Chr i st i ani t y
- economi cal = devel opment of pr oper t y i ncome

ROUSSEAU: Di scour se on t he Ar t s and Sci ences: “Anci ent pol i t i cs spoke onl y of honor and
vi r t ue; our s speaks onl y of commer ce and money.
Di f f er ence i n nat ur e bet ween t he most vi r t uous ci t i zens of Geneva and t he l east ones among t he
Romans.

HEGEL par t i ci pat es i n t hi s pessi mi smof pol i t i cal phi l osophy: we ar e not capabl e of democr acy,
whi ch i s never t hel ess t he best r egi me.
Cf . begi nni ng of Emi l e: 2 t ypes of educat i on: f or mat i on of t he ci t i zen and f or mat i on of
pr i vat e man: a choi ce must be made.
The ci t i zen i s posed i n t he ci t y as a f r ee ci t i zen, and r equest s f r eedomf r omsoci et y. Man,
i nsof ar as he i s pr i vat e, r equest s secur i t y f r omt he ci t y, whi ch i s t he same as t he guar ant ee
of hi s pr oper t i es.
How does t he cont r act r espond her e?

I exchange my nat ur al f r eedom( ent i r el y or i n par t ) and I r ecei ve secur i t y f r omt he sover ei gn.
Wi t h Hobbes, t he onl y f r eedomof t he cont r act i s a cer t ai n secur i t y. However , cer t ai n r i ght s
r emai n i nal i enabl e: t he r i ght t o r esi st whoever want s t o ki l l me.

SPI NOZA even r et ai ns f r eedomi n t he ci vi l st at e: I do not cont ent mysel f

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 3

wi t h si mpl e necessi t y. Pr eser ved i n t he moder n wor l d t hi s new f r eedomwi l l be t he f r eedomof
t hought .

ROUSSEAU connect s f r eedomt o i nal i enabl e r i ght s: t he r i ght t o make l aws. HEGEL r epr oaches
Rousseau f or havi ng f or got t en t hat we ar e no l onger ci t i zens. Thi s i s per haps t r ue f or t he
Soci al Cont r act , but i t i s f al se f or Rousseau’ s oeuvr e as a whol e.

3) Thi r d t ype of concept i on t hat sur f aces i n t he mi ddl e of t he 18
t h
cent ur y: ut i l i t ar i an and
posi t i vi st . Agai nst Thomi st t heol ogy, anci ent met aphysi cs: t he not i on of cont r act i s
met aphysi cal ( HUME, BENTHAM) .
Two ar gument s wi t h HUME:

- Compl et e negat i on of a st at e of nat ur e, whi ch i s not a st at e of r i ght , but of needs,
one t hat cannot be def i ned but negat i vel y.
- Soci et y does not have as i t s or i gi n a cont r act whi ch i s al ways an act of l i mi t at i on of
nat ur al r i ght s.
Now, t he const i t ut i ve act of soci et y i s essent i al l y posi t i ve.
For HUME i t r evol ves ar ound agr eement ( f or exampl e: t he har mony of r ower s) .
The dest i nat i on of t hi s agr eement f or BENTHAM: secur i t y.
For t he pr oponent s of t he cont r act , Spi noza, Rousseau, and Kant demand f r eedom.

THE NEWHELOI SE

Rousseau’ s pr oj ect , even t hough he was concer ned wi t h pol i t i cal i nst i t ut i ons: wr i t i ng a book
of whi ch t he t heme obsesses hi mand f or whi ch he has t he t i t l e “Sensi t i ve Mor al i t y, or The
Wi se Man’ s Mat er i al i sm”. The i deas of t hi s unf i ni shed book ar e r et r i eved i n “The New Hel oi se”.
Hypot hesi s of BURGELI N: i n t he her oes of “The New Hel oi se”, i l l ust r at i on of t he myt h of t he
Phaedr us. Sai nt Pr eux: t he bl ack hor se.
J ul i e: t he hear t .
Wol mar : t he noûs.

For Rousseau, J ul i e and Sai nt Pr eux ar e made f or each ot her , because t hey bot h l ove vi r t ue.
Ther e i s conf l i ct , because t he obj ect i ve si t uat i on pr ecl udes t hi s woul d- be vi r t uous l ove.
J ul i e l i ves t he conf l i ct : she l oses vi r t ue, but t he l ove of vi r t ue r emai ns i n her . She wr i t es
t o Sai nt - Pr eux:
“I keep my l ove f or you; t he l ove of vi r t ue i s f or Wol mar and I obey my par ent s”. Yet , a
r evel at i on on t he day of t he mar r i age: “Our di ver se si t uat i ons change and t hey det er mi ne,
despi t e our sel ves, t he af f ect i ons of our hear t s”. Not e l et t er 20 par t 3.
Now, i n cer t ai n obj ect i ve si t uat i ons, we cannot but be wi cked. How t o r econci l e vi r t ue and t he
i nt er est of soci et y? “We shal l be vi ci ous and wi cked as l ong as we shal l have an i nt er est i n
bei ng so”. Want i ng t o change onesel f st r i kes Rousseau as r i di cul ous.
Our soul i s def i ned i n i t s r el at i ons wi t h obj ect s.
The wi l l can change t he si t uat i on by i nt er veni ng as obj ect i ve el ement of t he si t uat i on i t sel f .
J ul i e deci des t hat i f Wol mar di es,

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 4

she wi l l not mar r y Sai nt - Pr eux.
Pr i vat e t r ansposi t i on of a f amous i dea i n pol i t i cal phi l osophy: est abl i shi ng si t uat i ons such
t hat peopl e can no l onger be wi cked: HUME: pr obl emof pol i t i cal phi l osophy: f i ndi ng obj ect i ve
si t uat i ons whi ch r econci l e j ust i ce and i nt er est .
Maki ng t he st r ong wi l l i nt er vene i n pr i vat e l i f e as an obj ect i ve el ement of t he si t uat i on.
Concept i on of Wol mar : subj ect i on of t he physi cal bei ng t o t hi ngs:
t her apeut i c f or J ul i e and Sai nt - Pr eux.

I n par t I V, Sai nt - Pr eux r et ur ns when J ul i e i s mar r i ed and has t wo chi l dr en. I t i s
Wol mar who asks Sai nt - Pr eux t o come: hi s i dea: obser vi ng peopl e, exper i ment i ng on t hem. He
want s t o heal J ul i e, who has acqui r ed vi r t ue, but has not f or got t en her si n. Let t er 12: t he
t her apy of t he Gr ove: ( pl ace wher e Sai nt - Pr eux had embr aced J ul i e and wher e she has never been
abl e t o r et ur n) .
“J ul i e, f ear t hi s r ef uge no l onger , i t has been pr of aned”, t hat i s t o say, di ssoci al i zed.
Let t er 18: Wol mar l eaves J ul i e and Sai nt - Pr eux at t he pl ace wher e Sai nt - Pr eux had once been
exi l ed dur i ng t hei r l ove.

Wol mar ’ s pl an. They l ove each ot her i n t he past . J ul i e i s no l onger t he same, because she has
become vi r t uous. But Sai nt - Pr eux does not know t hi s. “Take away t he memor y, and he wi l l no
l onger have t he l ove” …The er r or t hat abuses hi mand t he pr obl emi s a conf usi on of t i mes”.
Sai nt - Pr eux i s f i xat ed.
( I t i s t he psychoanal yt i c f i xat i on) .

- To make hi mconsci ous of t he f i xat i on; t hat t he J ul i e he l oves i s no l onger t he
pr esent J ul i e. I t i s a t r eat ment by means of becomi ng consci ous. But Wol mar t hi nks
t hat i t i s t oo danger ous, t he becomi ng consci ous does not heal . Because he woul d be
capabl e of l ovi ng t he cur r ent J ul i e.

- I t i s bet t er t o make hi ml ose t he memor y of t he t i mes whi ch he must f or get “by def t l y
subst i t ut i ng ot her i deas f or t hose whi ch ar e dear t o hi m”. Execut i on of subst i t ut i on.
“I cover t he past of t he pr esent ”. I t i nvol ves subst i t ut i ng f or t he l ove f or J ul i e as
a young gi r l , a f r i endshi p f or t he woman, and t hi s i n a cont i nuous manner . I t i s t he
t r ansf er of psychoanal yst s.

I t i nvol ves changi ng t he si t uat i on i n or der t o become vi r t uous. The wi se man i s
he who put s det er mi ni smi n t he ser vi ce of vi r t ue. The si t uat i on can be changed by t he
wi l l : i t i s J ul i e’ s met hod. Wol mar pr ef er s t o oper at e wi t hi n t he si t uat i on i t sel f , t o
execut e a t r ansf er ( i t i s t he mat er i al i smof t he wi se man) .

Rousseau has a concept i on of t he hi er ar chy of st ages of t he “beaut i f ul soul ”.
Four st ages whi ch can be di f f er ent :

1. The or i gi nal goodness of t he soul
2. The nat ur al goodness or l ove of vi r t ue
3. Vi r t ue i t sel f
4. Wi sdom

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 5

1. The or i gi nal goodness.

I t i s t he goodness of t he soul i n t he st at e of nat ur e. Af f i r mat i on of t hi s goodness whi ch
i s never separ at ed f r oma det er mi ni st i c af f i r mat i on. These ar e t he si t uat i ons whi ch det er mi ne
our af f ect i ons. The soul i s f i r st of al l a f acul t y of f eel i ng, not of r eason. That whi ch
appear s at f i r st i s a “r el i ance on t hi ngs” whi ch i s nat ur al . Thi s af f i r mat i on ent ai l s t hat of
or i gi nal goodness, because i n t he st at e of nat ur e, al l af f ect i ons ar e good, t hat i s t o say
appr opr i at e t o t he obj ect ( put di f f er ent l y, i t i s t he nat ur al i st t r anscr i pt i on of t he
concept i on: r eal i t y = per f ect i on) .
I n t hi s goodness, ever yone i s a whol e ont o onesel f . Each i s one wi t h t he sent i ment of
exi st ence. However , t her e i s a nat ur al di ver si t y of soul s due t o t he di f f er ence of f undament al
f acul t i es.

The soul of J ul i e: ener gy, l azy wi t h r egar ds t o a change of st at e, i nt er i or
sensi bi l i t y.
Sai nt - Pr eux: i nt er i or sensi bi l i t y. Feebl e soul .
Wol mar : l i t t l e sensi bi l i t y, col d soul , t ast e f or r eason.
Cl ai r e: i mpul si ve. “The cr azy one”.

Each soul nonet hel ess has an or i gi nal goodness. Ther e i s no possi bl e wi ckedness at t hi s l evel ,
because t he i nt ui t i ons do not per mi t i t . I n f unct i on of i t s t ype, each soul has i t s pl ace i n
t he or der of nat ur e.

2. Nat ur al goodness
Pr obl emof t he genesi s of wi ckedness. Wi t h soci et y comes a r adi cal change of si t uat i on
whi ch r ender s vi ce possi bl e. Wi t h soci et y, new r el at i ons whi ch pr event us f r ombei ng good and
whi ch devel op an i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked i n us.
These new r el at i ons: i t i s t he r el at i on of mast er - sl ave.
I n t he st at e of nat ur e, r el at i on of each f or hi msel f wi t h t hi ngs. Soci et y i nst al l s a r el at i on
of r el i ance of one on t he ot her , ever yone bei ng t aken as a par t and no l onger as a whol e. A
r el at i on whi ch st ar t s f r omi nf ancy. The badl y r ai sed chi l d does what he want s t o ot her s. “I n
cr eat i ng a r i ght t o be obeyed, chi l dr en l eave t he st at e of nat ur e al most f r ombi r t h”. New
Hel oi se 3 par t 5.

The goal of Emile: t o r ecover an educat i on t hat wi l l ent ai l a r el i ance on t hi ngs and not on
wi l l s. Chi l dr en must f eel t hei r i mpot ence wi t h r egar d t o t hi ngs.
Wi t h soci et y, ever yone i s al ways sl ave and mast er of someone.
I t i s t hi s ar t i f i ci al r el at i on whi ch engender s vi ce, because we t her eby have an i nt er est i n
bei ng wi cked.
Our or i gi nal goodness subsi st s. Nat ur al goodness i s or i gi nal goodness i nsof ar as i t subsi st s
under t hese new r el at i ons.
- Ther e ar e degr ees: f or cer t ai n soul s, or i gi nal goodness i s ef f aced by t he mul t i t ude of
soci al r el at i ons ( i n t hi s sense, l ovi ng sol i t ude i s a cr i t er i on of goodness) .
- Ther e ar e i nt er medi ar i es. The good soul sel ect s i t s soci al r el at i ons, i t di st r ust s
t hem. But i t can be caught shor t by t he si t uat i on and r eact agai nst i t s own goodness,
dr i ven by det er mi ni sm( t hat ’ s t he case f or me, says Rousseau) .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 6

The l ove of vi r t ue i s t o want t o r et ai n i t s goodness despi t e t he si t uat i on. Thi s nat ur al
goodness i s not vi r t ue, but t he l ove of vi r t ue.
I t i s t he pr obl emof t he New Hel oi se. J ul i e i s ver y good, her f at her as wel l . Yet by vi r t ue of
t hei r obj ect i ve soci al si t uat i ons, she cannot l ove Sai nt - Pr eux wi t hout bei ng at f aul t . Nor can
Sai nt - Pr eux l ove her . What r emai ns t hemi s t he l ove of vi r t ue.
The mor al pr obl em: how t o l eave t hi s st at e: l ovi ng vi r t ue and doi ng t he cont r ar y, dr i ven by
t he si t uat i on?

3. Vi r t ue
I t i s t he ef f or t t o make t he l ove of vi r t ue out wei gh t he i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked.
Vi r t ue i s a means t o r eal i ze t he l ove of vi r t ue. Cf . l et t er t o Sophi e “goodness i s l ost by t he
exer t i on of a mul t i t ude of ar t i f i ci al r el at i ons. Unt i l t hen I had been good …I become
vi r t uous”.
But Rousseau doubt s t he ef f i cacy of vi r t ue as st r uggl e. He does not doubt t he st r uggl e bet ween
t he l ove of vi r t ue and t he i nt er est , but i t s out come. Vi r t ue i s “al ways a st at e of war ”.

- The st r uggl e can be a pl at oni c f l i ght ( J ul i e) or a st oi c one ( Edouar d) , a del i cat e
st r uggl e, because t he enemy t o conquer can be r eason i t sel f .

- J ul i e has anot her met hod, af t er her mar r i age. No l onger t he di r ect st r uggl e, but
t r ansf or mat i on of t he si t uat i on t hr ough t he wi l l . So, one must r emove wi ckedness
i ndi r ect l y. Even i n t hi s case, Rousseau r emai ns skept i cal . The wi l l i nt er venes i n t he
si t uat i on, but what guar ant ees t hat t he change i s def i ni t i ve? I n a sense, J ul i e f ai l s.
Er r or of st oi ci smand of Chr i st i ani t y: t hey exagger at e dut i es and vi r t ue.
“Wi sdomi s t o di smi ss t he di f f i cul t y of our dut i es …happy i s t he one who i s not
pl aced i n t he necessi t y of bei ng vi r t uous as one cont ent s onesel f wi t h bei ng a good
man”
( Let t er of J anuar y 1764 t o Car ondel et ) .

Vi r t ue i s a st r uggl e, i n a cont ext whi ch a si t uat i on demands. Wi sdomest abl i shes si t uat i ons i n
whi ch vi r t ue i s needl ess. Wi sdoml eads onl y t o t he r est or at i on, of whi ch Rousseau dr eamt , of
t he uni t y of vi r t ue and i nt er est wi t hi n us.
Wi sdomi s not separ abl e f r omenj oyment ( jouissance) .
Wi sdompr esent s i t sel f f i r st of al l under t he aspect of Wol mar ’ s met hod.
He no l onger r el i es on t he wi l l t o change t he si t uat i on, but on a sel ect i on car r i ed out i n t he
si t uat i on i t sel f . Sel ect i on of t i mes and pl aces.

of t i mes: cover t he past by t he pr esent ;
of pl aces: r ender f ami l i ar t hat whi ch was sacr ed.

“Tr ue happi ness consi st s i n sayi ng t hat I amwhol l y wher e I am”.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 7

I n t he “Rever i es”, Rousseau i nsi st s on t he sent i ment of exi st ence. Our mi sf or t une i s t hat we
ant i ci pat e t he f ut ur e i n r ecal l i ng t he past , t hat we ar e not l i vi ng t he pr esent “whi ch al ways
endur es wi t hout mar ki ng i t s dur at i on i n t he l east , wi t hout sent i ment of successi on”.
Sent i ment of exi st ence: pur e pr esent whi ch passes ( assi mi l at ed t o Et er ni t y, t o t he di vi ne
st at e, because “one i s suf f i ci ent ont o onesel f , l i ke God”) .

Wol mar want s t o sel ect t he el ement s of t he pr esent . Ti me must be l i ved as passage, i t i s at
t hat moment t hat t he subst i t ut i on i s made.
Met hod of sel ect i on whi ch r esul t s i n t he Rever i es.
At t hi s l evel , i t i s no l onger a sel ect i on of obj ect s whi ch popul at e t i me, but t i me whi ch i s
st r i pped of al l successi on of obj ect s.
The ease of exi st i ng i s t hus di scover ed.
At t he begi nni ng, he had t o use our dependence wi t h r egar d t o t hi ngs.
At t he end of hi s l i f e, Rousseau af f i r ms t hat one must l i ber at e onesel f f r omt hi s r el i ance.
And est abl i sh an empt i ness.

I n t he mat er i al i smof t he wi se man, i t comes down t o usi ng t he det er mi ni smof si t uat i ons i n
or der t o di sengage. Wol mar cont r ol s t he obj ect s. But i s t hat good met hod? ( cf . t he end of The
New Hel oi se) .
I n t he Rêver i es, Rousseau har dl y bel i eves t hat i t i s suf f i ci ent t o change si t uat i ons i n or der
t o be happy. He t her e subst i t ut es i t f or t he r ever i e whi ch per mi t s a coi nci dence wi t h t he pur e
passage of t i me when obj ect s no l onger hol d sway over us.
Book 9. Conf essi ons ( Pl ei ad P. 400- 401, 408- 409) : Rousseau her e t akes up anew t he t hemes f r om
hi s book “Sensi t i ve Mor al i t y”.

The “Cont r act ” i s t he par al l el on t he pl ane of t he ci t i zen, of t he Emi l e on t he pr i vat e pl ane
( t he educat or , t he l egi sl at or ar e par al l el s. Myt hi cal bei ngs, because, says Rousseau, t hey ar e
t oo f ul l of vi r t ues t o be r eal ) .
Ther e i s a r el at i on of essent i al successi on bet ween t he Cont r act and t he Emi l e. The cont r act
pr esupposes t he educat ed, f or med, pr i vat e man.
I n t he Emi l e, Rousseau speci f i es t hat t her e ar e t hr ee educat i ons:
- An educat i on of nat ur e “i nt er nal devel opment of our f acul t i es and or gans”;
- An educat i on of men: “t he use we ar e t aught t o make of t hi s devel opment ” of
nat ur e;
- An educat i on of t hi ngs.

Over t he cour se of t he Emi l e, t hese educat i ons ar e r educed t o t wo:

- Domest i c or nat ur al educat i on
- Publ i c educat i on concer ni ng r el at i ons of men among each ot her , each man bei ng
a par t .

The f i r st consi der s man as a whol e, so i t i s an educat i on of nat ur al man. I t pl aces hi mi n
r el at i on wi t h t hi ngs and hi s sembl ances, each f or mi ng a whol e f or i t sel f .
The second consi der s man as ci t i zen, par t i n r el at i on wi t h ot her par t s.
These t wo educat i ons ar e cont r adi ct or y. I n act ual soci et y, we want bot h at t he same t i me and
ar r i ve at not hi ng. “Nei t her man, nor

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 8

ci t i zen”. Thei r di f f er ences i n ki nd must be r eal i zed. Rousseau says: t her e i s no l onger publ i c
educat i on. We must t her ef or e t ake t he r oad of pr i vat e educat i on and st i ck wi t h i t . Af t er t hat ,
i t can be asked whet her t he r est or at i on of a publ i c educat i on i s possi bl e. Whence: t he
Cont r act pr esupposes t he Emi l e.


THE STATE OF NATURE

I t i s a pr e- soci al , pr e- pol i t i cal , pr e- ci vi l st at e.
Not a new i dea ( Cf . HOBBES) . Why does i t appear as pr e- soci al ? I t i s a st at e of equal i t y and
of i ndependence ( Cf . Di scour se on I nequal i t y) . Yet Rousseau does not l ocat e i t s or i gi nal i t y
t her e: he def i nes i t by di sper si on. ( Not e 2 of t he Di scour se: Rousseau cont est s Locke’ s
posi t i on on t he quest i on of t he mar i t al r el at i onshi p i n t he st at e of nat ur e. For Locke, i t i s
a nat ur al r el at i onshi p unt i l chi l dr en t ake car e of t hei r own busi ness. For Rousseau, Locke
pr esupposes t hat whi ch i s i n quest i on, whi ch i s t o say co- habi t at i on of man wi t h woman i n t he
st at e of nat ur e. Now, t he St at e of nat ur e i s t hat of f or t ui t ous encount er s. Thi s i sol at i on
per mi t s Rousseau t o expl ai n t he St at e of nat ur e as a st at e of equal i t y and i ndependence.
Anal yt i c consequence.

I n what sense i s al l t hi s par t of HOBBES?

I n an Ar i st ot el i an and Thomi st per spect i ve, t he nat ur al or der i s l i ke t he or der of
per f ect i ons. Soci abi l i t y i s par t of t he nat ur al or der . For HOBBES, i t no l onger concer ns an
or der of per f ect i ons, but a mechani smof f or ces: needs and desi r es. Whence t hat nat ur al r i ght
i s r eal i zi ng one’ s desi r es i nsof ar as i t i s wi t hi n one’ s power . Ri ght , not dut y, i s pr i mar y
and nat ur al .
Thi s poi nt of vi ew excl udes al l dependence.
Whence a r eact i on agai nst t he Ar i st ot el i an t r adi t i on: man i s no l onger a soci abl e ani mal .
Ther e i s equal i t y i n t he r espect i ve compensat i on of i nequal i t y of f or ces: t he most st r ong
al ways f i ndi ng a st r onger one t han hi msel f , and t he l east st r ong capabl e of bei ng suf f i ci ent l y
st r ong t o ki l l t he st r ongest .

Does t hi s suf f i ce t o concl ude t hat t he st at e of nat ur e does not i mpl y soci al l i f e? For HOBBES
soci al l i f e i mpl i es an aut hor i t y, a r el i ance on r espect f or a power .
The st at e of nat ur e excl udes soci et y as t he ci vi l st at e, but does i t excl ude soci abi l i t y whi ch
per mi t s a nat ur al soci et y as an ensembl e of r el at i ons bet ween i ndependent i ndi vi dual s
( GROTI US) . Soci abi l i t y woul d have der i ved f r oman i dent i t y i n nat ur e bet ween men as r easonabl e
bei ngs. “The st at e of nat ur e and a soci al l i f e ar e not t wo opposed t hi ngs”. Puf f endor f . But
t hi s concept i on pr esupposes t hat one gr ant s hi msel f r eason r i ght away. Now, f or HOBBES, t her e
i s a genesi s of r eason.
Rousseau al so demands, agai nst Hobbes, a genesi s of compl ex passi ons f or whi ch Hobbes appeal s
t o t he st at e of nat ur e. Accor di ng t o Rousseau, Hobbesi an Man “abuses” cer t ai n f acul t i es whi ch
must be pr oduced hi st or i cal l y.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 9

I n changi ng t he pl ane on whi ch t he pr obl emi s posed, Rousseau escapes t hese di f f i cul t i es of
Hobbes. I f we accept t he t hesi s of di sper si on, t hen no l onger a pr obl emof t hi s t ype: each
f or mof soci et y i s necessar i l y excl uded f r omt he st at e of nat ur e.
Wi t h HOBBES, need i s what br i ngs cl oser , wi t h ROUSSEAU, i t separ at es. I n t he “Essay on t he
or i gi n of l anguages”, wi t hout doubt cont empor aneous t o t he Di scour se, t he nat ur al ef f ect of
needs wi l l be t o separ at e men. “The st at e of war r ei gned ever ywher e, but al l t he l and was at
peace”. Possi bl e war s i n f or t ui t ous encount er s, but t hose di d not t ake pl ace. “Not a Gol den
Age because men wer e uni t ed, but because t hey wer e separ at ed”.
I n t he Di scour se: Nat ur e does not bot her wi t h br i ngi ng men cl oser t hr ough mut ual needs. She
does not pr epar e men f or soci al l i f e.
St oi c gr ound of Rousseau: needs separ at e. Need i s def i ned as a sel f - suf f i ci ency. Nat ur al l y, i t
i s l i mi t ed by physi cal necessi t y, i t does not exceed t he f or ces of t hat whi ch exper i ences i t .
Our needs ar e pr opor t i onat e t o our f or ces and our f or ces t o our needs: r eci pr ocal r egul at i on
( cf . Emi l e I I ) .
The st at e of nat ur e i s t hus a bal ance bet ween power and desi r e. Wi t h HOBBES: j us i n omni a.
Per haps, says Rousseau, but because ever yone onl y desi r es t hat whi ch i s wi t hi n r each:
unl i mi t ed r i ght of man t o al l t hat he can at t empt and t hat he can r each. Thi s r i ght i s i n f act
l i mi t ed i n t he st at e of nat ur e. Rousseau compar es t hi s st at e of nat ur e wi t h at ar axi a.
“Ever yone i s a whol e ont o onesel f ".

Gr ound of nat ur al r i ght : sel f - l ove moder at ed by compassi on: bal ance.

Meani ng of “nat ur e” wi t h ROUSSEAU.

Nat ur al : f i r st of al l pr i mi t i ve or or i gi nal . “Man i n t he st at e of nat ur e” or “pr i mi t i ve man”.
Not soci abl e.
2
nd
sense: i n t he “Pr of essi on of f ai t h”: “man i s soci abl e by nat ur e or at l east made t o
become so”.

Love i n t he st at e of nat ur e i s a smal l t hi ng, compar ed t o t he l ove J ul i e – Sai nt - Pr eux. “Our
soul s ar e made f or each ot her , i t i s nat ur e whi ch want s i t ”I I I 11.
“I f l ove r ei gns, nat ur e has al r eady chosen …sacr ed l aw of nat ur e” whi ch cannot be vi ol at ed
wi t h i mpuni t y.
The f ami l i al sent i ment has need of a habi t , of a devel opment whi ch f or ms l i ke a second nat ur e.
That whi ch i s nat ur al i s no l onger t he pr i mi t i ve, but i t i s a devel opment made f r omt he or i gi n
and f ol l owi ng di r ect i ons vi r t ual l y cont ai ned i n t he or i gi n.
Pr obl emof “nat ur al l aw” wi t h Rousseau. I t of t en does not concer n a l aw t hat woul d r ei gn i n
t he st at e of nat ur e, but a l aw t hat gover ns t he devel opment of “nat ur al man”, t hat i s t o say
of man i nsof ar as he i s pr esupposed t o be subj ect ed t o a l aw of devel opment of vi r t ual i t i es
i nscr i bed i n t he or i gi nal st at e.
The “domest i c or nat ur al ” educat i on of Emi l e i ncl udes t he educat i on of nat ur e ( i nt er nal
devel opment of our f acul t i es and our or gans) and t he educat i on of t hi ngs ( t he acqui si t i on,
engender ed by exper i ence, of obj ect s whi ch af f ect us) .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 10

Nat ur al man i s t hus man i nsof ar as he f or ms hi msel f and i s educat ed. The Emi l e i s concei ved as
l eadi ng f r omman i n t he st at e of nat ur e t o nat ur al man.
Consci ousness, r eason ar e of t en cal l ed “nat ur al ” wi t h Rousseau, l i ke soci et y and soci abi l i t y.
Cf . Let t er t o Ch. De Beaumont : geneal ogy of vi ces and genesi s of r eason. Compl et el y nat ur al as
i t may be, r eason demands a devel opment st ar t i ng i n t he st at e of nat ur e. I n t he Geneva
manuscr i pt , t her e i s a chapt er on t he st at e of nat ur e whi ch di sappear s i n t he Cont r act .
Because t hi s chapt er r i sks mi ngl i ng di f f er ent pr obl ems: t he Cont r a ct pr esupposes nat ur al man.
The pr obl emof t he Cont r act i s t hat of t he passage of man t o ci t i zen and not nat ur al man as
pr i vat e man.
Not i on of per f ect i bi l i t y: t he st at e of nat ur e must be under st ood as a genet i c el ement , heavy
wi t h pot ent i al , wi t h vi r t ual i t i es. Thi s genet i c l i ne i s al t er ed by t he genesi s of vi ce: i s i t
acci dent or necessi t y?

I n or der t o f i nd t he char act er i st i cs of man i n t he st at e of nat ur e, Rousseau empl oys an
anal yt i c and r egr essi ve met hod, st ar t i ng f r omnat ur al man. Necessi t y of f i ndi ng a pr i nci pl e:
what t o def i ne? The st at e of nat ur e cannot be def i ned as an act ual st at e of t he f acul t i es, but
as a vi r t ual and genet i c st at e. Thus sel f - l ove and compassi on ar e a st at e of passi on as l ong
as t hei r vi r t ual i t i es ar e not devel oped. Cf . Emi l e I V: compassi on i s l aden wi t h a vi r t ual
soci abi l i t y, and sel f - l ove wi t h l ove f or ot her s. The anal yt i c met hod cannot l ead t o def i ni ng
t he st at e of nat ur e wi t hout a dynami c pr i nci pl e: r egr essi on of t he act ual t o t he vi r t ual . The
anal yt i c met hod of Rousseau’ s pr edecessor s does not suf f i ce.
The New Hel oi se: “Nat ur e i s a book i n whi ch one must l ear n t o r ead”. I t i s not enough t o
anal yze i f one does not know how t o deci pher . Ever yt hi ng whi ch i s act ual and f or med i s
ext er i or t o t he st at e of nat ur e.
Bef or e Rousseau, t her e i s t al k of a savage and a ci vi l i zed man.
The genesi s i s pr eci sel y t he act ual i zat i on of vi r t ual i t i es of t he st at e of nat ur e. Ther e i s no
spont aneous passage.
I n t he Di scour se:
- A f acul t y does not devel op i t sel f i f i t does not r espond t o a need or an
i nt er est
- A need never appear s i f i t i s not det er mi ned by a si t uat i on

The st at e of man must t hus be def i ned:

- By obj ect i ve ci r cumst ances
- By needs t hat t hese det er mi ne
- By subj ect i ve f acul t i es necessar y f or t he sat i sf act i on of t hese needs.

Exampl e: speech pr esupposes t he soci al cont r act .

For Rousseau, hi s pr edecessor s have di sr egar ded t he or der of causes i n posi t i ng, f r omt he
st ar t , t hese f or med f acul t i es i n or der t o deduce si t uat i ons ( f or exampl e, man speaks, so he
l i ves i n soci et y) .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 11

Now, f or Rousseau, t he f acul t i es have a genesi s, and i f man had f ul l y f or med f acul t i es he
woul d not be i n need of usi ng t hem.

He cr i t i ci zes HOBBES, who makes t he st at e of nat ur e a st at e of war . Because man i n t he st at e
of nat ur e cannot be i n a st at e of war . One must pr oceed as f ol l ows: bei ng gi ven a f acul t y of
aggr essi on, what i nt er est does i t pr esuppose, and what si t uat i on does t hi s i nt er est
pr esuppose?

- The l egal or obj ect i ve pr obl em: war i s not j ust any vi ol ence. I t i s def i ned by a
r el at i on bet ween st at es and a cer t ai n dur at i on, by i t s goal , whi ch i s t o obt ai n
r epar at i ons f or supposed damage by means of f or ce. War t hus pr esupposes pr oper t y. “I t
i s t he r el at i on of t hi ngs and not of men whi ch const i t ut es war ”. The st at e of war t hus
pr esupposes soci et y.

- The subj ect i ve pr obl emof i nt er est : pr i de as human i nt er est whi ch al so pr esupposes t he
soci al st at e. Cf . Ant i - Dühr i ng: ENGELS her e pr ai ses Rousseau f or havi ng empl oyed a
di al ect i c met hod i n t he Di scour se. I n f act , i n r el at i on t o Dühr i ng, ENGELS f i nds
hi msel f i n t he same si t uat i on as Rousseau bef or e HOBBES. What does Robi nson use i n
or der t o ensl ave Fr i day? I n or der t o ensl ave, a soci al cont r act const i t ut ed on
pr oduct i ve f or ces and r el at i ons of pr oduct i on i s needed: t he mast er s of Amer i ca
ensl ave t hei r sl aves i n cot t on.

I s t he st at e of nat ur e a r eal i t y or a f i ct i on ?

• I t i s per haps doubt f ul whet her t hi s pr obl emhas t he i mpor t ance t hat some accor d t o i t .
Kant ’ s r ol e i n di st i ngui shi ng f oundat i on and or i gi n.
• For Rousseau’ s pr edecessor s, t he st at e of nat ur e i s at t he same t i me f oundat i on and
or i gi n. Fr omHOBBES, t he st at e of nat ur e i s consi der ed as a pr e- soci al l i f e. I n a sense
t he st at e of nat ur e i s f i ct i t i ous, because humani t y i s never f ound ent i r el y t her e. Yet i t
i s r eal i n cer t ai n si t uat i ons. For Hobbes, ci vi l war i s one of t hose si t uat i ons.

• For Rousseau: t hr ee t ext s i n t he “Di scour se” “we st ar t by excl udi ng al l t he f act s…” “That
whi ch r ef l ect i on t eaches us, obser vat i on conf i r ms”. “The pr esupposi t i on of a st at e of
nat ur e”. “A st at e whi ch has per haps never exi st ed, whi ch wi l l pr obabl y never exi st ”.
- I t i s not a f act of obser vat i on: nei t her i nf ancy, nor t he savage st at e ar e t he
st at e of nat ur e.
- Cont ext of ci t at i ons: t he “f act s” ar e t he f act s as at t est ed t o by sacr ed t ext s:
man cr eat ed wi t h hi s f acul t i es.
- The st at e of nat ur e i s never posed pr obl emat i cal l y. What happens bet ween t he
st at e of nat ur e and t he act ual st at e, al l t he i nt er medi ar i es, i s posed as
hypot het i cal . But t he t wo ends ar e gi ven as r eal .

The st at e of nat ur e i s r eal as poi nt of depar t ur e of a movement f r omwhi ch man t akes
shape.
Si nce t her e i s genesi s st ar t i ng f r omt he st at e of nat ur e, how does t hi s genesi s wor k?

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 12

The Di scour se pr oposes one. The Essay on t he or i gi n of l anguages and t he hi st or y of
mor es, ot her s. But t he poi nt of vi ew i s t he same. Emi l e makes t he genesi s f r omt he
poi nt of vi ew of t he chi l d.


THE UNI TY OF ROUSSEAU’ S OEUVRE

Cassi r er : Soci et y of phi l osophy, Febr uar y 1932.

Kant i an t hesi s pr oposi ng a uni t y ar ound t he concept of f r eedom.
Kant : “Conj ect ur es on t he begi nni ngs of human hi st or y”.
The Cont r act does not want t o be a possi bl e r ef or mof soci et y.

I n t he Di scour se, t her e i s an agr eement whi ch, i n i t s pr i nci pl e, i s myst i f yi ng, i t gener at es
t he cor r upt i ng soci al st at e. Thi s myst i f i cat i on i s gl ar i ng ( se fait criante) : soci al
ameni t i es. A r eor gani zat i on of soci et y cannot suf f i ce si nce i t i s t ai nt ed i n i t s pr i nci pl e.
( compl et el y cont r ar y t o t he Encycl opédi st es) .

I s a r ef or mof soci et y possi bl e? Accor di ng t o Rousseau, i t i s under cer t ai n condi t i ons, up t o
a cer t ai n poi nt . But t oday we ar e t oo deep i nt o t he agr eement . We can no l onger make a cl ean
sl at e. I t pr esupposes mor eover a l egi sl at or who ar r i ved f r omout si de
( Cr et ans, Lacedaemoni ans, Romans f or exampl e) .
I n cer t ai n st at es, man i s ci t i zen bef or e al l el se. That i s no l onger possi bl e now. And t he
cont r act exi st s because t he agr eement can no l onger be changed. I t i s an er r or t o r el at e t he
cont r act t o a st at e of nat ur e f r omwhi ch i t woul d have pr oceeded. I t must be r el at ed t o
nat ur al man, t hat i s t o say man f or med accor di ng t o t he l aw of nat ur e. Thi s i s t he case f or
Emi l e af t er hi s compl et ed educat i on, owner and husband: pr i vat e man, j ust , vi r t uous. The
educat i on has st opped bei ng publ i c, we cannot r et ur n t o bef or e t he agr eement .

The cor r espondence of Rousseau wi t h Tr onchi n l eads hi mt o see t he di f f er ence bet ween pr i vat e
man and t he ci t i zen. I t i s when Emi l e i s f or med i n pr i vat e t hat t he pol i t i cal pr obl emi s posed
t o hi m.

Such men, do t hey not est abl i sh a new soci al or der ?
No genesi s passes f r oman ant er i or st age t o t he soci al cont r act . But i t i s t hr ough a ki nd of
t r ansmut at i on t hat pr i vat e men f ound anot her soci al or der .

Nat ur al man must be r el at ed t o hi s own genet i c l i ne. Al l t hat can be done i s t o pr event t he
chi l d, t hr ough domest i c educat i on, f r omput t i ng i t sel f i n cor r upt i ng si t uat i ons.

The genet i c l i ne whi ch r esponds t o hi st or y: f r omt he st at e of nat ur e t o t he cor r upt i ng soci al
st at e.
The second l i ne i s t hat of pedagogy: t he l aw of nat ur e per mi t s f or mat i on i n a cor r upt ed
soci et y, a man of nat ur e as pr i vat e.
The t hi r d l i ne, non- genet i c: nat ur al man cr eat es a cor r espondi ng soci al or der wi t h hi s wi l l .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 13

How does one l eave t he st at e of nat ur e ?

- For HOBBES f or exampl e, t her e i s a f undament al di sequi l i br i umi n t he st at e of nat ur e –
unl i vabl e – whi ch r ender s l eavi ng i t necessar y. Thi s exi t i s made possi bl e by t he nat ur al
l aw: t hi s means pr esupposes a mi ni mal devel opment of r eason: t hi s wi l l be bet t er i f
ever yone abst ai ns f r omever yt hi ng t hat can t ur n t o i t s di sadvant age.

- Wi t h ROUSSEAU, t he st at e of nat ur e i s f ul l sel f - suf f i ci ency, wi t hout cont r adi ct i on. The
human speci es i s consi der ed as an ani mal speci es. The i ndi vi dual i s not hi ng but one wi t h
i t s speci es: i dent i t y bet ween i ndi vi dual and t he gener i c bei ng, because t he i ndi vi dual i s
a whol e f or i t sel f .
That whi ch engender s t he exi t f r omt he st at e of nat ur e: a mul t i pl i ci t y of “st r ange”,
“f or t ui t ous”, “mi l d” causes. So i t i s t hr ough a mechani sm, but t her e i s never t hel ess a
“hi dden pl an of nat ur e”, man goes t o r eal i ze hi s f i nal goal .
For t hi s, an obj ect i ve si t uat i on i s needed, i n each st age of humani t y’ s devel opment . I f i t
changes, new i nt er est s and needs appear i n man.

I n l eavi ng t he st at e of nat ur e, one f al l s i nt o t he savage st at e.
Si t uat i on: t wo new f act s: mor phol ogi cal causes
cl i mat i c causes whi ch act
onl y i n r el at i on wi t h demogr aphi c causes
Peopl e mul t i pl y, t hey i ncr easi ngl y encount er one anot her and t hey seek out t he most f avor abl e
r egi ons.
New i nt er est s and needs: one st i l l st ays, f r omt he poi nt of vi ew of man consi der ed as ani mal
speci es, physi cal . He i s al ways def i ned by hi s r el at i on wi t h t hi ngs and hi s dependency wi t h
r espect t o t hem. Yet whi l e man i s mai nl y passi ve i n t he st at e of nat ur e, hi s physi cal bei ng
now becomes act i ve: gener i c act i vi t y of t he uni quel y physi cal i ndi vi dual : “How many i nvent i ons
whi ch di e wi t h t hei r i nvent or ”.

- Two new i nt er est s: somet i mes, i n cer t ai n si t uat i ons, an i nt er est i n cooper at i ng, somet i mes,
i n ot her s, i n r i val i ng.
Exampl e: t he deer hunt er ( cooper at i on) who sees a har e pass by
( sol i t ar y chase) .
The f i r st pr ovi si onal communi t i es ar e t hose of hunt er s, because t he f i r st act i vi t y i s t he
hunt .

Appear ance of new f acul t i es: per cept i on of cer t ai n r el at i ons. ( r eason pr esupposes t hi s. Cf .
Emi l e) . “A ki nd of r ef l ect i on or machi ni c pr udence”. The “Pr of essi on of Fai t h” not onl y speaks
of a passi vi t y, but al so of a “f acul t y of compar i ng sensat i ons” whi ch i s not yet a t r ue
f r eedomand r emai ns physi cal .
I t st i l l concer ns a j udgment by i nspect i on, whi ch i s not j udgment by i nduct i on. I t i s a
“sensi t i ve and puer i l e r eason” i nsepar abl e f r oma physi cal act i vi t y.
At t hi s l evel , compar i son of man as a speci es wi t h t he ot her speci es. Man has a nat ur al
gener i c conf or mi t y wi t h hi s sembl ances.
Appar i t i on of i mi t at i ve, gest ur al , nat ur al l anguage.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 14

The new needs and i nt er est s change t he si t uat i on by i nt egr at i ng t hemsel ves i n i t . Ther e i s
al so i nt er vent i on of cat ast r ophes. The pr obl emof new i nt er est s poses t hat of t he passage of
t he nat ur al i ndi vi dual t o t he mor al man.
I t i s t he di scover y of a new act i vi t y, pr oper l y spi r i t ual .
Ever yt hi ng happens as i f t hi s passage ent ai l ed a r egr essi on of act i vi t y. Cf . Emi l e I I I and I V:
The chi l d st i l l has f eebl e desi r es, but hi s power s have gr own. Ther e ar e unempl oyed capaci t i es
i n hi m.
I t i s st udi es whi ch make hi mdi scover hi s i nt el l ect ual and mor al bei ng.
Li kewi se i t i s sai d i n t he Di scour se t hat “t he Past or s ar e l ess act i ve and mor e peacef ul ”. I t
i s t he bi r t h of l ei sur e and i dl e passi ons. Ther ef or e, “t her e ar e i ndi vi dual pr ef er ences and
compar i sons”. The i ndi vi dual di st i ngui shes i t sel f f r omt he speci es.

Under what condi t i ons? To t he ext ent t hat t he speci es i s no l onger def i ned as physi cal
speci es, but as mor al speci es.

New i nt er est s and needs: per manent housi ng appear s ( embr yo of pr oper t y) . Associ at i ons t ake
shape whi ch ar e not mer el y f ounded on an i nt er est such as t hat of hunt er s.

St at e of t he f acul t i es: i f t her e i s l ess physi cal act i vi t y, a mor al i t y of magnani mi t y and of
vengeance i s di scover ed.
The i ndi vi dual ceases bei ng one wi t h t he speci es. He want s t o be r ecogni zed by t he ot her s. I t
i s t he f i r st st ep t owar ds i nequal i t y and pr i de.
Mor al i t y i ni t i al l y mani f est s t hr ough t he sent i ment of r i ght : t hat whi ch I amowed. The
i ndi vi dual whi ch f eel s of f ended, whi ch exact s vengeance. “Each i s j udge and avenger of
of f enses t hat he under goes”.
Ther e i s no l aw as of yet . Thi s i mpl i es t hat t he separ at i on bet ween i ndi vi dual and humani t y as
mor al speci es i s not compl et e.
I t i s t he best er a, says Rousseau.

Di scover y of a mor al bei ng whi ch i s pr oper t o us: f r eedom. Cf . The Pr of essi on of f ai t h, wher e
a r adi cal soul - body dual i smi s af f i r med. The soul , act i ve, pr oduces a wi l l i ndependent of al l
physi cal det er mi nat i on. Fr eedomi s al r eady pr esent i n t he st at e of nat ur e, but t her e i s no
consci ousness of i t t her e, because i t i s not hi ng but at one wi t h l i f e. We become consci ous t o
t he ext ent t hat we di scover t hat i t const i t ut es our mor al bei ng. I t i s when, t hr ough
per f ect i bi l i t y, we have passed i nt o t he mor al st at e t hat we can concl ude t hat f r eedomexi st ed
i n t he st at e of nat ur e.

Two dual i t i es t ake shape: man as physi cal and mor al speci es ( soul and body) , i ndi vi dual and
speci es. When t he f i r st i s di scover ed, t he second i s deepened. At t he same t i me t hat l ove of
vi r t ue devel ops i n t he mor al speci es, an i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked devel ops i n t he i ndi vi dual .

I t i s i n t he ci vi l i zed ( policé) st at e t hat t he dual i t i es t ake on t hei r f ul l i mpor t ance.
Her e, t he new i nt er est s ar e r el at ed t o t he f or mat i on of t he coupl e met al l ur gy- agr i cul t ur e.
Met al l ur gy t akes shape f i r st . Agr i cul t ur e i s bor n f r omt he necessi t y

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 15

of f eedi ng t hose who wor k t he i r on; t he di vi si on of l abor i s based on t he exchange of i r on and
agr i cul t ur al pr oduct s. Then t he f i r st appear ance of pr oper t y: di vi si on of l ands. Ther e i s no
convent i onal r el at i on bet ween pr oper t y and l abor : t he l abor er possesses t he l and: t her e i s a
cer t ai n r i ght t o t he t i l l ed soi l i nsof ar as i t has pr oduced t he f r ui t s of l abor .
Thi s possessi on, cont i nui ng f r omhar vest t o har vest , has a nat ur al or i gi n. Evol ut i on of t he
mor al bei ng: t owar ds a mor al i t y of j ust i ce, af t er j ust t he i dea of pr oper t y, base of t he
devel opment of t he mor al bei ng.
Thi s j ust i ce consi st s i n gi vi ng ever yone what t hey ar e due.

Ther e i s an “i nequal i t y of combi nat i on” i n t he r el at i on smi t hs- l abor er s. Pr oper t y has cr eat ed
a sent i ment of j ust i ce, but i t s voi ce i s st i l l f eebl e. Despi t e t hi s sent i ment , t he i ndi vi dual
man i s goi ng t o def i ne hi msel f as an owner , mor e or l ess gr eedy, i n di scover i ng i nt er est s of
owner shi p i n t he i nequal i t y of pr oper t i es due t o t he di vi si on of l abor .
Ther e i s t hus a new i nequal i t y: of usur pat i on. A r el at i on of f or ces i s est abl i shed bet ween
owner s.
The r i ch desi gn what Rousseau cal l s a t hought f ul pr oj ect , whi ch i s a myst i f i cat i on, of
“speci ous r easons”: t hey pr opose an end t o t he st at e of war and t he r euni on of al l t he wi l l s
i n a si ngl e one t o t he non- owner s: f or mat i on of a supr eme power : myst i f yi ng “ver y gener al
agr eement ”.

Rousseau her e t akes up ver y cl assi cal t heor i es, but he want s t o show t hat concei ved t husl y t he
cont r act can onl y be under st ood as a myst i f i cat i on. I n t he “Soci al Cont r act ”, he i nvest i gat es
t he abst r act condi t i ons under whi ch t he cont r act coul d have t aken pl ace wi t hout myst i f i cat i on.

Rousseau’ s pr edecessor s per cei ve t he cont r act as an exchange of my f r eedomf or secur i t y.
Rousseau accept s l ocat i ng t he ef f ect of t he cont r act her e t o t he ext ent t hat t hi s cont r act i s
a myst i f i cat i on, and cannot be obt ai ned t hr ough consent .

• Logi cal ar gument : agr eement s ar e accept ed so as t o not f al l i nt o dependence on
ot her s.
• Psychol ogi cal ar gument : t her e i s no nat ur al penchant t o ser vi t ude.
• Soci ol ogi cal ar gument : r ef ut at i on of t heses of pat er nal aut hor i t y whi ch assi mi l at e
t he soci al si t uat i on and t he f ami l i al si t uat i on.
• Mor al ar gument : f r eedomi s not hi ng but one wi t h my mor al bei ng, as l i f e i s wi t h my
physi cal bei ng. Nei t her l i f e nor f r eedomar e al i enabl e.

Rousseau does not deny t hat we have l ost our f r eedom. He even t hi nks i t happened by means of
cont r act , but t hat we have been decei ved.
I s t her e a cont r act whi ch i s def i ned as devoi d of any myst i f i cat i on?
I t i s t he pr obl emt hat t he “Soci al Cont r act ” exami nes.
Fi r st an hi st or i cal i nvest i gat i on: t her e ar e t wo t hemes i n t he i dea of cont r act : subj ect i on
and associ at i on.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 16

- subj ect i on: i n t he 16
t h
and 17
t h
cent ur i es: i t i s admi t t ed t hat t her e ar e t wo
cont r act i ng par t i es of whi ch of whi ch [ si c] one i s t he subj ect , t he ot her t he
sover ei gn.
Obj ect i on by HOBBES: t he sover ei gnt y i s doubl e. A t hi r d power ( puissance) i s necessar y
t o j udge t he di sput es.
- associ at i on: i t i s t he r euni on of al l t he wi l l s i n one; t her e i s a mul t i t ude of
cont r act ual act s bet ween t hose who ar e t o be subj ect s.
Cr i t i ci smby Rousseau: HOBBES has wel l under st ood t hat associ at i on i s f i r st , but he
went wr ong i n r educi ng subj ect i on t o associ at i on. We const i t ut e our sel ves as subj ect
t hr ough t he r el at i on t o a sover ei gn who does not ent er i nt o t he cont r act .
For Rousseau, an associ at i on i s needed f i r st , pr oduct of t he r euni on pr oposed t o t he poor
by t he r i ch: a publ i c i s f or med.
But t he myst i f i cat i on i s such t hat t her e i s a def ect at t he or i gi n: t he poor can per cei ve
t hat t he wi l l i s not common. Thus a cont r act of gover nance i s necessar i l y r equi r ed.
Thi s i s t he second myst i f i cat i on. Because however honest magi st r at es may be, because of
t he or i gi nal def ect , i t i s t he r i ch who wi l l be magi st r at es.

Our sent i ment of j ust i ce, st i l l f eebl e, was j ust suf f i ci ent t o al l ow f or t he r eal i zat i on
of t hi s decept i on.

I t i s t hen t hat t he i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked appear s.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 17

Man di scover s hi s i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked, because pr oper t y si mul t aneousl y gi ves us
t he sense of j ust i ce, a par t i cul ar i nt er est . Pr oper t y devel ops by an i nt er nal movement ,
i nequal i t y, say al l t he economi st s bef or e Rousseau.
Rousseau has a mor e compl ex i dea: i t does not i nvol ve an i nt er nal movement , but a doubl e
game: new needs and expl oi t at i on of t he l abor of ot her s. I t i s t he st age of usur pat i on. A
dual i t y devel ops bet ween man as mor al speci es and t he i ndi vi dual wi t h hi s par t i cul ar
i nt er est .
The par t i cul ar i nt er est i n bei ng wi cked i s pr essi ng, t he voi ce of j ust i ce, whi ch i s
f eebl e, goes t o ser ve t hi s i nt er est . Whence t he mi sl eadi ng pr oposi t i on of t he r i ch, whi ch
pr esupposes necessar i l y i nvoked j ust i ce i n or der t o be accept ed by t he poor . I s t hi s
j ust i ce t he same whi ch appear s i n t he “Soci al Cont r act ”? The cont r act i s mi sl eadi ng
because i t i s made bet ween t wo unequal par t i es, i t i nvokes a j ust i ce whi ch gover ns
r el at i ons bet ween par t i es whi ch i t posi t s as equal . I n t he “Soci al Cont r act ”, j ust i ce i s
f or med by somet hi ng ent i r el y di f f er ent t han a r el at i on bet ween di st i nct par t i es. What i s
pr oduced by t he soci al Cont r act i s i nal i enabl e.
The pr obl emof t he Soci al cont r act i s: i s t her e a f or mof j ust i ce whi ch i s by nat ur e
i mpossi bl e t o aver t , one t hat does not l end i t sel f t o any al i enat i on, one t hat cannot be
used by our wi cked i nt er est ?
I n f act , Rousseau says sever al t i mes t hat t hi s j ust i ce al i enat es. The r el at i on subj ect -
sover ei gn can pass i nt o t he ser vi ce of wi ckedness: i t suf f i ces t hat par t i al associ at i ons
ar e est abl i shed i n t he St at e, et c…
Ther e i s t hus a possi bl e al i enat i on of j ust i ce, whi ch i s i nal i enabl e i n i t sel f . I t can be
usur ped by t he par t i al associ at i on t hat passes i t sel f of f as common. But i s i t not t he
same t hi ng as a j ust i ce whi ch i mmedi at el y decl ar es i t sel f a r el at i on bet ween t wo equal
par t i es wher eas i n f act t hey ar e not .
Two i deas devel oped i n t he “Di scour se on I nequal i t y” ar e t aken up agai n i n t he “Soci al
cont r act ”, whi ch ar e:

- Soci et y cannot be f ounded on a r el at i on of mut ual subj ect i on, al l submi ssi on i n f act
pr esupposes associ at i on.

- I nsof ar as associ at i on pr esent s i t sel f as r el at i on bet ween di st i nct par t i es, t he
cont r act wi l l be a myst i f i cat i on.

Logi cal ar gument at i on whi ch pr ef i gur es t he Soci al cont r act – whi ch def i nes i t sel f as cont r act
of associ at i on and whi ch cannot be est abl i shed bet ween t wo par t i es consi der ed as di st i nct .

Aggr essi ve car i cat ur e of hi s pr edecessor s by Rousseau. He gr ant s t hemt hat t he cont r act such
as t hey concei ve of i t i s t he base of a r eal soci et y ( subj ect i on bef or e associ at i on et c…) .
But , he says, t hat i s why r eal soci et y i s essent i al l y myst i f yi ng, wher e f r eedomno l onger
exi st s.

The soci al bei ng of man: def ect i n i t s pr i nci pl e on account of myst i f i cat i on. Hence Rousseau
accuses i t of or i gi nal si n. I t i s t he mor al bei ng of man pr essed i nt o t he ser vi ce of wi cked
i nt er est .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 18

How t o l eave?
1) By a pol i t i cal act when i t i s not t oo l at e:
a r evol ut i on.
- “Di scour se on I nequal i t y”, 2
nd
par t .
- Book Emi l e: Lycur gus who col l ect i vi zes pr oper t y and as such ef f aces t he def ect ,
wher eas Sol on cont ent s hi msel f wi t h abol i shi ng debt s and changes not hi ng
pr of ound.
- “Soci al cont r act ”, Chapt er 8.
2) Revol ut i on i s i mpossi bl e: i t i s t oo l at e. What r emai ns i s domest i c educat i on.

The sense of educat i on i s t o ef f ace t he cor r upt i on, t he mal i gn i nt er est .

Two met hods: t hat of J ul i e: vi r t ue;
That of Wol mar : wi sdom.

On t he domest i c l evel , r econci l i at i on of i ndi vi dual – mor al speci es. But t hi s educat i on
r emai ns subj ect i ve and negat i ve.
Reconci l i at i on whi ch does not i n i t sel f suf f i ce, because soci al l i f e cont i nues even i f I
abscond. A posi t i ve and obj ect i ve r econci l i at i on of t he i ndi vi dual and t he mor al speci es i s
needed. But t hi s i s onl y possi bl e af t er pr i vat e educat i on. I s pr i vat e man capabl e of r est or i ng
t he ci t i zen? The cont r act pr esupposes nat ur al man, t hat i s t o say man f or med by “Emi l e”.

However , t her e r emai n al l usi ons t o t he St at e of nat ur e i n t he “Cont r act ”
Book I , chapt er VI ,
Book I , chapt er VI I I .

At t he end of “Emi l e” t he pr obl emi s posed: can Emi l e become ci t i zen? : “Your ci vi l r el at i on
wi t h your f el l ow ci t i zens". I t ’ s when Rousseau advi ses Emi l e t o r ef l ect on t he St at e of
nat ur e. Thus such a r ef l ect i on must f aci l i t at e t he passage f r ompr i vat e man t o ci t i zen of t he
Soci al cont r act .
Ther e i s t hus t he anal ogy:
Man i n t he st at e of nat ur e – ci vi l i zed man,
St at e of nat ur e – soci al cont r act .

The bul k of t hi s r ef l ect i on has t o show us t hat man i s f r ee i n t he st at e of nat ur e. Whence t he
possi bi l i t y of t he Cont r act i n whi ch j ust i ce i s no l onger al i enabl e.

The uni t y of Rousseau’ s oeuvr e.

Fr eedomi s cer t ai nl y a per manent t er m, but i n t he sense t hat i t i s a const ant pr obl em. So i t
i s not f r eedomwhi ch can be t he uni f yi ng f act or .
That whi ch uni f i es: pr obl emof t he r el at i on i ndi vi dual – human speci es.
( t hi s i s t he i nt er pr et at i on of Kant ) .

• physi cal speci es and physi cal i ndi vi dual i t y = beaut i f ul har mony.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 19

• genet i c poi nt of vi ew
f r omphysi cal passi vi t y t o physi cal act i vi t y,
f r omphysi cal act i vi t y t o mor al speci es.
• Man as mor al speci es, but r upt ur e of t he i ndi vi dual wi t h t he speci es.
- Di scour se on I nequal i t y: decept i on of each ot her .
- New Hel oi se: sel f - decept i on.
• Act of mor al wi l l whi ch r est or es a subj ect i ve uni t y bet ween t he i ndi vi dual and t he
mor al speci es: t he Conf essi ons and t he second par t of The New Hel oi se.
• Det er mi nat i on of a pol i t i cal act whi ch i nst al l s an obj ect i ve uni t y of t he i ndi vi dual
and of t he mor al speci es: t he “Soci al cont r act ”

THE SOCI AL CONTRACT

The l awyer s of t he 16
t h
cent ur y make t he Cont r act a r el at i on bet ween t wo par t i es of
whi ch one i s subj ect , t he ot her l eader . The sover ei gn i s t hus spl i t . A t hi r d i nst ance i s
needed t o j udge di sput es. Power and sover ei gnt y ar e di vi ded. Rousseau: t hi s concept i on
conf ounds soci et y and gover nment . For hi m, al l gover nment pr esupposes a pr i or associ at i on.
Cont r act book I chapt er V. The subj ect i on of subj ect s t o a l eader al r eady pr esupposes t he
const i t ut i on of man as subj ect , t hus an associ at i on. But i f t he subj ect i on i s a cont r act , t he
cont r act i s not pr i mar y. Over t he cour se of “Cont r act ”, i t i s sai d t hat t he subj ect i on i s
i mpossi bl e wi t hout t he associ at i on ( book I I I chapt er XVI ) .
Sover ei gnt y i s i nal i enabl e. The l awyer s say t he cont r ar y: ( PUFFENDORF) . For t hemsover ei gnt y
i s al i enat ed i n t he subj ect i on. For Rousseau, t he t r ansf er of sover ei gnt y can be made l i ke a
gi f t or l i ke a sal e. The gi f t can be f or ced or t aci t ( book I chapt er I ) or ot her wi se
vol unt ar y.
Li kewi se, t he sal e can be f or ced, t aci t , vol unt ar y.
A f or ced or t aci t gi f t i s not t he sour ce of any r i ght . I f i t i s vol unt ar y, i t i s pur e madness
( peopl e who wi l l gi ve away t hei r f r eedoml i ke t hat wi l l be mad) .
I n t he sal e, exchange of one’ s f r eedomagai nst secur i t y. Cont r ar y t o gover nment , says
Rousseau. Because t he gover nment i s concei ved as a del egat i on or an equi val ent of t he
sover ei gn. Par t i cul ar act s whi ch pr esuppose a gener al l aw cannot be def i ned as act s of t he
gover nment . Gover nment can onl y be assi mi l at ed t o a commi ssi on, t he act s of t he gover nment ar e
emanat i ons of t he Sover ei gn. Radi cal subor di nat i on of t he gover nment t o t he Sover ei gn. Whence
t hat t he l at t er cannot be al i enat ed f r oman i nst ance whi ch i s subor di nat e t o i t .
The al i enat i on of t he sover ei gn can be concei ved of as f ol l ows:
Sover ei gnt y woul d be r epr esent ed by men t o whoml egi sl at i ve power ( puissance) woul d have been
t r ansf er r ed.
But t her e t he sover ei gn can no mor e be al i enat ed i n a r epr esent at i on ( book I chapt er I I ) . The
sover ei gn cannot be r epr esent ed except by hi msel f . ( Book I I I , chapt er XV: Rousseau says t hat
“sover ei gnt y cannot be r epr esent ed f or t he same r eason t hat i t cannot be al i enat ed. I t
consi st s i n t he gener al wi l l and t he wi l l i s not r epr esent ed”) .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 20

I n t he same manner t he gover nment cannot appr opr i at e sover ei gnt y of whi ch i t i s but t he
commi ssi on, as wi t h t he r epr esent at i ves, who ar e not hi ng but commi ssar i es of t he peopl e.
The gover nor s ar e but commi ssi onai r es or commi ssar i es, because t hey onl y exer ci se t he f unct i on
of j udgment ( det er mi ni ng t he case t hat ent er s under t he l aw) whi ch i s not t he f acul t y of
wi l l i ng.
Li kewi se t he deput i es have but a f unct i on of j udgi ng: t hey concei ve of l aws by whi ch t hey
cl ar i f y t he gener al wi l l . Hypot het i cal l aws whi ch t hey cannot r ender obl i gat or y and ef f ect i ve.
Onl y t he Sover ei gn deci des on t he pr oposi t i ons made by t he deput i es.
The deput i es ( t he l egi sl at ur e) pr opose l aws t hat onl y t he sover ei gn peopl e r at i f i es. Thus t he
Engl i sh peopl e i s wr ong i n bel i evi ng i t sel f f r ee, i t i s onl y so at t he moment of el ect i on of
deput i es. The el ect i on havi ng been made, i t i s sl ave t o r epr esent at i ves.

These ar e t he ar gument s whi ch ser ve Rousseau agai nst absol ut e monar chy, whi ch ser ve hi mi n hi s
cr i t i que of r epr esent at i ve gover nment s.

The l egi sl at i ve st at e of t he anci ent Ci t y: t he l egi sl at or pr oposes, t he peopl e deci de. I t i s
t he val or ous gover nment , says Rousseau. The i dea of r epr esent at i ves i s a f eudal i dea t o hi m.
Repr esent at i ve assembl i es have been t he means of t he f eudal i st s t o st r uggl e agai nst monar chy.
The l egi sl at ur e as concei ved i n Anci ent t i mes pr esupposes smal l ci t i es and l ei sur e f or
ci t i zens.
However , i n “Consi der at i ons on Pol and”, Rousseau concei ved f or t he l ar ge st at e a
r epr esent at i on by deput i es on t he condi t i on of cont r ol l i ng t hemwi t h f r equent el ect i ons and
wi t h a st r i ct obser vance of t he r ul e of r e- el i gi bi l i t y, and f i nal l y by publ i c account abi l i t y:
al l t hese means keep t he deput i es i n t he st at e of commi ssar i es.

Ther e i s t hus a par al l el al i enat i on of t he peopl e when t hey gi ve t hemsel ves a mast er , or
r epr esent at i ves.

The sover ei gn i s i r r educi bl e t o an i ndi vi dual or t o a gr oup of i ndi vi dual s

1
st
ar gument : pol emi c ( l et t er t o Ni r abeau) .

2
nd
ar gument : t he act whi ch const i t ut es t he sover ei gn as such necessar i l y const i t ut es
hi mas gener al wi l l . I t i s not i mpossi bl e t hat t hi s wi l l concor ds wi t h a par t i cul ar wi l l . But
t hat i s by nat ur e f or t ui t ous ( Cont r act Book I , chapt er I ) .

3
r d
ar gument : t he sover ei gn woul d be al i enabl e i f he wer e an i ndi vi dual . The sover ei gn
i s a mor al per son whi ch onl y has abst r act and col l ect i ve exi st ence. ( cf . t he Manuscr i pt of
Geneva) .

The sover ei gn i s i ndi vi si bl e i n hi s obj ect .

I n HOBBES, t he sover ei gn i s i ndi vi si bl e i n hi s pr i nci pl e. For hi m, t he cont r act i s an act by
whi ch al l make t hemsel ves subj ect of a Thi r d Par t y whi ch does not ent er i nt o t he cont r act and
whi ch i s t he sover ei gn.
As t he sover ei gn has not ent er ed i nt o t he cont r act , i t i s r ul ed out t hat t he subj ect s can
di sobey hi m. Ther e i s t hus i nal i enabi l i t y of t he sover ei gn who

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 21

can no l onger r epr esent i t sel f .
HOBBES r educes t he sover ei gn t o a per son or t o a gr oup of per sons.
That he i s t o be i ndi vi si bl e does not pr event t hat i t i mpl i es a number of di st i nct power s. I n
or der f or t he sover ei gn t o have absol ut e power , he must possess al l t he power s.
So, i ndi vi si bl e i n hi s pr i nci pl e, t he sover ei gn i s di vi si bl e i n hi s obj ect .
Rousseau cr i t i ques t hi s t hesi s i n Book I I of t he Cont r act .
For hi m, t he sover ei gn i s absol ut el y i ndi vi si bl e “Si mpl e and one”.
Book I I I .
Ther e i s onl y one obj ect of t he sover ei gn: i t i s t he l aw, deci si ons on peace or on war et c…
( what HOBBES cal l s t he power s of sover ei gnt y) ar e not hi ng but act s of gover nment whi ch
pr esuppose a pr i or l egi sl at i on.

Fr omwhi ch i t can be concl uded:
- The cont r act i s t hus not an act of subj ect i on
- I t i s not an act by whi ch al l make t hemsel ves subj ect of a Thi r d Par t y.
- I t i s an act by whi ch al l const i t ut e t hemsel ves as sover ei gn, wi t hout possi bl e
al i enat i on i n a gover nment , wi t hout possi bl e r epr esent at i on i n deput i es.
- To be concei ved as such, t he cont r act can no l onger be consi der ed a r el at i on bet ween
par t i es ( cont r ar y t o al l pr edecessor s except per haps Spi noza) .

What i s t he posi t i ve char act er of t he Cont r act .

I f t he Cont r act i s posed as a r el at i on, t hi s si gni f i es r el at i on bet ween publ i c-
par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual , or subj ect - sover ei gn. But t he peopl e, t he publ i c, do not pr e- exi st t he
cont r act . Thi s expr essi on wi t h Rousseau i s onl y pr ovi si onar y and i s not t he most pr of ound one.
Cf . Book I I chapt er I V, 2
nd
par agr aph, not e wher e Rousseau i nsi st s on t he di f f i cul t y of
pr eci sel y def i ni ng t he t er ms.

( - t he par t i cul ar , t he i ndi vi dual or t he man ( pr i vat e)
3 const ant ( - t he subj ect
t er ms ( - t he ci t i zen

3 t er ms whi ch ar e r eci pr ocal . Book I , chapt er VI I , 1
st
par agr aph.
The mi ddl e t er mi s t he i ndi vi dual consi der ed under t wo r el at i ons: subj ect and as member of t he
sover ei gn.
2
nd
par agr aph
Thi s t i me i t i s t he subj ect whi ch i s t he mi ddl e t er mand envi saged under t wo r el at i ons.

So i t wi l l be sai d t hat t he cont r act const i t ut es t he par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual as subj ect under
one r el at i on and as ci t i zen under anot her .
Or el se, t he subj ect i s t aken as par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual i n r el at i on t o t he sover ei gn, and as
member of t he sover ei gn i n r el at i on t o t he par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual , i n t he i ndi vi dual .
The cont r act t hus makes 3 r eci pr ocal t er ms i nt er vene: t he mi ddl e t er mmust be t aken under t wo
r el at i ons.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 22

I n t he f i r st hypot hesi s, t he i ndi vi dual i s t he mi ddl e t er m.
I t const i t ut es i t sel f as subj ect i n r el at i on t o t he sover ei gn.
I t const i t ut es i t sel f as member of t he sover ei gn i n r el at i on t o par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual s.
Fi nal l y, onl y t he subj ect has a doubl e r el at i on: f i r st t o t he sover ei gn and f ur t her mor e, he i s
member of t he sover ei gn. So he i s t he mi ddl e t er m.
The basi c act of t he cont r act i s t he act by whi ch t he i ndi vi dual makes i t sel f subj ect and at
t he same t i me member of t he sover ei gn ( ot her wi se he woul d be a sl ave) .

Ther e ar e 3 f or mul as t o t he Soci al cont r act , mor e and mor e pr of ound.

( - r el at i on bet ween t wo t er ms
The Cont r act i s ( - di scover y of t hr ee t er ms
( - i t i s t he subj ect i t sel f whi ch i s t aken under t wo r el at i ons

An obl i gat i on i s bor n wi t h t he Cont r act . Who i s obl i ged? ( chapt er VI I , book I ) . I t i s not t he
i ndi vi dual , because l egal l y t he i ndi vi dual cannot obl i ge i t sel f .
I s i t t he sover ei gn? No, because t he sover ei gn i s not submi t t ed t o anyt hi ng except hi s
condi t i on of exi st ence: t he l aws whi ch det er mi ne t he condi t i ons of hi s Bei ng. I n hi msel f , he
cannot be obl i ged t o anyt hi ng. “To vi ol at e t he act by whi ch t he sover ei gn exi st s woul d be t o
anni hi l at e i t sel f ” chapt er VI I .
Onl y t he subj ect i s subj ect ed t o t he obl i gat i on. Onl y i t can be gr asped under t he t wo
r el at i ons, whi ch i s t he condi t i on of t he obl i gat i on.
What i s t he sour ce of t he obl i gat i on? I t i s t he “f r ee agr eement of he who obl i ges hi msel f ”.
Let t er 6 i n Fr omt he Mount ai n.
The t er mwhi ch i s capabl e of obl i gi ng can onl y be t he subj ect .
Al l sour ces of obl i gat i ons ar e up f or di scussi ons, except t hat one.

Nat ur e of t hi s act of engagement : t her e ar e t wo char act er i st i cs: t ot al i t y and i nst ant anei t y.
Cf . Book I Chapt er VI . Thi s act i s a t ot al al i enat i on.
- Tot al , whi ch i s t o say:
• compl et e: i t cover s ever yt hi ng.
• uni ver sal : each i ndi vi dual i s compl et el y al i enat ed.

Al i enat i on whi ch can be compl et e, because i t i s not f or t he benef i t of an ot her . I f i t woul d
be, i t coul d not be t ot al , si nce f r eedomi s i nal i enabl e.
Al i enat i on consi st s i n const i t ut i ng a whol e, not i n maki ng onesel f dependent on ot her s. Whence
t hat each i ndi vi dual i s subj ect ed t o t he same condi t i on.
“Each gi ves hi msel f compl et el y, t he condi t i on i s equal f or al l ”
Book I chapt er VI .
Ther e wi l l not be di f f er ences bet ween i ndi vi dual s whi ch al i enat e mor e or l ess, unl ess not
ever yone al i enat es hi msel f t ot al l y, unl ess someone conser ves somet hi ng.
On t he l evel of t ot al al i enat i on, equal i t y i s al r eady i ncl uded.

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 23

- i nst ant anei t y: Book I Chapt er VI . “The associ at i on i nst ant l y pr oduces a mor al and
pol i t i cal body”.
Fr omt he ver y moment t hat I al i enat e mysel f , I at t he same t i me const i t ut e t he
sover ei gn and I r ecuper at e ever yt hi ng. I t cannot be ot her wi se. The sover ei gn r est or es
ever yt hi ng t o me and even mor e, under an ot her f or m. “Chapt er 9, book 1. For exampl e,
t he sover ei gn assur es t he l egi t i mat e possessi on of pr oper t y whi ch t he i ndi vi dual has
al i enat ed f r omhi msel f . He keeps onl y what i s necessar y f or communi t y. I n t hi s, t her e
i s no mor al obl i gat i on of t he sover ei gn. I t i s a condi t i on of hi s exi st ence. I f he
does not ef f ect uat e t hi s r est i t ut i on, he i s dest r oyed.
“But i t must be admi t t ed t hat onl y t he sover ei gn i s j udge of such i mpor t ance”. Onl y
t he sover ei gn can say t hat whi ch i s of common i nt er est . That whi ch i s ver y var i abl e
accor di ng t he si t uat i on, t he ci r cumst ances, t he mor phol ogy of a soci et y.
I n exchange f or t hi s par t i al r est i t ut i on t o owner s, t her e wi l l be a t ax l evy.
The owner i s but a r eposi t or y of t he publ i c good. He onl y exi st s as owner by t he
sover ei gn’ s act of r est i t ut i on.
The i mmedi at e r est i t ut i on concer ns pr i vat e pr oper t y and pr i vat e opi ni on, t hat i s t o
say pr i vat e r el i gi on, whi ch does not i nt er est t he subj ect . ( f i nal chapt er of t he
Cont r act ) .

Why does t he sover ei gn const i t ut e a gener al wi l l ?

The cont r act necessar i l y f or ms a gener al wi l l .
Common i nt er est and gener al wi l l must not be conf used.
Common i nt er est i s t hat of t he subj ect i n r el at i on t o t he sover ei gn.
That whi ch i mmedi at el y r et ur ns wi t h t he act by whi ch I const i t ut e mysel f as subj ect :
t he cont r act . Ever yone has a si mi l ar i nt er est , si nce t hey ar e subj ect ed t o an equal
condi t i on. Removi ng t he equal i t y dest r oys al l common i nt er est .
I can onl y const i t ut e mysel f as subj ect i n r el at i on t o a sover ei gn of whi ch t he
subj ect i s member , wi t h r espect t o i ndi vi dual s. Fr omt hi s poi nt of vi ew, ever yone i s a
l egi sl at or . Thi s t i me, i t i s no l onger equal i t y whi ch i s i nf er r ed, but f r eedom, as
t hat whi ch t he sover ei gn want s wi t h r egar d t o i ndi vi dual s. The gener al wi l l i s t he
wi l l of ever yone as member of t he sover ei gn, as ci t i zen.
“The common i nt er est i s what makes t he wi l l gener al ”. What does Rousseau want t o say?
The common i nt er est i s not const i t ut i ve of t he gener al wi l l , but i s i t s condi t i on of
possi bi l i t y: t he f or mat i on of t he sover ei gn has f or i t s condi t i on t he act of t he
i ndi vi dual maki ng i t sel f subj ect .
Wi t hout t hi s act , whi ch def i ned t he common i nt er est , no sover ei gn can be had, and
t her ef or e no gener al wi l l .

I n what sense can we speak of a “ut i l i t ar i ani sm” of Rousseau?
The not i on of ut i l i t y appear s i n t wo senses
- A f acul t y onl y devel ops i f i t i s usef ul . Need i s i ncapabl e of cr eat i ng
t hi s f acul t y. Ut i l i t y onl y pl ays t he par t of r eal i zer of t he f acul t y.

- The common i nt er est of t he cont r act i s t he condi t i on of possi bi l i t y,
not t he pr i nci pl e, of t he gener al wi l l .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 24

What does t he gener al wi l l want ?

I t f i nds i t s condi t i on i n t he equal i t y of t he condi t i on of al l subj ect s. I t cannot be
det er mi ned by a pr ef er ence. I n t hi s sense, not bei ng det er mi ned by anyt hi ng but i t sel f , i t i s
t he wi l l of f r eedom( Kant ) . I t can onl y want t he l aw.

The l aw l eaves t he r el at i on t o i ndi vi dual s undet er mi ned. I t i s onl y speci f i ed t hr ough t he wor k
of t he l egi sl at or . I n i t sel f , i t i s onl y t he f or mof t he wi l l of t he subj ect as ci t i zen.
Let t er 6 i n Fr omt he Mount ai n.
Cf al so Let t er t o Le Mer ci er de l a Ri vi èr e f r om1767: a f or mof gover nance must be f ound whi ch
put s t he l aw above man.
Book I I I , Chapt er I of t he Cont r act : a di st i nct i on must be made bet ween t wo t hi ngs:
- The quest i on of knowi ng whet her t he wi l l can want such act i on ( mor al possi bi l i t y of
Kant ) . I t i s a l egi sl at i ve power ;
- Concer ni ng t hat : can we, have we t he possi bi l i t y t o accompl i sh i t ( physi cal
possi bi l i t y of Kant ) . I t i s an execut i ve power .

Bei ng det er mi ned by t he l aw, t he gener al wi l l does not consi der act i on i n i t s physi cal
possi bi l i t y, but consi der s i t as abst r act .
An obl i gat i on i s r el at ed t o t he l aw. The wor d ‘ l aw’ can onl y be empl oyed r i gor ousl y i n a
pr escr i pt i ve sense.
I f t he sour ce of t he obl i gat i on i s t he act by whi ch I make mysel f subj ect , t hen t he l aw must
be ci vi l , i t has i t s f oundat i on i n t he cont r act .

I s such a r esponse suf f i ci ent ?

Such a r esponse wi l l have i mpl i ed t hat Rousseau consi der abl y cr i t i ques t he i dea i n t he mode of
nat ur al l aw.
What happens i n t hi s sense: t he Di scour se on I nequal i t y. I s i nequal i t y aut hor i zed by nat ur al
l aw? Rousseau does not r espond t o t hi s quest i on by sayi ng t hat t he concept of nat ur al l aw i s a
concept f ul l of nonsense.
Never t hel ess t her e ar e t ext s wher e Rousseau ment i ons t he nat ur al l aw and i n whi ch he says t hat
i t i s super i or t o t he cont r act i t sel f .

- Let t er of Oct ober 1758: he admi t s t hr ee super i or and i ndependent aut hor i t i es over t he
sover ei gn: t hat of God, t hat of t he nat ur al l aw, t hat of honor . I f t her e i s a
conf l i ct , i t i s up t o t he sover ei gn t o yi el d. Hi er ar chy: nat ur al l aw ( l ove) , honor ,
God, as i s f ound i n The New Hel oi se. ( Let t er on honor i s i n par t I : l et t er of Sai nt -
Pr eux) .

- Let t er 6 i n Fr omt he Mount ai n: i t must be pr oven t hat t he cont r act i s not cont r ar y t o
nat ur al l aws.

- Emi l e, book 2: “t he et er nal l aws of nat ur e and t he exi st i ng or der . They t ake t he pl ace
of posi t i ve l aws t o t he wi se man”. The wi se man i s t he one who has ext r act ed hi msel f
f r omsoci et y.

How i s t he Cont r act a pr i mar y pr i nci pl e f r omwhi ch der i ve ci vi l l aw and t he
obl i gat i on, whi l e i t i s al so r el at ed t o a hi gher i nst ance, t he nat ur al l aw?

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 25

Cf ; begi nni ng of t he Di scour se on I nequal i t y.
The cr i t i que of t he nat ur al l aw has t wo senses wi t h Rousseau:

- Fi r st of al l , i t bear s upon t he Anci ent s ( Pl at o, Ar i st ot l e, St oi cs) : f or t hemt he
nat ur al l aw i s t he r ect a r at i o, i t i s t he conf or mi t y of t hi ngs t o t hei r pr oper ends.
Rousseau: t hey use t he wor d ‘ l aw’ wr ongl y. By l aw t hey under st ood a l aw t hat nat ur e i mposes on
i t sel f and not a l aw t hat i t pr escr i bes. Now, t he concept of l aw i s not a condi t i on of
exi st ence of nat ur e, i t i s essent i al l y a pr escr i pt i on ( pr ef ace of Di scour se on I nequal i t y) .
The Moder ns have under st ood t hi s pr escr i pt i ve char act er . For t hemt he l aw i s a pr escr i pt i ve
r ul e f or an i nt el l i gent and f r ee bei ng.
The nat ur al l aw appl i es t o t hi s bei ng capabl e of r ecei vi ng pr escr i pt i ons.

Wi t h HOBBES, t he st at e of nat ur e i s no l onger t he or der of per f ect i ons, but a syst emof
f or ces, of passi ons, of dr i ves. For t hi s passi onat e bei ng, t he l aw t hen becomes t he obl i gat i on
whi ch opposes i t .
The st at e of nat ur e i s a syst emof f or ces, wi t h cor r espondi ng nat ur al r i ght s. To t hi s
st r uct ur e, a second i s j oi ned: t hat of t he nat ur al l aw. The dr i vi ng f or ce of t hi s l aw i s t he
f ear of vi ol ent deat h, whi ch i s even t he pr i nci pl e of r eason. The l aw pr escr i bes a r ul e
wi t hout whi ch I coul d not pr eser ve my l i f e. The nat ur al l aw, however , can onl y pr escr i be
hypot het i cal l y: i t onl y gi ves t he means t o pr eser ve my l i f e, on t he condi t i on t hat t he ot her s
wi l l al so want t he l aw. Whence t he pr obl em: how t o r ender t he l aw obl i gat or y? That happens
because al l i ndi vi dual s make cont r act s among t hemsel ves and above al l del egat e t hei r power s t o
a sover ei gn who does not par t i ci pat e i n t he Cont r act . Because of t hi s t he nat ur al l aw becomes
ci vi l . The mi st ake of t he Moder ns, accor di ng t o Rousseau: t hey put t he nat ur al l aw i n t he
st at e of nat ur e, t hey pr esuppose a bei ng al r eady endowed wi t h r eason i n t hi s st at e. ( because
no l aw wi t hout r eason) .
Rousseau accept s t he pr escr i pt i ve char act er of t he l aw. But t he Moder ns have not seen i n what
i t consi st ed, si nce i t i s onl y hypot het i cal .
For Rousseau, t he nat ur al l aw i s not i n t he st at e of nat ur e, because i t i s a genet i c
devel opment of vi r t ual i t i es st ar t i ng f r omt he st at e of nat ur e.
Thi s nat ur al l aw pr esupposes soci et y i n t he sense t hat t he vi r t ual i t i es onl y r eal i ze
t hemsel ves under obj ect i ve ci r cumst ances whi ch ar e i n soci et y. For exampl e, t he sent i ment of
j ust i ce onl y r eal i zes i t sel f i f i t i s usef ul , and i t onl y i s so i f t her e i s a soci et y.
However , soci et y i s not const i t ut i ve of t he devel opment of t he nat ur al l aw.

The Cont r act must be r el at ed t o t he nat ur al l aw. Because t he cont r act , t he absol ut e f oundat i on
of ci vi l l aw, must be l ed back t o t he nat ur al l aw, because i t i s at t he same t i me t ot al
al i enat i on, i nst ant aneous r est i t ut i on. I f i t cont r adi ct s t he l aw, i t dest r oys i t sel f .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 26

I dea of t he ci vi l l aw i n Rousseau

The l aw i s t he ver y act of t he sover ei gn, t he di r ect expr essi on of t he gener al wi l l .
Ther e i s a di f f er ence i n ki nd bet ween decr ee and l aw.
The l aw goes f r omal l t o al l , i t consi der s t he subj ect s as body and si t uat i ons as
abst r act i ons. I t i s an act of sover ei gnt y.
A decr ee appoi nt s per sons, consi der s subj ect s as par t i cul ar i ndi vi dual s, act i ons as concr et e.
I t i s an act of gover nance.
The l aw det er mi nes t he f or mof gover nment , t he condi t i ons t o f ul f i l l i n or der t o accede t o
gover nment f or each subj ect i n gener al .

Sover ei gn r el at i on – gener al wi l l . Cf . Cont r act chapt er I V, book I I I .
The Sover ei gn i s a “common me”, a “l i f e pr ovi ded wi t h sensi bi l i t y”.
The gener al wi l l : i t i s t he movement cor r espondi ng t o t hi s l i f e.
As t he f or mat i on of t he Sover ei gn and t he gener al wi l l , t he soci al Cont r act i s t he f or munder
whi ch t he Sover ei gn conser ves i t sel f .
The soci al Cont r act i s al r eady gener al wi l l . I t def i nes a f or mal wi l l . The cont r act i n i t sel f ,
gener al i zed, f or mal i zes t he wi l l .
The Sover ei gn i s t hus al r eady a f or mal wi l l ( wher eas t he par t i cul ar wi l l al ways sear ches
pr ef er ences and t he gener al wi l l , t he t r ue uni ver sal : pr e- Kant i an di st i nct i on) .
Thi s gener al i zat i on i s not t he addi t i on of par t i cul ar wi l l s.

What does t he gener al wi l l want ? That whi ch i t want s must be det er mi ned gener al l y, t hat i s t o
say f or mal l y: equal i t y and f r eedom.
The sover ei gn i s t he gener al wi l l i nsof ar as i t want s f r eedomand equal i t y.
That t he l aw wi l l be f or mal si gni f i es t hat i t abst r act s f r omper sons, f r omi t s r el at i on wi t h
per sons of whi ch t he decr ee wi l l t ake car e.
( i n t hi s sense, gover nment i s a f acul t y of j udgment : det er mi nat i on of cases t hat ent er under
t he l aw) .
However t he l aw, i f i t i s f or mal i n t he sense t hat i t det er mi nes gener al l y, i s not f or mal ,
because t her e i s no l aw t hat wi l l not be a det er mi nat i on of equal i t y and f r eedom.
Whi ch ar e t he best , t he good l aws, f or exampl e? They cannot abst r act f r omt he r el at i on wi t h
t hi ngs and obj ect s.
For Rousseau, t hat whi ch saves us f r omt he r el at i on wi t h per sons i s al ways t he r el at i on wi t h
t hi ngs.
The l aw i s t hus not qui t e det er mi ned unl ess we t ake i nt o account t he obj ect i ve si t uat i on of a
gi ven soci et y ( r esour ces, popul at i on, et c…) .
The l aw i s f or mal by abst r act i on f r omt he r el at i on wi t h per sons, i t i s not f or mal because i t
does not abst r act f r omt he r el at i on wi t h t hi ngs.

Ther ef or e, t o det er mi ne a l aw, t he gener al wi l l does not suf f i ce.
The f or mal det er mi nat i on of t he wi l l must be j oi ned t o t he cont ent of obj ect i ve ci r cumst ances
of a gi ven soci et y.
Thus t he gener al wi l l want s t he good, but i t does not know i t ( i t i s t he cont r ar y f or pr i vat e
man) . I t i s bl i nd because i t i s f or mal .

DELEUZE – ROUSSEAU 27

Thus t he gener al wi l l must appeal t o a pr odi gi ous under st andi ng ( i t i s a t r ansposi t i on of a
f acul t y psychol ogy t o t he soci al pl ane) : t hat of t he l egi sl at or who i l l umi nat es t he wi l l f r om
t he out si de. Wi t hout t he l egi sl at or , t he gener al wi l l f or mal l y know what i t want s. But i t
needs hi mt o be det er mi ned mat er i al l y. A good l aw must not consi der par t i cul ar per sons –
f or mal aspect – and adapt i t sel f t o concr et e si t uat i ons – mat er i al aspect –

The l aw i s t hus t he composi t i on of a f or mwhi ch r ef er s t o t he wi l l ;
of a mat t er whi ch r ef er s t o t he l egi sl at or .

Thi s i s why i t cannot be a quest i on of an a pr i or i deduct i on of t he l aw f r omi t s f or m.

- : - : - : - : - : - : - : - : - : -











37

EDITED TRANSLATION
[Text in brackets contains added notes by the translator, AK]
Rousseau
1 – Three conceptions of the state of nature
There are three ways to think the state of nature. The first is the Ancient conception (status
naturae), which extends well into the Middle Ages (see Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Cicero,
Thomas Aquinas). The state of nature is then defined in an order of perfections. It is related to
natural right, in this case meaning conformity with Nature. Its sociability and society are
naturally part of and defined in the order of perfections. A state of nature is never evoked as a
pre-civil or pre-political state (see Aristotle, as well as Cicero’s De Finibus).
For the Ancients, the social problem is not the establishment of a society through a
contract or anything else of that order. According to them, people ideally search for the best
government, which is that of the wise. The problem is that the wise no longer have the desire
to govern men, and that men do not want to wise to rule them. So what is needed is a
government that can take the place of the wise, which raises the problem of the best regime
(see Plato’s Laws, in which the nomos is necessary as a real substitute for wisdom). This
conception extends into modern political philosophy, not with philosophers, but with the
theologians and the lawyers.
The second conception arrived with Hobbes. In Hobbes, the state of nature is defined
as a mechanism of forces. Right, understood as a system of power, replaces the order of
perfections as defining what is natural. Right thereby becomes absolute. Hobbes reacts against
the earlier, largely Aristotelian tradition by holding that man is not a sociable animal. And
38

since in his conception of the state of nature, everyone is allowed to judge for himself, his
philosophy abolishes the privilege of the wise.
Society is therefore justifiable from an origin which both affirms itself in nature and
marks the extreme limit of that which is natural. Conflicts between individuals automatically
lead to internal conflict in individuals, namely between a sense of ambition and a fear of a
violent death. Hence society is established as the only way to overcome these contradictions,
which happens through a specific act: the contract. How will Rousseau accept and transform
these terms? He agrees with Hobbes that society is not natural. However, he opposes the idea
that contradictions force man to exit the state of nature.
Now, what is the idea of a contract? In its legal definition it is a relation between two
parties, one that bestows rights and duties on each party, relative to each other, for a
determined time. The contract is voluntary and does not extend to third parties. However, the
notion of the social contract changes this definition. In this case, the contract will last an
indeterminate time and will apply to third parties. Nevertheless, what the authors who use the
term ‘social contract’ stress most is its voluntary aspect. Their idea of political philosophy is
always a philosophy of the will.
Who are the parties of the contract? From the perspective of the lawyers it is subjects
and sovereigns. Yet if this is so, who will judge whether the contract is properly upheld? The
source of power will be double, so a third party is needed to judge. Yet this third party will be
the sovereign (so Hobbes objects that the contract cannot be between subject and sovereign,
an objection found also in Rousseau).
According to Hobbes, the contractual relation is only established between those who
will become subjects. We need to imagine a series of contracts of everyone with everyone, by
which everyone establishes himself as subject of a third party which does not enter into the
contract. A modern equivalent of such contracts with stipulations for others is life insurance.
39

Rousseau will take up Hobbes’ critique against the idea of subjects and sovereigns as
contracting parties, but he rejects Hobbes’ solution.
What is the obligation that results from the contract? This is the problem of a finality
to the contract, a finality which must be recognized in the product of the contract. A
commonplace in political philosophy of the 18
th
century is the discovery of a man-citizen
duality which did not exist in the Ancient world. The latter focused on man’s capacity for
‘virtue’, but the modern fact is the duality: man has become a private individual and a citizen.
Moreover, a private individual is incapable of being a citizen, and ‘virtue’ as a determination
of the citizen is impossible. Virtue exists only as private virtue (see Montesqieu’s Carnets:
‘we have gained in humanity, but we have lost in virtue). The reasons for this shift are both
ideological (the rise of Christianity) and economical (the emergence of property income). It is
as Rousseau writes in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences: ‘ancient politics spoke only of
honor and virtue; ours speaks only of commerce and money’. Hence we get a difference in
nature between the most virtuous citizens of Geneva and the lowest among the Romans.
Hegel, too, takes part in this pessimism of political philosophy, in this idea that we are
not capable of democracy, which is nevertheless the best regime. A choice must be made
between two types of education: the formation of the citizen and the formation of private man
(see the beginning of Emile). The citizen is posed in the city as a free citizen who requests
freedom from society. Insofar as man is a private individual, he requests security from the
city, which comes down to the guarantee of his properties. How does the contract respond
here?
I exchange my natural freedom, entirely or in part, and I receive security from the
Sovereign. In Hobbes, the only freedom of the contract is a certain security. However, certain
rights always remain inalienable, most of all the right to resist whoever tries to kill me. In
Spinoza, freedom is even retained in the civil state: I do not content myself with simple
40

necessity. In its modern guise this kind of freedom will be the freedom of thought. In the case
of Rousseau, freedom is connected to inalienable rights. Hegel will reproach Rousseau for
having forgotten that we are no longer citizens. This is perhaps true if we only look at the
Social Contract, but it is false when considering Rousseau’s full body of work.
A third conception of the state of nature surfaces in the middle of the 18
th
century, a
utilitarian and positivist one. It runs counter to Thomist theology and ancient metaphysics,
making the very notion of contract metaphysical (see Hume and Bentham). In case of Hume,
we find two arguments. First, a complete negation of a state of nature, which Hume says is
not a state of right, but one of needs, a state that can only be defined negatively. Second,
Hume holds that society does not have as its origin a contract, because a contract is an act of
limitation of natural rights, while the constitutive act of society is essentially positive. For
Hume, this revolves around agreement, such as we see in the harmony of rowers. In
Bentham’s case, the purpose of this agreement is security.
All proponents of the contract (Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, and others) call on freedom.
2 – The New Heloise: virtue, objectivity, hierarchical stages
Even though he was concerned with political institutions, Rousseau had a project to write a
book of which the theme obsessed him, and for which he had the title Sensitive Morality, or
The Wise Man’s Materialism. Though this book was never finished, its ideas are taken up in
The New Heloise
1
. For Rousseau, J ulie and Saint-Preux are made for one another, because
they both love virtue. However, there is a conflict, because the objective situation precludes
their would-be virtuous love. It is J ulie who lives the conflict: she loses virtue, but the love of
virtue still remains within her. So she writes to Saint-Preux: ‘I keep my love for you; the love

1
According to Burgelin, the heroes of The New Heloise also illustrate the myth of Plato’s Phaedrus, with Saint-
Preux as the black horse, J ulie as the heart, and Wolmar as the noûs. [See Burgelin, P. (1952). La philosophie de
l’existence de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. PUF, AK]
41

of virtue is for Wolmar and I obey my parents’. Yet, a revelation takes place on the day of the
marriage: ‘Our various situations change and they determine, despite ourselves, the affections
of our hearts’
2
.
Now, in certain objective situations we have no choice but to be wicked. So how to
reconcile virtue and the interest of society? As Rousseau writes, ‘we shall be vicious and
wicked as long as we shall have an interest in being so’. Wanting to change oneself strikes
Rousseau as ridiculous. Instead, he states our soul is defined in its relations with objects. The
will can change the situation by intervening as an objective element of the situation itself, as
when J ulie decides that if Wolmar dies, she will not marry Saint-Preux. This is a private
transposition of a famous idea in political philosophy: to establish situations such that people
can no longer be wicked. We find this also in Hume: the problem of political philosophy
being to find objective situations which reconcile justice and interest. So we see the strong
will intervening in private life as an objective element of the situation. Wolmar’s variant of
this idea will be the subjection of the physical being to things (as a therapy for J ulie and Saint-
Preux).
In part IV of The New Heloise, Saint-Preux returns to find J ulie married and with two
children. It is Wolmar who has asked Saint-Preux to come, the former having the idea to
observe people and to experiment on them. Wolmar wants to heal J ulie, who has acquired
duty, yet has not moved past her earlier sin. So in letter 12, we find the therapeutic visit to the
Gove, the place where Saint-Preux has embraced J ulie and to which she had never been able
to return: ‘J ulie, fear this refuge no longer, it has been profaned’. By that Rousseau means: the
Grove has been dissocialized. Also see letter 18, where Wolmar leaves J ulie and Saint-Preux
at the place where the latter had once been exiled during their love.

2
Note to letter 20, part 3.
42

What is Wolmar’s plan? He knows J ulie and Saint-Preux love each other in the past.
J ulie is no longer the same woman, because she has become virtuous. However, Saint-Preux
does not realize this. As we read: ‘take away the memory, and he will no longer have the
love’. The error which misleads him, i.e. the trouble, is a confusion of times. Saint-Preux is
fixated, in the psychoanalytic sense. So Wolmar needs to make Saint-Preux conscious of the
fixation, conscious of the fact that the present J ulie is no longer the J ulie he loves. It is therapy
by way of becoming conscious. However, Wolmar also thinks this is dangerous, since
becoming conscious does not (necessarily) heal. Saint-Preux would still be able to love the
present J ulie.
So it is better to make Saint-Preux lose all memory of the times which he must forget,
which will be done ‘by deftly substituting other ideas for those which are dear to him’. We get
an operation of substation: ‘I cover the past of the present’. It involves the continuous
substitution of a friendship for the woman for the love for J ulie as a young girl. It is the
transfer of psychoanalysts. The transfer involves chancing the situation in order to become
virtuous. The wise man is he who puts determinism in the service of virtue. A situation can be
changed through the will; this is J ulie’s method. Yet Wolmar prefers to operate within the
situation itself and to execute a transfer (which is the materialism of the wise man).
Rousseau has a conception of the hierarchy of stages of the ‘beautiful soul’. There are
four stages, which can be different:

1. The original goodness of the soul
2. The natural goodness or love of virtue
3. Virtue itself
4. Wisdom

43

2.1 – First stage: the original goodness of the soul
The original goodness of the soul is the goodness of the soul in the state of nature. The
affirmation of this goodness is never separated from a deterministic affirmation of the
situations which determine our affections. The soul is first of all a faculty of feeling, not one
of reason. That which first appears is a natural ‘reliance on things’. This affirmation entails
that of original goodness, because all affections are good in the state of nature, that is to say:
appropriate to the object. And put differently, this is the naturalist transcription of the
conception of the state of nature: reality thought as perfection. In such goodness, everyone is a
whole onto himself. Everyone is at one with the sentiment of existence. However, there is a
natural diversity of souls due to the difference of fundamental faculties:

- J ulie: energetic soul, lazy with regards to a change of state, and interior sensibility.
- Saint-Preux: interior sensibility, weak soul.
- Wolmar: little sensibility, cold soul, and a taste for reason.
- Claire: impulsive soul, ‘the crazy one’.

Nevertheless, every type of soul has an original goodness. Wickedness cannot exist at this
level, because the intuitions do not permit it. In function of its type, each soul has its place in
the order of nature.
2.2 – Second stage: natural goodness or love of virtue
We now arrive at the problem of the genesis of wickedness. With society comes a radical
change of situation which renders vice possible. With society, new relations are formed which
prevent us from being good and which develop an interest in being wicked within us. These
new relations are relations of the master-slave type.
44

Now, in the state of nature, everyone has a relation with things, for himself. Society
establishes a relation of reliance of people on other people, so that everyone is taken as a part
and no longer as a whole. This relation emerges during infancy. For example, a badly raised
child doing what he wants to others: ‘in creating a right to be obeyed, children leave the state
of nature almost from birth’
3
.
Hence the goal of the Emile: to recover an education that will entail a reliance on
things and not on wills. Children must be made to feel their impotence with regard to things.
With society, everyone is always a slave and master of someone. This artificial relation
engenders vice, because it gives us an interest in being wicked. Nevertheless, our original
goodness subsists. Natural goodness is original goodness insofar as it subsists under these
new relations. Concerning this point, there are first of all degrees. For certain souls, original
goodness is effaced by the multitude of social relations (and in this sense, loving solitude is a
criterion of goodness). Second, there are intermediaries. The good soul will be selective with
its social relations, because it distrusts them. It can, however, be caught short by the situation
and react against its own goodness, driven by determinism (this is the case for me, Rousseau
says).
To love virtue is to want to retain the goodness of virtue despite the situation. This
natural goodness is not virtue itself, but only the love of virtue. This is the problem of The
New Heloise. J ulie is very good, and so is her father. Yet because of their objective social
situations, she cannot love Saint-Preux without being at fault, and neither can Saint-Preux
love her. What remains for them is the love of virtue. The moral problem here is how to leave
this state of loving virtue yet, driven by the situation, doing the contrary?



3
The New Heloise, 3, part 5.
45

2.3 – Third stage: virtue itself
The point is to make the love of virtue outweigh the interest in being wicked. Virtue is a
means to realize the love of virtue
4
. However, Rousseau doubts the efficacy of virtue as
struggle. He does not doubt the existence of the struggle between the love of virtue and the
interest in being wicked, but its outcome. Virtue is ‘always a state of war’. The struggle
between the love of virtue and the interest in being wicked can take the guise of a platonic
flight (J ulie) or of a stoic one (Edouard). It is a delicate struggle, because the enemy one has
to vanquish can be reason itself.
After her marriage, J ulie will have another method. It will no longer be the direct
struggle, but a transformation of the situation through the will. In other words, one must
remove wickedness indirectly. Yet even in this case Rousseau remains skeptical. The will
intervenes in the situation, but what will guarantee that any effected change will be definitive?
So in a sense, J ulie still fails. It is the error of both stoicism and Christianity: they over-
emphasize duties and virtue. See Rousseau when he writes that ‘wisdom is to dismiss the
difficulty of our duties, […] happy is he who is not confronted with the necessity of being
virtuous, and contents himself with being a good man’
5
.
2.4 – Fourth stage: wisdom
Virtue is a struggle in a context established by a situation. Wisdom establishes situations in
which virtue is not needed. Wisdom leads only to the restoration of the unity of virtue and
interest within us, something of which Rousseau dreamt. Wisdom is not separable from
enjoyment (jouissance), and it presents itself first of all under the aspect of Wolmar’s method.
He no longer relies on the will to change the situation, but on a selection carried out in the

4
The letter to Sophie: ‘goodness is lost by the exertion of a multitude of artificial relations. Until then I had been
good … I become virtuous’.
5
Letter to the Abbey of Carondelet, J anuary 1764.
46

situation itself: a selection of times (cover the past by the present) and of places (render that
which was sacred familiar): ‘true happiness consists in saying that I am wholly where I am’.
In the Reveries, Rousseau insists on the sentiment of existence. Our misfortune is that
we anticipate the future in recalling the past, that we are not living the present ‘which always
endures without marking its duration in the least, without sentiment of succession’. The
sentiment of existence concerns a pure present which passes. This is assimilated to Eternity or
to the divine state, because ‘one is sufficient onto oneself, like God’.
Wolmar wants to select the elements of the present. Time must be lived as passage,
and it is at that moment that the substitution is made. This method of selection results in the
Reveries. At this level, it is no longer a selection of objects which populate time, but time
itself which is stripped of all succession of objects. And by doing so, the ease of existence is
discovered. In the initial stage, Rousseau had to use our dependence with regard to things, but
at the end of his life, he affirms that one must liberate oneself from this reliance, and establish
an emptiness.
The materialism of the wise man centers on using the determinism of situations in
order to disengage oneself. Wolmar controls the objects, but is that a good method
6
? IN the
Reveries, Rousseau hardly believes that it is sufficient to change situations in order to be
happy. He there substitutes it for the reverie which, when objects no longer hold sway over us,
permits a coincidence with the pure passage of time
7
.
3 – The Social Contract and Emile are parallels
On the plane of the citizen, the Social Contract is the parallel to the Emile on the private
plane. The legislator and the educator are parallels. Both are mythical beings, because, says

6
See the end of The New Heloise.
7
Book 9 of the Confessions (Pleiad P. 400-401, 408-409). Rousseau here takes up anew themes from his book
Sensitive Morality.
47

Roussau, they are too full of virtues to be real. In addition, there is a relation of essential
succession between the Contract and the Emile. The contract presupposes the educated,
formed, private man.
In the Emile, Rousseau specifies that there exist three types of education. First, an
education of nature, an “internal development of our faculties and organs”. Second, an
education of men, “the use we are taught to make of this development” of nature. Third, an
education of things. Yet over the course of the Emile, these educations are reduced to two
types. First, domestic or natural education. Second, public education concerning relations of
men among men, each man being a part of a larger whole.
The first type of education considers man as a whole, so it is an education of natural
man. It places man in relation to things and to his own semblances, each forming a whole onto
itself. The second type of education considers man as a citizen, as a part in relation with other
parts. There two educations are contradictory. In actual society, we want them both at the
same time, and thus we end up with nothing: ‘neither man, nor citizen’. We must become
conscious of their differences in kind. Rousseau says that there is no longer public education.
We must therefore take the path of private education and subsequently stay the course. Only
after that does it make sense to ask whether the restoration of a public education is possible.
Whence that the Contract presupposes the Emile.
4 – The state of nature
The state of nature is pre-social, pre-political, and pre-civil. This idea is not new (take
Hobbes, for example). Nevertheless, why does it appear as pre-social? According to the
Discourse on Inequality, it is a state of equality and of independence. Yet this is not where
Rousseau locates its originality: he defines it by dispersion. And thus we find Rousseau
48

contesting Locke’s position on the question of the marital relation in the state of nature
8
. For
Locke, it is a natural relation until children start to take care of their own business. For
Rousseau, Locke presupposes that which is in question, which is to say co-habitation of man
with woman in the state of nature. Now, the state of nature is that of fortuitous encounters.
This isolation is what permits Rousseau to posit the state of nature as a state of equality and
independence: the latter are the analytic consequence of the former.
How does this relate to Hobbes? From an Aristotelian and Thomist perspective, the
natural order is like the order of perfections. Sociability is a part of the natural order. Yet for
Hobbes, the natural order no longer concerns an order of perfections, but a mechanism of
forces, or more specifically: of needs and desires. Whence that natural right becomes defined
as the realization of one’s desires insofar as it is within one’s power to do so. Right, not duty,
is thus posited as primary and natural. This is a point of view which excludes every notion of
dependence, which is why it is a reaction against the Aristotelian tradition: man is no longer
defined as a sociable animal. In this perspective, there is equality in the respective
compensation of the inequality of forces: the strongest always finding a stronger one than
himself, and the least strong capable of being sufficiently strong to kill the strongest.
Does this suffice to conclude that the state of nature does not imply social life? For
Hobbes, social life implies an authority, a reliance on respect for a power. The state of nature
thus excludes society understood as civil state, but does it exclude sociability which allows for
a natural society as an aggregate of relations between independent individuals
9
? Such
sociability would have derived from an identity in nature between men as reasonable beings:
‘the state of nature and a social life are not two opposed things’
10
. However, this conception
presupposes that one grants himself reason right away. Now, in the case of Hobbes, there is a

8
Note 2 of the Discourse on Inequality.
9
See Grotius [Hugo Grotius, 1583-1645, jurist in the Dutch Republic, AK]
10
Puffendorf [a 17th century German political philosopher and historian, AK].
49

genesis of reason. But Rousseau, against Hobbes, also demands a genesis of the complex
passions for which Hobbes appeals to the state of nature. According to Rousseau, Hobbesian
man ‘abuses’ certain faculties which must be produced historically.
Now, by changing the plane on which the problem is posed, Rousseau escapes these
difficulties in Hobbes. If we accept the thesis of dispersion, then there is no longer a problem
if this type, because each form of society is necessarily excluded from the state of nature. In
Hobbes, need is what brings us closer to one another, but in Rousseau, it is what separates us.
In the Essay on the Origin of Languages, without doubt contemporaneous to the Discourse,
the natural effect of needs will be the separation of men: ‘the state of war reigned everywhere,
but all the land was at peace’. Of course wars would be possible through fortuitous
encounters, but they did not happen: ‘not a Golden Age because men were united, but because
they were separated’. The Discourse affirms that Nature does not bother with bringing men
closer through mutual needs. She does not prepare men for social life. And this is the Stoic
element in Rousseau: the idea that needs separate us. Need is defined as self-sufficiency.
Naturally, this is limited by physical necessity, since it does not exceed the forces of that
which experiences it. Our needs are proportionate to our forces and our forces to our needs.
There is reciprocal regulation
11
. The state of nature is therefore a balance between power and
desire. In the case of Hobbes, what we have is jus in omnia. Perhaps, says Rousseau, but if so,
then because everyone only desires that which is within reach: an unlimited right of man to all
that he can attempt and all that he can reach. This right is in fact limited in the state of nature,
and Rousseau compares this state of nature with ataraxia: ‘everyone is a whole onto oneself’.
Here, the ground of natural right is self-love moderated by compassion, resulting in balance.



11
Emile II.
50

5 – The meaning of ‘nature’ in Rousseau
“Natural” first of all means “primitive” or “original”, as in ‘man in the state of nature’ or in
‘primitive man’. This sense of ‘nature’ does not include an aspect of sociability. In a second
sense, found in the Profession of Faith, it is said that ‘man is sociable by nature or at least
made to become so’.
Now, love in the state of nature is a small thing, especially when compared to the love
between J ulie and Saint-Preux (‘our souls are made for each other, it is nature which wants
it’
12
; ‘if love reigns, nature has already chosen […] sacred law of nature’ which cannot be
violated with impunity). Any familial sentiment has need of a habit, of a development which
forms like a second nature. That which is natural is thus no longer the primitive, but it is a
development made from the origin and following directions virtually contained in the origin.
This connects to the problem of ‘natural law’ in Rousseau. It often does not concern any law
that would reign in the state of nature, but instead a law that governs the development of
‘natural man’, that is to say of man insofar as he is presupposed to be subjected to a law of
development of virtualities inscribed in the original state.
The ‘domestic or natural’ education of Emile includes an education in nature (internal
development of our faculties and our organs) and the education in things (the acquisition,
engendered by experience, of objects which affect us). Natural man is thus man insofar as he
forms himself and insofar as he is educated. The Emile is conceived as leading from man in
the state of nature to natural man.
Consciousness and reason are often called ‘natural’ by Rousseau, much like society
and sociability
13
. However, fully natural as it may be, reason nevertheless demands a

12
The New Heloise, III, 11.
13
The letter to Christophe de Beaumont: the genealogy of vices and the genesis of reason. [The then-archbishop
of Paris, AK].
51

development which starts in the state of nature. In the Geneva manuscript, there is a chapter
on the state of nature which disappears in the Social Contract. Why? Because this chapter
risks mingling different problems. The Social Contract presupposes natural man, so that its
problem concerns the passage of man to citizen and not natural man as private man.
There is in Rousseau a notion of perfectibility: the state of nature must be understood
as a genetic element, heavy with potential, with virtualities. This genetic line is altered by the
genesis of vice. Is this accidental or necessary?
Rousseau uses an analytic and regressive method to find the characteristics of man in
the state of nature, starting from natural man. There is the necessity to find a principle: what
to define? The state of nature cannot be defined as an actual state of the faculties, but it can be
defined as a virtual and genetic state. Thus self-love and compassion are a state of passion as
long as their virtualities are not developed
14
. The analytic method cannot lead to a definition
of the state of nature without a dynamic principle: a regression of the actual to the virtual. The
analytic method of Rousseau’s predecessors does not suffice. As it says in The New Heloise:
‘nature is a book in which one must learn to read’. It is not enough to analyze if one does not
know how to decipher. Everything which is actual and formed is exterior to the state of
nature.
Before Rousseau, there is talk of a savage and a civilized man. Yet the genesis is
precisely the actualization of the virtualities of the state of nature. There is no spontaneous
passage. Moreover, in the Discourse we read that a faculty does not develop itself as long as it
does not respond to a need or an interest, and that a need never appears as long as it is not
determined by a situation. The state of man must therefore be defined by objective
circumstances, by needs that these circumstances determine, and by subjective faculties
necessary for the satisfaction of these needs. For example: speech presupposes the social state.

14
Emile IV: compassion is laden with a virtual sociability, and self-love with love for others.
52

According to Rousseau, his predecessors have disregarded the order of causes by
positing, from the start, already-formed faculties in order to deduce situations. For example:
‘man speaks, so he lives in society’. But for Rousseau, faculties must have a genesis, and if
man had fully formed faculties he would not be in need of using them. And so he criticizes
Hobbes, who makes the state of nature a state of war. Because man in the state of nature
cannot be in a state of war. One must proceed as follows: being given a faculty of aggression,
what interest does it presuppose, and what situation does this interest presuppose? We then
see two problems.
First, the legal or objective problem that war is not just any violence. It is defined by a
relation between states, by a certain duration, and by its goal (which is to obtain, by means of
force, reparations for supposedly inflicted damage). War thus presupposes property: ‘it is the
relation of things and not of men which constitutes war’. The state of war thus presupposes
society.
Second, the subjective problem of interest, or of pride as a human interest which also
presupposes the state. Engels will praise Rousseau on this point, for having employed a
dialectic method in the Discourse
15
. In fact, Engels finds himself in the same relation to
Dühring as Rousseau finds himself to Hobbes. What does Robinson use in order to enslave
Friday
16
? In order to enslave someone, a social contract constituted on productive forces and
relations of production is needed: the masters of America enslave their slaves through cotton.

15
Engels’ Anti-Dühring.
16
[According to Dühring, Robinson would have used a sword, an idea for which Engels ridiculed him: ‘But let
us look a little more closely at this omnipotent “force” of Herr Dühring's. Crusoe enslaved Friday “sword in
hand”. Where did he get the sword? Even on the imaginary islands of the Robinson Crusoe epic, swords have
not, up to now, been known to grow on trees, and Herr Dühring provides no answer to this question. If Crusoe
could procure a sword for himself, we are equally entitled to assume that one fine morning Friday might appear
with a loaded revolver in his hand, and then the whole “force” relationship is inverted’ (Anti-Dühring part II,
section III), AK].
53

6 – Is the state of nature a reality or a fiction?
It can be doubted whether this problem has the importance that some accord it. For
Rousseau’s predecessors, the state of nature is simultaneously a foundation and an origin
17
.
Starting from Hobbes, the state of nature comes to be considered as a pre-social life. In a
sense the state of nature is thus fictitious, because humanity never finds itself entirely in it.
Yet is real in certain situations. For Hobbes, civil war is one of those situations.
For Rousseau, the state of nature is not a fact of observation
18
. Neither infancy nor
savagery are the state of nature. Now, the state of nature is never posed problematically.
Instead, what happens between the state of nature and the actual state, all the intermediaries,
is posed as hypothetical. Nevertheless, both ends are given as real. The state of nature is real
insofar as it is a point of departure for a movement from which man takes shape. Since there
is this genesis starting from the state of nature, how does it work? The Discourse proposes
one way, the Essay on the origin of languages and the history of manners propose others. But
the point of view is always the same. Emile makes the genesis from the point of view of the
child.
7 – The unity of Rousseau’s works (I)
Ernst Cassirer has proposed the Kantian thesis that Rousseau’s works are unified by the
concept of freedom
19
. The Social Contract does not want to be a possible reform of society.

17
Kant on the distinction between foundation and origin.
18
Lines from the Discourse: ‘we start by excluding all the facts…’, and by ‘facts’ Rousseau means sacred texts
insofar as they attest to the creation of man with fully formed faculties; ‘that which reflection teaches us,
observation confirms’; ‘the presupposition of a state of nature’; ‘a state which has perhaps never existed, which
will probably never exist’.
19
[On February 27th, 1932, Ernst Cassirer hosted a conference on the theme of unity in Rousseau’s work, in
which he proposed this thesis, only to get blasted by the other attendants for downplaying both the aesthetic or
54

In the Discourse, there is an agreement which is mystifying in its principle, and it generates
the corrupting social state. This mystification is glaring (se fait criante): social amenities. A
reorganization of society cannot suffice since it is tainted in its principle (Rousseau here
completely opposes the Encyclopédistes).
But is a reform of society possible? According to Rousseau, it is possible under certain
conditions and up to a certain point. However, today we are too deep into the agreement. We
can no longer make a clean slate, which presupposes a legislator who arrives from the outside
(Cretans, Lacedaemonians, or Romans, for example). In certain states, man is first of all a
citizen, but that is no longer possible now. The contract exists because the agreement can no
longer be changed. It is an error to relate the contract to a state of nature from which it would
have proceeded. It must be related to natural man, which is to say to man formed according to
the law of nature. This is the case for Emile after his education is done, when he is owner and
husband: private man, just, virtuous. The education has stopped being public, we cannot
return to before the agreement.
Rousseau’ correspondence with Tronchin
20
make him realize the difference between
private man and the citizen. It is when Emile is formed in private that the political problem is
posed to him. Do not such men establish a new social order? No genesis passes from an
anterior stage to the social contract. Instead, it is through a kind of transmutation that private
men establish another social order. Natural man must be related to his own genetic line, and
all that can be done is preventing the child, by means of domestic education, from putting
itself in corrupting situations.
One genetic line responds to a history which leads from the state of nature to the
corrupting social state. A second line is that of pedagogy: the law of nature permits formation

artistic side of his work, as well as the paradoxical aspect many considered its defining characteristic, AK]. Also
see Kant’s Conjectures on the beginnings of human history.
20
[A physician who frequented the circles of Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, AK].
55

in a corrupted society, a man of nature as private. A third line, non-genetic this time, concerns
natural man creating a corresponding social order with his will.
8 – How does one leave the state of nature?
8.1 – From state of nature to savage state
In Hobbes, for example, there is a fundamental disequilibrium in the state of nature – it is
unlivable – which makes it necessary to leave this state. This exit is made possible by the
natural law, a means that presupposes a minimal development of reason. And all this will
work the better if everyone abstains from anything that can turn out to be disadvantageous.
Yet in Rousseau, the state of nature is one of full self-sufficiency and hence without
contradiction. The human species is considered as just another animal species. In the state of
nature, an individual is nothing but at one with its species. There is an identity between
individual being and generic being, because the individual is a whole onto itself. Instead, that
which engenders the exit from the state of nature is a multiplicity of ‘strange’, ‘fortuitous’,
and ‘mild’ causes. So it happens through a kind of mechanism, but there is nevertheless a
‘hidden plan of nature’, so that man goes to realize his final goal. In order to do so, an
objective situation is needed in each stage of humanity’s development. If the situation
changes, new interests and needs appear in man.
By leaving the state of nature, we fall into the savage state. This situation is
characterized by two new facts. First, morphological causes, and second, climatic causes
which act only in relation to demographic causes. Put differently: people multiply, they
increasingly encounter one another, and they start to seek out the most favorable regions. New
interests and needs arise, but one still remains, from the point of view of man considered as an
animal species, physical. Man is always defined by his relation with things and his reliance on
them. Yet whereas man is predominantly passive in the state of nature, his physical being
56

becomes active in the savage state: a generic activity of the uniquely physical individual:
‘how many inventions die with their inventor’.
Two new interests arise at this point. At certain times there will be an interest in
cooperation, and at others, an interest in rivalry. For example, the deer hunter (cooperation)
who sees a hare pass by (solitary chase). The first provisional communities are those of
hunters, because the first activity is the hunt. At that point, new faculties appear through
perceptions of certain relations
21
or ‘a kind of reflection or machinic prudence’. The
Profession of Faith not only mentions a passivity, but also a ‘faculty of comparing sensations’
which is not yet a true freedom and remains physical. These new faculties still concern
judgment by inspection, which is not judgment by induction. It is a ‘sensitive and puerile
reason’ inseparable from physical activity.
At this level, there is still a comparison of man as species with the other species. Man
has a natural and generic conformity with his semblances. Qua language, there is at this level
an appearance of imitative, gestural, natural language.
By integrating themselves into the situation, the new needs and interests change it.
There is also the intervention by catastrophes. The problem of these new interests poses that
of the passage of the natural individual to the moral man. This is the discovery of a new
activity, properly spiritual.
8.2 – The advent of morality and freedom
With this passage, everything happens as if it entails a regression of activity. See the third and
fourth part of Emile: the child still has feeble desires, but his powers have grown. There are
unemployed capacities within him. It is his studies which make him discover his intellectual
and moral being. Likewise, it is said in the Discourse that ‘the Pastors are less active and

21
Reason presupposes this, see Emile.
57

more peaceful’. All this concerns the birth of leisure and idle pensions, hence ‘there are
individual preferences and comparisons’. The individual now distinguishes itself from the
species. Under which conditions? To the extent that the species is no longer defined as
physical species, but as moral species. More new interests and needs arise as permanent
housing appears (the embryonic form of property). Associations take shape which are not
merely founded on an interest such as that of the hunters. As for the state of the faculties, if
there is less physical activity, a morality of magnanimity and of vengeance is discovered.
In any case, the individual ceases being one with the species. It wants to be recognized
by others, which is the first step towards inequality and pride. Morality initially manifests in a
sentiment of right, in a consideration of that which I am owed. It concerns the individual that
feels offended, that exacts vengeance: ‘each is judge and avenger of offenses that he suffers’.
There is no law here as of yet, which implies that the separation between individual and
humanity as a moral species is not yet complete.

It is the best era, says Rousseau.

We discover a moral being, proper to us: freedom. See for example the Profession of Faith, in
which a radical soul-body dualism is affirmed. The active soul produces a will independent of
all physical determination. Freedom is already present in the state of nature, but there is no
consciousness of it there, since it is nothing but fully one with life. We become conscious to
the extent that we discover that freedom constitutes our moral being. It is when, on account of
our perfectibility, we have passed into the moral state that we can conclude freedom existed in
the state of nature.
Two dualities are now taking shape. First, man as a physical being and man as moral
species (body and soul). Second, man as individual and man as species. The second is
58

intensified by the discovery of the first. At the same time that love of virtue develops in the
moral species, an interest in being wicked develops in the individual. It is in the civilized
(policé) state that the dualities take on their full importance. Here, the new interests become
related to the formation of the couple metallurgy-agriculture. Metallurgy is the first to appear.
Agriculture is then born from the necessity to feed those who work the iron. The result is a
division of labor based on the exchange of iron and agricultural products. The first appearance
of property then follows in the guise of the division of lands. There is no conventional relation
between property and labor. The laborer possesses the land, and there is a certain right to the
tilled soil insofar as it has produced the fruits of labor. This possession, continuing as it does
from harvest to harvest, has a natural origin. There follows an evolution of the moral being
towards a morality of justice, after just the idea of property which is the base of the
development of the moral being. This justice consists in giving everyone what they are due.
8.3 – Mystification, wickedness, and alienation
There is an ‘inequality of combination’ in the relation between smiths and laborers. Property
has led to a sentiment of justice, but its voice is still feeble. Despite this sentiment, the
individual man is going to define himself as a more or less greedy owner, because he
discovers interests of ownership in the inequality of properties resulting from the division of
labor. There is thus a new inequality, a usurpation, and a relation of forces is established
between owners. Subsequently, the rich design what Rousseau calls a ‘thoughtful project’,
one that is a mystification of ‘specious reasons’. The rich propose the non-owners an end to
the state of war and a reunion of all the wills into a single one. They propose the formation of
a supreme power through a mystifying ‘very general agreement’.
Rousseau here takes up very classical theories, but precisely because he wants to show
that the contract as conceived by them can only be understood as a mystification. In the Social
Contract, he investigates the abstract conditions under which the contract could have taken
59

place without mystification. His predecessors perceived the contract as an exchange of
freedom for security. Rousseau agrees that this is the effect of the contract, but precisely to
the extent that this contract is a mystification and cannot be obtained through consent. Why
not?

1. Logical argument: agreements are accepted so as not to become dependent on others.
2. Psychological argument: there is no natural penchant to servitude.
3. Sociological argument: refutation of theses of paternal authority which assimilate the
social situation and the familial situation.
4. Moral argument: freedom is nothing but one with my moral being, as life is with my
physical being. Neither life nor freedom are inalienable.

Rousseau does not deny that we have lost our freedom. He even thinks it happens by way of
the contract, so that we have been deceived. Is there thus a contract which can be defined as
devoid of any mystification? This is the problem the Social Contract investigates. First, there
is an historical investigation, in which we find two themes belonging to the idea of contract:
subjection and association. Concerning subjection, it is generally held in the 16
th
and 17
th

centuries that there are two parties to a contract, one of which is the subject, and the other the
sovereign. Here, Hobbes will object that the sovereignty is double, and a third power
(puissance) is necessary for the judging of disputes. As for association, this is to be
understood as the reunion of all wills in one will, progressing from a multitude of contractual
acts between those who are to become subjects. But here Rousseau will criticize Hobbes.
Even though Hobbes has understood that association has to come first, he made an error in
reducing subjection to association. For Hobbes, we constitute ourselves as subject through the
relation to a sovereign who does not enter into the contract. For Rousseau, an association is
60

needed first, a product of the reunion proposed to the poor by the rich: the formation of a
public.
Yet the mystification is such that there is already a defect at the origin: the poor can
perceive that the will is not common, so that a contract of government is necessarily required.
This is a second mystification, because however honest the magistrates of this government
may be, on account of the defect it will always be the rich who become magistrates. Because
it was still feeble, our sentiment of justice was just sufficient to allow for the realization of
this deception, and it is then that the interest in being wicked appears.
Man discovers his interest in being wicked because property simultaneously gives us
the sense of justice, a particular interest. Property develops through an internal movement of
inequality, or so say all the economists before Rousseau. Yet Rousseau has a more complex
idea, stating that property does not concern an internal movement, but a double game of new
needs and exploitation of the labor of others. It is the stage of usurpation. A duality develops
between man as moral species and the individual with his particular interest.
The particular interest in wicked is hard-pressing, and the voice of justice, which is
still feeble, starts to serve this interest. Whence the misleading proposition of the rich, which
presupposes necessarily invoked justice in order to be accepted by the poor. Is this justice the
same which appears in the Social Contract? The contract is misleading because it is made
between two unequal parties, because it invokes a justice which governs relations between
parties which it posits as equal. In the Social Contract, justice is formed by something entirely
different than a relation between distinct parties. What is produced by the social contract is
inalienable.
The problem of the Social Contract is whether there is a form of justice which is by
nature impossible to avert, one that does not lend itself to any alienation, one that cannot be
used by our own wickedness. And in fact, Rousseau says several times that this justice can
61

alienate. The relation subject-sovereign can pass into the service of wickedness: it suffices
that partial associations are established in the State, et cetera. There is thus a possible
alienation of justice, which is nevertheless inalienable in itself. It can be usurped by a partial
association which passes itself off as common. Yet this is not the same thing as a justice
which immediately declares itself a relation between two equal parties whereas in fact they
are not. Now, two ideas developed in the Discourse on Inequality are taken up anew in the
Social Contract. First, the idea that society cannot be founded on a relation of mutual
subjection, because all subjection presupposes association. Second, insofar as association
presents itself as a relation between distinct parties, the contract will be a mystification. This
is the logical argumentation which prefigures the social contract – a contract which defines
itself as one of association, yet which cannot be established between two parties considered as
distinct.
Rousseau will make an aggressive caricature of his predecessors. He grants them that
the contract as they conceive of it is the base of real society (subjection before association, et
cetera). But, he says, that this is so is precisely the reason that real society is essentially
mystifying and that freedom no longer exists in it. There is, at this point, a defect in the
principle of the social being of man, on account of mystification. Hence Rousseau accuses it
of original sin, and of pressing the moral being of man into the service of wicked interest.
8.4 - How to leave?
When it is not yet too late, a revolution can constitute the political act by which one leaves
22
.
Yet revolution can also be impossible, it can be too late, and then the only thing remaining is
domestic education. The point of such an education is to efface the corruption, i.e. the malign

22
Discourse on Inequality, second part; also Emile when Lycurgus collectivizes property and in doing so effaces
the defect, whereas Solon contents himself with abolishing debts and changes nothing profound; and Social
Contract chapter 8.
62

interest. There are two methods to do so. First, virtue, or J ulie’s method. Second, wisdom, or
Wolmar’s method. On the domestic level, there can be a reconciliation of individual and
moral species, but nevertheless this kind of education remains subjective and negative. The
reconciliation does not suffice by itself, because social life continues even if I abstain from it.
Hence, a positive and objective reconciliation of the individual and the moral species is
required, but this is only possible after private education. Is private man capable of restoring
the citizen? The contract presupposes natural man, that is to say man as formed by Emile.
Now, there remain some allusions to the state of nature in the Social Contract
23
. And
at the end of Emile a problem is posed: can Emile become citizen? The problem concerns
‘your civil relation with your fellow citizens’. It is when Rousseau advises Emile to reflect on
the state of nature. Thus such a reflection must facilitate the passage from private man to
citizen of the social contract. There is thus an analogy of |man in the state of nature – civilized
man| : |state of nature – social contract|. The bulk of this reflection has to show us that man is
free in the state of nature. Whence the possibility of the social contract in which justice is no
longer alienable.
9 – The unity of Rousseau’s works (II)
Freedom is certainly a permanent term in Rousseau’s oeuvre, but only in the sense that it is a
constant problem. So freedom itself cannot be the unifying factor. That which unifies is the
problem of the relation between the individual and the human species (this is the Kantian
interpretation).
Everything starts with a beautiful harmony of physical species and physical
individuality. This is put to work within a genetic perspective, so that there is a passage from
physical passivity to physical activity, and from physical activity to moral species. Man is

23
Book I, chapter VI; chapter VIII.
63

posited as a moral species, but there is also a rupture of the individual with the species. In
Discourse on Inequality, we see this in mutual deception; in The New Heloise, we see this in
self-deception. An act of moral will can restore a subjective unity between the individual and
the moral species
24
. Finally, there is the determination of a political act which installs an
objective unity of the individual and of the moral species: the social contract.
10 – The social contract
The lawyers of the 16
th
century understand the contract as a relation between two parties, one
being subject, the other being leader. The sovereign is thus split, power and sovereignty are
divided, and a third instance is needed to judge disputes. According to Rousseau, this
conception of the contract confounds society and government. For him, all government
presupposes prior association
25
. The subjection of subjects to a leader already presupposes the
constitution of man as a subject, and thus an association. But if the subjection is a contract,
the contract is not primary. Over the course of Social Contract, it is said that subjection is
impossible without association
26
.
Rousseau will hold that sovereignty is inalienable, whereas the lawyers (Puffendorf,
for example) will hold the contrary. For them, sovereignty is alienated in the subjection. For
Rousseau, the transfer of sovereignty can only be made in the form of a gift or of a sale, each
of which can in turn be forced, tacit, or voluntary
27
. Now, a forced or tacit gift cannot be the
source of any right. And if the gift is voluntary, it can only be pure madness, insofar as people
who give away their freedom just like that must be mad. In the case of a sale, there is an
exchange of one’s freedom against security. But this is contrary to the notion of government,

24
Confessions and the second part of The New Heloise.
25
Social Contract book I, chapter V.
26
Social Contract book III, chapter XVI.
27
Social Contract book I, chapter I.
64

says Rousseau, because government is conceived as a delegation or an equivalent of the
sovereign. Particular acts which presuppose a general law cannot be defined as acts of the
government. Government can only be assimilated to a commission, as the acts of the
government are emanations of the Sovereign. There can only be radical subordination of the
government to the Sovereign. Whence that the latter cannot be alienated from an instance
which is subordinate to it. Now, the alienation of the sovereign can be conceived as follows: it
would be represented by men to who legislative power (puissance) would have been
transferred. However, neither can the sovereign be alienated in a representation in this case
28
.
The sovereign cannot be represented except by himself
29
.
Likewise, the government cannot appropriate sovereignty of which it is but the
commission, as with the representatives, who are nothing but commissaries of the people. The
governors are but commissionaires or commissaries, because they only exercise the function
of judgment (determining the case that enters under the law), which is not the faculty of
willing. In similar manner, the deputies have but a function of judging: they conceive of laws
by which they clarify the general will, hypothetical laws which they cannot render obligatory
and effective. Only the Sovereign decides on the propositions made by the deputies. The
deputies (the legislature) propose laws that only the sovereign people ratifies. Thus the
English people is wrong in believing itself free, it is only so at the moment of election of
deputies. After the election, it is a slave to representation. Such arguments serve Rousseau in
his critiques of absolute monarchy and representative governments.
The legislative state of the ancient City is that the legislator proposes, and then the
people decides. Rousseau calls this the valorous government. The idea of representatives is a
feudal one to him. Representative assemblies were the means by which feudal lords struggled

28
Social Contract book I, chapter II.
29
Social Contract book III, chapter XV: ‘sovereignty cannot be represented for the same reason that it cannot be
alienated. It consists in the general will and the will is not represented’.
65

against monarchy. The problem is that the legislature as conceived in ancient times
presupposes small cities and leisure for citizens. However, in Considerations on Poland,
Rousseau designed a system of representation by deputies for a large state, which would turn
on the condition of controlling the deputies through frequent elections, a strict observance of
the rule of re-eligibility, and finally public accountability. These means were to keep the
deputies functioning as commissaries of the people.
There is thus a parallel alienation of the people in when they give themselves a master,
and when they give themselves representatives.
10.1 – The sovereign is irreducible
Three arguments lead to the conclusion that the Sovereign cannot be reduced to an individual
or to a group of individuals. First, a polemic argument
30
. Secondly, the act which constitutes
the sovereign as such necessarily constitutes him as the general will. It is not impossible that
this will concords with a particular will, but that is by nature fortuitous
31
. The sovereign
would be alienable if he were an individual. The sovereign is a moral perso which only has
abstract and collective existence
32
.
10.2 – How is the sovereign indivisible?
According to Hobbes the sovereign is indivisible in his principle. For him, the contract is an
act by which all make themselves subject of a Third Party which does not enter into the
contract and which is the sovereign. As the sovereign has not entered into the contract, it is
ruled out that the subjects can disobey him. There is thus inalienability of the sovereign who

30
Letter to Nirabeau [Deleuze means the Marquis de Mirebeau, with whom Rousseau stayed for a while after his
stay in England, AK].
31
Social Contract book I, chapter I.
32
See the Geneva manuscript.
66

can no longer represent itself. Now, Hobbes reduces the sovereign to a person or to a group of
persons. That he is to be indivisible does not preclude that it implies having a number of
distinct powers. In order for the sovereign to have absolute power, he must possess all the
powers. So, though indivisible in his principle, the sovereign is divisible in his object.
Rousseau critiques this thesis in book II of the Social Contract. For him, the sovereign is
absolutely indivisible: “Simple and one”
33
. According to Rousseau, there is only one object of
the sovereign: the law. Decisions on peace, on war, and so on (what Hobbes calls the powers
of sovereignty) are nothing but acts of government which presuppose a prior legislation. From
this we can conclude that:

1. The contract is not an act of subjection
2. It is not an act by which all make themselves subject of a Third Party.
3. It is an act by which all constitute themselves as sovereign, without possible alienation in
a government, without possible representation in deputies.
4. To be conceived as such, the contract can no longer be considered a relation between
parties (contrary to all predecessors except perhaps Spinoza).
10.3 – What is the positive character of the Contract?
To posit the contract as a relation signifies a relation between public and particular individual,
or between subject and sovereign. But the people, the public, do not pre-exist the contract.
This expression by Rousseau is only provisionary and is not the most profound one
34
. Yet in
any case, we are constantly dealing with three terms: the particular (the individual or private

33
Social Contract book III.
34
Social Contract book II, chapter IV, 2
nd
paragraph, note where Rousseau insists on the difficulty of precisely
defining the terms.
67

man), the subject, and the citizen. These terms are reciprocal
35
. In one case, the middle term is
the individual considered under two relations: as subject and as member of the sovereign. In
another, it is the subject which is the middle term and envisaged under two relations. So it will
be said that the contract constitutes the particular individual as subject under one relation and
as citizen under another. Or else, the subject is taken as particular individual in relation to the
sovereign, and as member of the sovereign in relation to the particular individual, in the
individual. The contract thus makes three reciprocal terms intervene: the middle term must be
taken under two relations. In the first hypothesis, the individual is the middle term. It
constitutes itself as subject in relation to the sovereign, and as member of the sovereign in
relation to particular individuals. So in the end, only the subject has a double relation: first to
the sovereign and furthermore, as member of the sovereign. So the subject is the middle term.
The basic act of the contract is the act by which the individual makes itself subject and at the
same time member of the sovereign (otherwise he would be a slave). There are thus three
formulas to the Social contract, each more profound than the other: a) a relation between two
terms; b) a discovery of three terms; c) it is the subject itself which is taken under two
relations.
10.4 – Obligation, totality, instantaneity
An obligation is born with the Contract. Who is obliged
36
? It is not the individual, because
legally the individual cannot oblige itself. Is it the sovereign? No, because the sovereign is not
submitted to anything except his condition of existence, to the laws which determine the
conditions of his Being. In himself, he cannot be obliged to anything: “to violate the act by
which the sovereign exists would be to annihilate itself”
37
. Only the subject is subjected to the

35
Social Contract book I, chapter VII.
36
Social Contract book I, chapter VII.
37
Social Contract book I, chapter VII.
68

obligation. Only it can be grasped under the two relations, which is the condition of the
obligation. What is the source of the obligation? It is the ‘free agreement of he who obliges
himself’
38
. The term which is capable of obliging can only be the subject. All sources of
obligations are up for discussions, except that one.
This act of engagement has two characteristics, to with totality and instantaneity
39
.
The act must be a total alienation, which is to say it is complete insofar as it covers
everything, and universal insofar as each individual is completely alienated. This alienation
can be complete, because it is not carried out for someone else to benefit from it. If that were
to be the case, alienation would not be total, because freedom is inalienable. Alienation
consists in constituting a whole, not in making oneself dependent on others. Whence that each
individual is subjected to the same condition: ‘each gives himself completely, the condition is
equal for all’
40
. There will be no differences due to more or less alienation among individuals
(unless of course not everyone alienates himself totally, unless someone conserves
something). On the level of total alienation, equality is already included.
The act is also instantaneous: ‘the association instantly produces a moral and political
body’
41
. From the very moment I alienate myself, I at the same time constitute the sovereign
and I recuperate everything. It cannot be otherwise. The sovereign restores everything to me
and even more, just under another form
42
. For example: the sovereign assures the legitimate
possession of property which the individual has alienated from himself. He keeps only what is
necessary for community. There is no moral obligation of the sovereign in this. It is a
condition of his existence. If he does not effectuate this restitution, he is destroyed.
Furthermore, only the sovereign can say that which is of common interest: ‘but it must be

38
Letter 6, Letters from the Mountain.
39
Social Contract book I, chapter VI.
40
Social Contract book I, chapter VI.
41
Social Contract book I, chapter VI.
42
Social Contract book I, chapter IX.
69

admitted that only the sovereign is judge of such importance’, of that which is very variable
according the situation, the circumstances, the morphology of a society.
In exchange for this partial restitution to owners, there will be a tax levy. The owner is
but a repository of the public good. He only exists as owner by the sovereign’s act of
restitution. The immediate restitution concerns private property and private opinion, that is to
say private religion, which does not interest the subject
43
.
10.5 – Why does the sovereign constitute a general will?
The contract necessarily forms a general will, but common interest and general will must not
be confused. Common interest is that of the subject in relation to the sovereign. That which
immediately returns with the act by which I constitute myself as subject, is the contract.
Everyone has a similar interest, since they are subjected to an equal condition. Removing the
equality destroys all common interest. I can only constitute myself as subject in relation to a
sovereign of which the subject is member, with respect to individuals. From this point of
view, everyone is a legislator. This time, it is no longer equality which is inferred, but
freedom, as that which the sovereign wants with regard to individuals. The general will is the
will of everyone as member of the sovereign, as citizen.
‘The common interest is what makes the will general’. What does Rousseau want to
say by this? The common interest is not constitutive of the general will, but is its condition of
possibility: the formation of the sovereign has for its condition the act of the individual
making itself subject. Without this act, which defined the common interest, no sovereign can
be had, and therefore no general will.



43
Social Contract, final chapter.
70

In what sense can we speak of a “utilitarianism” of Rousseau?
The notion of utility appears in two senses:
- A faculty only develops if it is useful. Need is incapable of creating this faculty. Utility
only plays the part of realizer of the faculty.
- The common interest of the contract is the condition of possibility, not the principle, of the
general will.
10.6 – What does the general will want?
The general will finds its condition in the equality of the condition of all subjects. It cannot be
determined by a preference. In this sense, not being determined by anything but itself, it is the
will of freedom (as in Kant). It can only want the law. The law leaves the relation to
individuals undetermined. It is only specified through the work of the legislator. In itself, it is
only the form of the will of the subject as citizen
44
. A distinction must be made between two
things
45
:

- The question of knowing whether the will can want such action (moral possibility of
Kant). It is a legislative power;
- Concerning that: can we, have we the possibility to accomplish it (physical possibility of
Kant). It is an executive power.

Being determined by the law, the general will does not consider action in its physical
possibility, but considers it as abstract. An obligation is related to the law. The word ‘law’
can only be employed rigorously in a prescriptive sense. If the source of the obligation is the

44
Letter 6, Letters from the Mountain; cf. letter to Le Mercier de la Rivière from 1767: ‘a form of governance
must be found which puts the law above man’.
45
Social Contract book III, chapter I.
71

act by which I make myself subject, then the law must be civil, it has its foundation in the
contract. But is such a response sufficient?
Such a response will have implied that Rousseau considerably critiques the idea in the
mode of natural law
46
. Is inequality authorized by natural law? Rousseau does not respond to
this question, and says that the concept of natural law is a concept full of nonsense.
Nevertheless there are texts where Rousseau mentions the natural law and in which he says
that it is superior to the contract itself:

- Letter of October 1758: he admits three superior and independent authorities over the
sovereign: that of God, that of the natural law, that of honor. If there is a conflict, it is up
to the sovereign to yield. Hierarchy: natural law (love), honor, God
47
.
- Letter 6 in From the Mountain: it must be proven that the contract is not contrary to
natural laws.
- Emile, book 2: ‘…the eternal laws of nature and the existing order. They take the place of
positive laws to the wise man’. The wise man is the one who has extracted himself from
society.

So how is the Contract a primary principle from which derive civil law and the obligation,
while it is also related to a higher instance, the natural law
48
? The critique of the natural law
has two senses with Rousseau. First, it bears upon the Ancients (Plato, Aristotle, Stoics), for
whom the natural law is the recta ratio, the conformity of things to their proper ends.
Rousseau argues that they used the word ‘law’ wrongly. By law they understood a law that
nature imposes on itself and not a law that it prescribes. For Rousseau, the concept of law is

46
This happens in the Discourse on Inequality.
47
As found in The New Heloise; the letter on honor is in part I: letter from Saint-Preux.
48
See the beginning of the Discourse on Inequality.
72

not a condition of existence of nature, it is essentially a prescription
49
. The Moderns have
understood this prescriptive character. For them the law is a prescriptive rule for an intelligent
and free being. The natural law applies to this being which is capable of receiving
prescriptions.
In Hobbes, the state of nature is no longer the order of perfections, but a system of
forces, of passions, and of drives. For a passionate being, the law then becomes the obligation
which opposes it. The state of nature is a system of forces, with corresponding natural rights.
To this structure, a second is joined: that of the natural law. The driving force of this law is
the fear of violent death, which is even the principle of reason. The law prescribes a rule
without which I could not preserve my life. The natural law, however, can only prescribe
hypothetically: it only gives the means to preserve my life, on the condition that the others
will also want the law. Whence the problem: how to render the law obligatory? That comes to
pass because all individuals make contracts among themselves, and above all delegate their
powers to a sovereign who does not participate in the Contract. Because of this the natural law
becomes civil.
Now, the mistake of the Moderns, according to Rousseau, is that they put the natural
law in the state of nature, that they presuppose a being already endowed with reason in this
state (because no law without reason). Rousseau accepts the prescriptive character of the law,
but the Moderns have not seen in what it consisted, since it is only hypothetical. For
Rousseau, the natural law is not in the state of nature, because it is a genetic development of
virtualities starting from the state of nature. This natural law presupposes society in the sense
that the virtualities only realize themselves under objective circumstances which are in
society. For example, the sentiment of justice only realizes itself if it is useful, and it only is

49
See the preface of the Discourse on Inequality.
73

so if there is a society. However, society is not constitutive of the development of the natural
law.
The contract must be related to the natural law. The contract, the absolute foundation
of civil law, must be led back to the natural law, because it is at the same time total alienation
and instantaneous restitution. If it contradicts the law, it destroys itself.
10.7 – The idea of the civil law in Rousseau
The law is the very act of the sovereign, the direct expression of the general will. There is a
difference in kind between decree and law. The law goes from all to all, it considers the
subjects as body and situations as abstractions. It is an act of sovereignty. A decree appoints
persons, considers subjects as particular individuals, actions as concrete. It is an act of
governance. The law determines the form of government, the conditions to fulfill in order to
accede to government for each subject in general.
The Sovereign is a “common me”, a “life provided with sensibility”. The general will:
it is the movement corresponding to this life
50
. As the formation of the Sovereign and the
general will, the social contract is the form under which the Sovereign conserves itself. The
social contract is already general will. It defines a formal will. The contract in itself,
generalized, formalizes the will. The Sovereign is thus already a formal will (whereas the
particular will always searches preferences and the general will, the true universal: a pre-
Kantian distinction). This generalization is not the addition of particular wills.
What does the general will want? That which it wants must be determined generally,
that is to say formally: equality and freedom. The sovereign is the general will insofar as it
wants freedom and equality. That the law will be formal signifies that it abstracts from
persons, from its relation with persons of which the decree will take care (and in this sense,

50
Sovereign relation – general will. Cf. Social Contract book III, chapter IV.
74

government is a faculty of judgment: determination of cases that enter under the law).
However the law, if it is formal in the sense that it determines generally, is not formal,
because there is no law that will not be a determination of equality and freedom. Which are
the best, the good laws, for example? They cannot abstract from the relation with things and
objects. For Rousseau, that which saves us from the relation with persons is always the
relation with things. The law is thus not quite determined unless we take into account the
objective situation of a given society (resources, population, etc…). The law is formal by
abstraction from the relation with persons, it is not formal because it does not abstract from
the relation with things.

So to determine a law, the general will does not suffice. The formal determination of
the will must be joined to the content of objective circumstances of a given society. Thus the
general will wants the good, but it does not know it (it is the contrary for private man). It is
blind because it is formal. Thus the general will must appeal to a prodigious understanding (it
is a transposition of a faculty psychology to the social plane): that of the legislator who
illuminates the will from the outside. Without the legislator, the general will formally know
what it wants. But it needs him to be determined materially. A good law must not consider
particular persons (formal aspect) and adapt itself to concrete situations (material aspect).
The law is thus the composition of a form which refers to the will, and of a matter which
refers to the legislator. This is why it cannot be a question of an a priori deduction of the law
from its form.