Rousseau

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. D’alembert on the Theatre. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1960.

In the dusty Rousseau works I have on my shelf, I remember being quite interested in the debates surrounding the introduction of his works to the intellectual public (Voltaire, Hume, and especially Simone Weil who believed Rousseau to be a key progenitor of actualizing loose collectivities–like an academic journal, she noted). This collected volume, cited above, is exemplary of similar contemporary debates in which the aesthetic domain is politicized. For instance, in the debate on The Misanthrope or the absence of a Genovese theatre Rousseau seems to side against the current of outside cultural development in favor of local tradition and particularity. One might say there is no need for a legislative boundary on art from the outside, since change always involves some degree of exteriority, and since the opposite is usually called xenophobism. But monarchies, at the time, imposed a homogenous brand (that Rousseau found in the inferior Parisian opera) that stood in the way of the ‘particular’ collectivities mentioned in his other works. The general will was something less majoritarian, more particular, and according to Simone Weil, loose, fluid, and roaming. And this is how freedom is forced into the general will, where even if people are naturally averse to ‘being free’ (see Eric Fromm) it is the only choice in post-monarchical society.

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