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Rebuking the Enlightenment Establishments, Bourgeois and Aristocratic: Rousseau’s Ambivalence About Leisure

  • Matthew D. Mendham
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Abstract

Rousseau was profoundly opposed to the dominant tendencies of his times. We focus on two “Enlightenment establishments”—the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Both groups were leading forces behind the Enlightenment, and both were roundly condemned by Rousseau. He castigates the indulgent idleness characteristic of the aristocrat, and with comparable force, the misguided frenzy characteristic of the bourgeois. Surprisingly, however, in his own positive alternatives, he seems to readmit certain aspects of their ways of life. His first model—simple republican citizens—practice (seemingly bourgeois) economic diligence, yet in lacking ambition and vanity, they are able to find delight and leisure in their work itself. His second model is more aristocratic, yet it is far more involved in manual labour, and content with far simpler material attainments, than most of this rank. The second model was also influential in illustrating the natural and relational delights of times of pure repose.

Keywords

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Enlightenment Leisure Economics Bourgeoisie Aristocracy 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew D. Mendham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsHillsdale CollegeHillsdaleUSA

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