Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 40, 2008

Philosophy of Law

Patrice Canivez
Pages 15-21

The Legislator’s Educative Task In Rousseau’s Political Theory

In Rousseau’s political theory, the Legislator’s task is to draft the best possible Constitution for a given people. His goal is to maintain the public liberties and to ensure the preservation and prosperity of the State. However, the main problem is “to put law above men” – that is: above the citizens in general and the members of the executive in particular. This paper examines how the Legislator takes up the problem by educating the citizens. The process of education implies the development of reasonable thinking as well as the education of desire. Reasonable thinking is achieved through the formation of the general will. Education of human desire must be understood with respect to the distinction between amour-propre and amour-de-soi. The extension of amour-de-soi to a community of fellow citizens plays a central role in the formation of the general will and contributes to the development of solidarity among the different social classes. Education of amour-propre plays a role in the development of a national identity. It plays also a role in the political governance of individual desires by means of an administration based on a hierarchy of functions, supervised by public opinion. However, the political governance of desire is challenged by the invisible power of money, which Rousseau tried to neutralize by limiting and slowing down the monetary circulation.