ROUSSEAU’S AMBIVALENT PERSPECTIVE ON POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY: A RE-EXAMINATION OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT
The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau is frequently identified as a pivotal work on the concept of popular sovereignty. This paper explores the nuanced nature of Rousseau’s perspectives on popular sovereignty, arguing that his views are multifaceted and, at times, conflicting. We delve into two primary perspectives on the power of the people found within Rousseau’s work. According to the first, often dominant interpretation of Rousseau’s Social Contract, the people is presented as a sovereign power, bound only by their decisions and actions. The second perspective, however, presents the people as significantly less empowered, subject to numerous substantial restrictions. This article systematically reconstructs these two viewpoints, compares them, and scrutinizes the tensions and contradictions they generate. Our analysis proposes an interpretive framework for the coexistence of these divergent perspectives, advancing our understanding of Rousseau’s complex political thought. Moreover, we highlight how these insights into Rousseau’s concept of popular sovereignty shed light on contemporary political phenomena and contribute to ongoing debates in political philosophy.
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