The French Enlightenment

Christopher Pierson

in Just Property

Published in print October 2016 | ISBN: 9780199673292
Published online October 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191840067 | DOI:
The French Enlightenment

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Chapter 2 provides a critical guide to key innovations in property thinking by the most important figures of the French Enlightenment, giving special attention to the multivalent contribution of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The work of Montesquieu and the Physiocrats provides a very clear statement of what is to become, for a time, the ‘standard’ liberal view of private property in a commercial society. The work of Fenelon, Mably, and others gives an account of a utopian alternative. The discontented parish priest Jean Meslier presents an unqualified call for the revolutionary overthrow of the existing property order. Rousseau provides an account which brings out almost all the paradoxes of private property in modernity: at once liberating, corrupting, and exploiting; both the expression of our most keenly felt individuality and the fount of our deepest alienation, from our true selves and from each other.

Keywords: French Enlightenment; Montesquieu; Physiocrats; commerce; Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Chapter.  14132 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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