IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Naturallaws, artificial laws and the 'art of government': Rousseau's political economy as an 'art of exceptions'


  • Jimena HURTADO



Jean-Jacques Rousseau is rarely mentioned in the history of economic thought. For a long time his criticism of market economy has been described as a defense of an agricultural society with no relation with the outer world that could even be considered as anchored in the past. Maybe one of the reasons behind this description has to do with Rousseau's refusal to accept the constitution of a separate and independent area of economics based on natural laws. This text explores this refusal analyzing Rousseau's explanation of the emergence of society as an artificial construction intended to guarantee its members freedom and equality. Rousseau provides a material foundation in order to achieve this goal through what he calls political or public economy or government, which corresponds to the administration and implementation of the law. The law is the expression of the general will and has nothing to do with any naturallaws whatsoever. Therefore, the economy corresponds to the application of positive lasaiming at supplying a material base for citizens' equality and freedom. The economic organization is always artificial for Rousseau and must follow the law as the conditions the people have established for their life in common, which take particular forms according to the people's characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Jimena HURTADO, 2007. "Naturallaws, artificial laws and the 'art of government': Rousseau's political economy as an 'art of exceptions'," Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, L'Harmattan, issue 53, pages 91-114.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpo:journl:y:2007:i:53:p:91-114

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B00 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - General - - - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches
    • B16 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Quantitative and Mathematical
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpo:journl:y:2007:i:53:p:91-114. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Carlos Andrés Vasco Correa). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.