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

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  • Jimena HURTADO

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Abstract

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
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    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

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