Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, and Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family
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Traditional scholarship has portrayed these three thinkers as arch-rivals, since Burke and Wollstonecraft publicly condemned both each other and their forerunner Rousseau in their feuds about the family. Yet the careful comparative study of their works surprisingly reveals that they share more in common when it comes to their ideas on the family that even they ever admitted themselves.
All three political philosophers viewed the family as the primary "little platoon"to use Burke's phraseat inculcates the moral, social and civic virtues that serve as the foundation for any stable and humane society and political regime. Rousseau and Burke believed that the family could only function as a "little platoon" if it retained its patriarchal structure, while Wollstonecraft argued that only once the family was freed from class and patriarchal hierarchies could it fulfill its role as the nursery of the moral, social and civic virtues.
It is Wollstonecraft's vision of the egalitarian family that liberalism has inherited and legally enshrined. Yet the common ground between these three thinkers is relevant for resolving the feuds between progressives and conservatives over the contemporary crisis of the family in American liberalism.
The little platoons of the family and other sub-political institutions, such as churches and community organizations, serve as the cradle of the moral and civic virtues that the liberal state, with its respect for the sanctity of the private sphere and its toleration of a variety of views of the good life, cannot supply itself yet are crucial for its endurance, prosperity and the fulfillment of its political mission. Ethics in Value Theory, Miscellaneous. History: Toleration in Social and Political Philosophy.
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Ruth Abbey - - Hypatia 14 3 Sandra Berns - - Res Publica 11 2 Bryce J. Christensen - The Patient in the Family and the Family in the Patient. The Just Family. Family Fairness. Theories of Family in Ancient Chinese Philosophy. Zailin Zhang - - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 4 3 No cold relation is a zealous citizen. Throughout his speeches and writings on the politics of England, France, India, and his native Ireland, Burke revealed his deep-seated fear that the family would cease to serve as a little platoon once it lost its hierarchical structure because it would no longer reflect and reaffirm the natural order of the universe.
For Burke, the hierarchical family is the foundation of society and the state insofar as its patriarchal and class hierarchies channel and direct the natural affections for kindred into the constitution of the stabilizing social bonds of sympathy, civility, and patriotism. The publication of the Rights of Woman rendered her the most famous— and infamous—protofeminist of her time. Past scholarship has often underscored the contention between these three eighteenth-century political philosophers and upheld them as archenemies.
All three political theorists share a similar view of the function of the family as the primary venue for the inculcation of moral, social, and political virtues. Wollstonecraft argues that the egalitarian family—marked by moral, social, and political equality between spouses and siblings and parental respect for the dignity of children—can more effectively serve as a foundation for a modern republican society and state than its predecessor.
Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke and Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family
The egalitarian family alleviates the struggles for power that traditional hierarchies incite between relatives and classes; consequently, it allows for the proper fashioning of the social bonds of sympathy, civility, and patriotism. Wollstonecraft advanced a number of practical proposals for the egalitarian transformation of the family. She advocated reform of the divorce laws in her native England, in order that women could enjoy the same right as men to leave an abusive or adulterous spouse. She proposed the abolition of primogeniture, so that family property would be more equitably distributed among sons and daughters.
She desired girls and boys to be treated the same in the classroom and on the playing fields, so that they would learn to see each other as equals, not only as students, but also as future partners in marriage, business, and politics. The early Wollstonecraft, beholden by a bleak, Anglican-Augustinian view of human nature, views the patriarchal family as a cave that traps humanity in a morass of corruption with no hope of escape except in the next life. While losing hope in the power of radical politics or religious faith to transform or transcend the current, corrupt experience of family life, the late Wollstonecraft sustains some hope that successive generations of good parenting might open the prison of the patriarchal family in the future.
By contrasting their views on the question of the proper structure of the family, this book casts new light on the unexpected, underlying similarities between their respective understandings of the moral, social, and political functions of the family. Rousseau, Burke, and Wollstonecraft each use their common conception of the family as the basis of affective-social formation to undergird their particular visions of the ideal state.
All three were similarly concerned with how the family could serve as either a corrupting or a regenerative basis for the state, yet each theorized the family in the service of sustaining different political ends. Rousseau imagined the rural, patriarchal family as the fundamental forum for the moral formation, civic education, and political participation of the people of his ideal, legitimate, independent republic.
Burke envisioned the hierarchical family as the first, close-knit social unit in which common trials test and shape the characters of its members, and prepare them for the legally defined rights and duties of subjecthood or citizenship within a stable state whose optimal regime type is determined by its particular culture and history.
Wollstonecraft dreamed of an a new, egalitarian family whose recognition of the basic equality of the souls of its members would provide the moral and tutelary basis for a republican state in which the natural rights of all human beings, regardless of sex, race, or class, would be protected by law. She transplants their vision of the family as a schoolhouse for the moral and civic virtues into an egalitarian framework that we have in large part inherited today. Each of these political theorists recognized that affection for other people motivates human beings at least as much as—and sometimes more than— self-interest or self-preservation.
They also argued that the stability, independence, and ethical quality of any political society depended on the cultivation and direction of the affections toward the social formation of future subjects or citizens. By examining Rousseau, Burke, and Wollstonecraft through a comparative lens, we can better understand the way that their writings complicate and deepen our understanding of the Enlightenment.
Burke assailed the theorists and leaders of the French Revolution, but he was also respected by many of the radicals of his time as one of the most powerful critics of economic exploitation and political tyranny around the globe, especially in the colonies of the British Empire. Wollstonecraft used theological arguments to condemn the patriarchalism of the most prominent thinkers of her age, but she also understood herself as broadening the arguments of Locke and Rousseau to create a more egalitarian republicanism for the modern world.
A comparative look at their respective familial-political ideals offers us the opportunity to reassess the meaning of the Enlightenment, then and now. To attend to the broad range of moral and political concerns, rhetorical styles, and genres found across their works, the integration of philosophical, theological, historical, literary, normative, and feminist analysis seems desirable, if not necessary. This page intentionally left blank. As commentators as divergent as Mira Morgenstern and Arthur Melzer note, Rousseau uses paradox to advance seemingly contradictory proposals or viewpoints both within and across texts that he then reveals to be more apparent than real, either through a gradual series of qualifications to his initial, often extreme and conflicting statements, or by indicating the substantive overlap between his ostensibly disconnected pieces of writing.
Rousseau uses paradox to build competing cases, tear them down, and then lead the reader, through the rubble as it were, to an entirely unexpected conclusion. First, why does Rousseau defend an ideal of the family in works such as Julie and Emile that seems to stand at the margins of political society, while he constructs a robust theory of popular sover- ROUSSEAU 17 eignty in his vision of the ideal modern republic in the Social Contract?
A brief look at the context of the composition of these works sets the stage for understanding their philosophical interconnection. In , Rousseau published his most philosophically important work to date, the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, which came to be known as the Second Discourse. He inserted the Letter to the Republic of Geneva at the beginning of it, as a kind of preface to the longer treatise.
Partly in response to his estrangement from the philosophes, Rousseau composed and published Julie, Emile and the Social Contract almost simultaneously during his retreat from Parisian city life at the Hermitage, in the woods of Montmorency, France, between and Preux, and the less than perfect marriage of Julie and Wolmar.
The latter five works contain three tales—the tragic romance of Julie and her circle of lovers, family, and friends in the rural Vaud region of Switzerland during the s and s, the story of the education, courtship, marriage, and eventual separation of Emile and Sophie in mid-eighteenth century provincial France and urban Paris, and a philosophical and pragmatic account of how a republic, or a legitimate state founded on the sovereignty of the people, might come into existence in the modern world—that might at first seem unrelated, but at closer examination can be read as a philosophical trilogy.
Julie ends with a reference to the educational philosophy of Emile, and Emile ends with a reference to the political philosophy of the Social Contract. Emile and Sophie likewise begins where Emile ended, with a discussion of the marriage of its protagonists. Rousseau seems to construct ideal families, in Julie and Emile, which conspicuously occupy a place on the margins of society, in the rural countryside, far from the corruption of cities and seemingly dislocated from the business of politics.
In response to the apparent conflict between these texts, scholars have either argued that Rousseau believed the family and the state had irreconcilable purposes, or that his theory of the relationship between the family and the state is internally inconsistent. Continuing in this vein, I argue that Rousseau understands his theory of the ideal family and his theory of the ideal state to be interrelated, not discontinuous.
Nevertheless, these works together contribute to the realistic concession that this ideal is difficult to implement and maintain. The term is broad enough to signify the complex, and interdependent, bundle of geographic, demographic, economic, structural, and cultural qualities that Rousseau understands as constitutive of his ideal state and the predominantly non-urban, agricultural or fishing families that would compose it at the grassroots level. In the Social Contract, Rousseau argues that only a state with a specific set of rural characteristics can possess, practice, and preserve a legitimate, or republican, government in the modern world.
The adult men of his ideal republic would be both citizens lawmakers and subjects law-abiders , and thus practitioners of an authentic form of political self-governance, which stands in stark contrast to the mere subjecthood of the people who inhabit the illegitimate states of Europe. He never excludes the possibility that other candidates might exist in other parts of the world or might emerge in the future in Europe or elsewhere. On a remote and protected shoreline, his ideal state would have a self-sufficient fishing economy without the need, temptation, or ambition to engage in international commerce on the seas.
He worries that a fishing community would eventually veer toward the corruption of a naval empire. Even in the case of the island of Corsica, he proposes that it develop a self-sufficient agricultural economy, rather than depend on commerce via the sea. He neither wants to settle for the survivalist stance of the savage, nor accept the decadent luxury of the bourgeois.
Instead, he supports a moderate form of human society, which is close to nature yet not subjugated by it, and community-oriented yet not enslaved to the trappings of the arts, sciences, and unnecessary commerce. Rural mountainous peoples enjoy the conditions best suited for this moderate form of human society.
This is one reason why one sees so few well-constituted States. Then, little by little, the vices inseparable from these establishments will also arise and, gradually corrupting the nation in its tastes and principles, will alter and at last destroy the government. Once a republic loses its rural character, it loses everything. The sovereign assembly will meet infrequently to make political, civil, and criminal law if moeurs or moral codes—the most important form of law that is fostered largely by the family—are strong. In the meantime, the elected or lawfully appointed magistrates who constitute the government will do the daily business of administering the extant laws, leaving the door open for the remainder of the people to focus on the governance of their families and the inculcation of moeurs within them.
Rousseau imagines his ideal, rural, agricultural family as the primary trainingground for the development and practice of the moral codes, and the attendant moral, social, and civic virtues, necessary for the smooth and stable operation of his ideal, independent, rural republic. While he pragmatically concedes that urban families may exist in a republic with a small capital city, or a dispersed set of small cities, Rousseau prefers republics primarily or exclusively populated by rural families.
Rural families are ultimately more apt than urban families at the moral education of republican citizens because they stand apart from the artistic, commercial, and industrial excesses of civilization. Urban families, on the other hand, are more prone to corruption and thus are potentially detrimental to the health of the state if they are not properly structured. Rousseau argues that his ideal republican family, both rural and urban, must imitate its ancient models in Sparta and Rome with a patri- ROUSSEAU 25 archal structure and a strict system of sex-role differentiation.
By maintaining a division between the social roles of men and women as much as possible, the urban republican family can withstand the vices endemic to city life—such as the sexual corruption and competition fostered by social gatherings attended by both sexes—that the rural family largely sidesteps as a result of its countryside isolation. Yet the rural republican family must also be vigilant in its maintenance of a patriarchal structure and sex-role differentiation because moral corruption and conflict between the sexes are not endemic to cities alone for Rousseau, but to all human communities, no matter how big or small, since our collective fall from grace when humanity passed into civilization.
Why is Rousseau a defender of a sex-roled, patriarchal structure for the family, yet an advocate for dramatic changes in family life that empowered women and children within it? Rousseau defined his ideal of the republican family in critical dialogue with the bourgeois and aristocratic families of his time, and actually changed the way the family was conceived and practiced through the publication of his influential books Emile and Julie. These works exercised incalculable influence on both the theory and the practice of family life in the eighteenth century.
From early on in his writing career, Rousseau expressed fear about the destruction of the patriarchal, sex-roled structure of the family in his homeland, Geneva. Rousseau believed that the husband ought to be the legally and socially recognized head of the family, as was general practice at the time. He moreover affirmed that men, not women, should be citizens. The aristocratic family pitted its members against one another in a selfish quest to acquire a piece of the family estate, and, to this end, often sacrificed its daughters on the altar of arranged marriage.
Rather than offering a sound alternative to the aristocratic family, the bourgeois family enslaved its members to domestic materialism and consumer culture and blinded them to the duties of politics. In contrast to these existing historical models, Rousseau wanted the family to serve as a kind of schoolhouse for virtuous men and women who would be willing to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of the good of the whole community.
Rousseau promoted an alternative vision of family life that served as the moral and social basis of his new vision of republican politics. For Rousseau, the family is the educational space that turns selfish children into virtuous male citizens and female educators of citizens. According to Rousseau, love of family is the first step toward the transcendence of selflove and the realization of love of neighbor, fellow citizen, and the republic itself, for men and women alike. Rousseau argues that human beings, once they enter society, are pitted against one another in a competition for the attention of the opposite sex, or in a selfish quest to control their love interests once they capture them.
He concludes that the resultant battle of the sexes—in which women, due to their insatiable sexuality, have the upper hand—can only be pacified by the maintenance of a patriarchal, sex-roled structure for the family and society at large. He is especially concerned with the corruption of the rural family, the moral foundation of his ideal state, due to its fundamental incompatibility with, and exposure to, the burgeoning culture of the Enlightenment, or the eventual inevitability of population overgrowth and the rise of a wealthy, landowning class. He dreads that sexrole differentiation, the purifying influence of the wilderness, the civilizing force of feminine manners, the ancient moral virtues of rural family and community life, and the respect for certain beneficial social hierarchies tempered by a belief in fundamental human equality, all face certain extinction in the face of the march of Western technology, commerce, industry, art, science, and philosophy.
Rousseau fears that the families of the rural Swiss countryside, and the urban families of the republic of Geneva, will share the same fate as their classical republican counterparts in ancient Sparta and republican Rome, whose downfall he mourns as well. Yet when one considers— alongside Rousseau—the complex array of circumstances it would take to put this theory into practice in the modern world, a real tension arises between the possibility of bringing his ideal family and ideal state ROUSSEAU 29 together in a unified way.
The difficulty of ever realizing this goal is perhaps the reason why Rousseau separated his most prominent treatments of the family, in Emile and Julie, from his classic meditation on the state, in the Social Contract. Yet by providing important textual and philosophical links between these texts, Rousseau keeps open the door to contemplating the moral and political desirability of reconciling the ends of the family and the state in a symbiotic whole, no matter whether the ideal can be fully achieved in reality. Rousseau founds his ideal of the rural republic on a new vision of the family as the primary forum for socialization, civic education, and republican political participation in the most holistic sense.
Rousseau offered a new model of family life—distinct from the existing historical and philosophical models—that became wildly popular and influential in the wake of the success of his twin romantic philosophical novels, Julie and Emile. First, I examine the four works from the late s that together function as a kind of philosophical prolegomena that sets forth the basic terms, concepts, and arguments that Rousseau uses to build his conception of rural republicanism.
Rousseau begins the essay by carefully distinguishing between the structure, governance, and purposes of the family and the state. Yet he ends by suggesting that the family, though distinct from the state, has a fundamental role in politics. The moral education it provides for its children serves as the surest and most practical foundation for civic virtue, especially a sense of patriotic duty, in the modern republican state.
A close examination of the arguments of the treatise reveals the compatibility of these two positions that initially appear contradictory. Rousseau moves on, however, to dispute those who blur the line between the goals and the governance of the family and the state. In the very next line, he reveals the intention behind his initial separation of the family and the state.
The family should remain distinct from the state while serving as its moral and economic foundation. Governed by love and a moderate form of patriarchal authority, the family seeks to cultivate the natural, domestic affections and shape them, through habit and discipline, into moral and civic virtues that regulate the behavior of its members. In this vital role, the family cannot easily be replaced, especially since state-organized, or public, education is unlikely to work in the modern world as it once worked in ancient Crete.
The clear line Rousseau draws between the family and the state also provides for the protection of the distinct identity of the state against the potentially corrosive influence of the family. Governed by universal laws reflective of the general will, the republican state seeks to serve the common good of the people who act as its sovereign. If the state were governed like a family, it would fail to complete its express purpose: to serve its citizens according to the general will or common good. If it were governed by partial passions and love of particular individuals, as in family life, it would be rife with factions and unable to serve the common good.
If a patriarch ruled the state, as in the family, the state would not be a republic, or a legitimate government, since Rousseau only recognizes governments ruled by a sovereign popular assembly as legitimate. After distinguishing between the internal dynamics of the family and the state, Rousseau argues that the family and the state are nevertheless bound together in a pivotal political relationship.
Since there are laws for maturity, there should be laws for childhood that teach obedience to others. He describes the ancient practice of public education only to discard it as a formerly honorable, but presently impractical, method of educating the denizens and citizens of a modern republic. He contends that private, family-based education is more practical given the larger size of modern republics. Only three ancient peoples succeeded in practicing public education—Lacedaemonia, Crete, and Persia— because they maintained a relatively small size.
Private, family-based education, on the other hand, succeeded in producing legions of virtuous citizens for the vast empire of Rome. Moreover, public education as it was practiced by these ancient peoples supplanted the moral authority, affectionate pull, and educative role of the family, turned the state into a kind of parent, and thus violated the conceptual divide between the family and the state that he establishes at the beginning of the essay.
Hence, Rousseau argues that the best way to produce patriotic and virtuous citizens is to protect and preserve the private family as the training-ground in which these virtues are fostered and taught. Now since this inclination in us can be useful only to those with whom we have to live, it is good that that the sentiment of humanity, concentrated among fellow-citizens, acquire in them added force through the habit of seeing one another, and the common interest that unites them.
If public education in the classical style is not possible in the modern world, then the best option for modern republics is to rely heavily on private education within the home. But the fact of the matter is that in that primitive state, since nobody had houses or huts or property of any kind, each one bedded down in some random spot and often only for one night. Males and females came together fortuitously as a result of chance encounters, occasion and desire. Once they had the strength to look for their food, they did not hesitate to leave the mother herself.
And since there was practically no other way of finding one another than not to lose sight of one another, they were soon at the point of not even recognizing one another. Their independence and antisociability lend an air of equality to men and women in the state of nature because they do not interact enough to render their physical inequalities pertinent.
Yet once human beings make the transition to society from the state of nature, the difference in physical strength becomes relevant. The shift from the state of nature to society takes place in several stages, all of which involve the development of closer family relationships and stronger social bonds. The instinct of pity brings primitive nomads together in loose, unorganized groups that come together only to help each other in matters of survival.
The habit of living together gave rise to the sweetest sentiments known to men: conjugal love and paternal love. Each family became a little society all the better united because mutual attachment and liberty were its only bonds; ROUSSEAU 35 and it was then that the first difference was established in the lifestyle of the two sexes, which until then only had one. According to Rousseau, until the rise of the family home, there is no difference in the lifestyle of the sexes.
It is fascinating to note that Rousseau believes the family as well as sex-role differentiation are not purely natural phenomena, but rather are products of social convention and, in particular, a consequence of the introduction of private property. Rousseau anticipates the feminist, Marxist, and postmodernist arguments that sex roles are largely a result of social practices and economic relations. He differs from these contemporary schools of thought, however, insofar as he regards these sex roles as necessary for the stability of human political society, and insofar as he regard certain sex-roled activities and practices as preferable because they are, in his view, closer to nature than others.
While Rousseau acknowledges that all aspects of nature are shaped by society once humans leave the state of nature, he continues to make distinctions between different levels of naturalness and unnaturalness within society. Why does Rousseau believe that sex-role differentiation plays an irreplaceable role in the creation of a stable society and state? The social passions of love and amour-propre irrevocably shape the human experience, and human nature itself, from this point forward. Humans in society, driven by amour-propre, compete with one another and strive to dominate each other.
Achieving a delicate balance of power between the sexes depends on their assumption of different but complementary and interdependent roles: women depend on men, as husbands, citizens, and soldiers, to protect them and defend their interests in the public sphere, and men depend on women, as wives and mothers, to raise their children and provide a good moral example for the family as a whole. Men can no longer conquer women solely on the basis of physical strength; romantic love and monogamy replace the savage practices of rape and polygamy as the means of sexual gratification.
Sex-role differentiation entails that women remain in the domestic realm as wives and mothers, while men bridge the domestic and public realms. For this reason, he upholds women as the empresses of the domestic realm, while defending the role of men as the patriarchs who oversee the conduct of family life as their wives manage the details. Both exert power over each other and keep the other in check.
By writing to his homeland, Rousseau literally writes his home—and his hopes and fears for its future—into his thinking on the ideal structure for the family. In the Letter to the Republic of Geneva, which was attached to the beginning of the Second Discourse, Rousseau praises the republic of Geneva for its long-standing practice of sex-role differentiation, in the tradition of the exemplary ancient republics like Sparta: Could I forget that precious half of the republic which produces the happiness of the other and whose gentleness and wisdom maintain peace and good moeurs?
Amiable and virtuous women citizens, it will always be the fate of your sex to govern ours. Happy is it when your chaste power exercised only within the conjugal union, makes itself felt only for the glory of the state and the public happiness! Thus it was that in Sparta women were in command, and thus it is that you deserve to be in command in Geneva. It is for you to maintain always, by your amiable and innocent dominion and by your insinuating wit, the love of laws in the state and concord among the citizens. Women set the moral codes for the republic through their example of modesty, self-control, and selfless care of their husbands and children.
Rousseau is particularly afraid of the unfathomable depths of female sexual desire. For Rousseau, the power struggle between the sexes is an inescapable facet of human society that can be sublimated into marital love, for example but never eliminated. Julie was one of the most popular novels in eighteenth-century Europe.
Rousseau pretends that real people from the Vaud region of Switzerland have written the letters that constitute his novel Julie, and that he is merely the editor of the volume. How could they behold the tableau of this happy couple without wanting to imitate such an attractive model?
When they are through reading, they will be neither saddened by their estate nor repelled by their chores. They will fulfill the same functions, but they will fulfill them with a changed soul, and will do as genuine patriarchs what they had been doing as peasants. Rousseau does not intend the book for the corrupt Parisian elite.
Eileen Hunt Botting – CRASSH
He sorrowfully concedes that young maidens who have read romantic novels are already corrupt before they turn a page of his collection of letters. Yet he maintains that his book will not contribute to the further decay of their characters. While Julie certainly celebrates the ideal of rural family life with the Wolmar home, it ultimately presents the eternal, romantic love of Julie and St. Preux as far more desirable, compelling, and sincere than the cold marital union of the Wolmars. Rousseau understood the socially subversive quality of celebrating a passionate ideal of romantic love that challenges extant social codes concerning marriage and thus engages in a kind of pragmatic self-censorship when defining the intended audience for the work in the second preface.
He no doubt anticipated his critics, such as Burke and Wollstonecraft, who argued that the racy story of Julie and St. Preux would corrupt young men and women with its brash celebration of love, secret courtship, and sexual passion outside the bonds of marriage. Perhaps these provincial folk, already united in the bonds of love and marriage, and far removed from the corrupt cultural and marital expectations of the aristocratic class and the decadent trends of city life, would be more likely to preserve the patriarchal, sex-roled structure of the family and incorporate more egalitarian practices such as respect for the fundamental dignity of all family members, the empowerment of mothers as the educators of citizens, practicing maternal breast-feeding rather than hiring wetnurses, a system of childhood education that heralds physical freedom and moral autonomy above all else, and even the notion of marriage as ideally grounded on love and free choice, rather than familial and classbased arrangements only insofar as they support the moral and political stability of the state.
Preux, her lowly tutor, between and Preux, offer to Julie and St. It is not perfect, however, and Rousseau intends it to be flawed. I will be faithful, because that is the first duty which binds the family and all of society. I will be chaste, because that is the first virtue which nurtures all the others.
Like the rural republican families of the Swiss Valais that St. Preux celebrates in his early love letters to Julie at the beginning of the novel, the Wolmars create a sex-roled household in which the husband rules as the patriarch but the wife is the manager of all the domestic affairs. In his letters from a Valaisan village, St.
Preux draws a direct parallel between the republican freedom of the Valaisan family and the republican freedom of the Valaisan republic. A number of hierarchies are maintained and respected, however: the father rules the house; the underage children must respect the will of their parents, and their difference in stature manifests itself in their separate eating arrangements; the distinction between master and servant, though absent at the dinner table, remains at all other times.
Sex-role differentiation plays an important part in the organization of the rural republican families of the Swiss Valais. The women direct the course of the family while serving its needs, and express their feminine power and virtue through their submissiveness. Preux, but it is missing the sincere affection, and the distance from corrupt aristocratic norms of marriage and family life, that it needs for its long-term endurance. Wolmar is much like the tutor of Emile; he appears all-knowing and all-controlling in his rule of his family at Clarens.
The microcosm of the Wolmar family seems to replicate the hierarchies of the natural order of the universe on a small scale. He demands absolute honesty and sincerity from all who dwell in his estate at Clarens, so that supposedly no secrets are kept among its members. Structurally, economically, and geographically, however, the Wolmar family maintains the outward appearance of the families of the rural Swiss countryside it occupies. Like the rural republican families of the Valais, the Wolmar family locates itself in an isolated countryside location: Clarens is an actual small town on the north side of Lake Geneva in the Vaud country.
As in the second preface of the work, Rousseau intentionally blurs the distinction between fiction and fact by giving the Wolmar family a real point on the map. Like the Valaisan families, the Wolmar family organizes itself around hierarchies based on birth, rank, class, and sex. Although their family supports the recognition of natural and social hierarchies between husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and servants, the Wolmars strive to infuse their home with a spirit of freedom, equality, and affection like the rural republican families of the Valais.
They create traditions, like the family dinner of the Valaisan villagers, that celebrate the fundamental equality of all the people in their household, alongside their distinct and indispensable social roles. They host dances and festivals that bring together the servants, vineyard and farm workers, and the members of their immediate and extended family.
Yet they carefully maintain strict patterns of sex-role differentiation in their daily household activities. Male and female servants cannot mix together, and even Julie and Wolmar separate after their breakfast in the morning to take care of their respective household duties. Julie devotes most of her time to the care and education of her children, while Wolmar oversees the work of the servants in the vineyard and the farm.
Agricultural self-sufficiency is the modest, and moderate, economic goal of the Wolmar family, which ensures its independence from the corrupt excesses of bourgeois commerce. Under the guise of self-denial, Julie indulges her love for coffee just as she indulges her love for St. However apparently well-organized in the structural or economic sense, the Wolmar family does not seem to have any connection to the aristocratic government of the Vaud country within which it exists.
Puzzlingly, the men who inhabit the Wolmar family at Clarens—Wolmar, St. Lord Bomston is the lone exception; as a loyal member of the British House of Lords who idolizes Britain as a republic devoted to the service of the common good, he balances his political duties and his military duties alongside his commitment to build a home next door to his friends at Clarens.
Your system is very well confirmed here. Near the end of the novel, Julie and Wolmar discuss with St. Preux their intention to have him serve as the tutor for their children. They outline an alternative form of education, which replicates the main precepts of Emile, for St. Preux in this Emilean fashion. Preux from Wolmar, Julie, and Claire that reveal the emotional breakdown of the Wolmar household. Yet there is no letter from St. Emile also shows us how Rousseau ideally envisions a boy and a girl could be raised with the hope of marrying for love, and building a happy rural family life together in the modern world, without the class-based, cultural and familial obstacles that Julie and St.
Preux faced to making this dream happen for themselves. To the contrary, the abrupt, and ultimately unsatisfying, conclusion of the novel suggests that Rousseau intended the questions it raises to be more fully answered in its sequel, Emile. Emile is perhaps best understood as the philosophical bridge between the theory of the family set forth in Julie and the neorepublican doctrine of the Social Contract. Julie ends with a reference to the educational philosophy of Emile, when Emile likewise ends with reference to the ideas of the Social Contract, when the tutor introduces Emile to the study of republican politics as a preparation for his marriage to Sophie.
Emile has puzzled generations of scholars because its system of childhood education seems impossible to fully realize under any normal social and familial circumstances. Emile is the story of an orphan boy who is raised by a tutor from infancy to adulthood, and then introduced to a young woman, Sophie, who will become his wife.
The narrator of the book, Rousseau, creates the fictional identity of the tutor for himself. He then creates the fictional characters of Emile and Sophie so he can explore, in theory, the possibilities for raising a child and arranging a marriage as close as possible to the dictates of nature as they exist in society , rather than conforming to the corrupt constraints of society alone. The tutor exerts a totalitarian power over his young charge, controlling him like a marionette in more than twenty years of highly orchestrated tutelary episodes.
The tutor keeps Emile in the country, far from civilization, the city, and even most people. Emile only meets a handful of people during his childhood and adolescence, and all of these encounters are arranged by the tutor to fulfill some sort of educational mission. The only real freedom Emile enjoys is playing outdoors in nature, but even then the tutor is always watching from afar. Emile does not experience any normal form of family life—he has no mother, no father, no siblings, but only the tutor to guide him and provide for his care and upbringing.
Why did Rousseau write a treatise on childhood education that initially rejects conventional family life and seems impossible to practice under any normal social circumstances? The question of whether boys could or should really be educated in the manner of Emile is moot for Rousseau. Obviously, many of his prescriptions for childhood education were meant to be practical and practiced—such as his strident call for mothers to breast-feed their own children, for infants to be freed from swaddling clothes, and for children to freely play outdoors, so that their growth and health would not be impeded—and these tenets became popular and influential in actual childrearing practices in late eighteenth-century Europe.
The radically different educations of Emile and Sophie anticipate the patriarchal structure and sex-role differentiation of their marriage and family life. Ideally, Emile would be born into, or would have the chance to become a member of, an authentic republic wherein he would be both a subject a law-abider and a citizen a law-maker. The historical realist in Rousseau, however, places Emile in mid-eighteenth-century France, under its corrupt monarchy, to show how a man can still be educated for the rights and duties of authentic subjecthood and citizenship, and preparing future generations for such an end, even if he initially is only faced with accepting the duties of subjecthood to laws he has not made himself.
The male and female bodies are trained for different ends that have radical implications for the body politic. Within her own family, Sophie is trained to be an attractive woman, a good wife and mother, and the ruler of the empire of the domestic realm. Emile lacks a mother because Rousseau wanted to imagine a man who is raised apart from the corruption of the bourgeois and aristocratic families of his time.
Emile must be made subject to the power of the feminine empire of the family, but he must not be made effeminate—otherwise he will not be a man, subject, or citizen, but rather only a weak bourgeois slave. On a large scale, it includes the realm of civil society that inhabits the space between the family and the state. Although women in postrevolutionary France and America did not share the same civil or political rights as men, they often understood themselves as shaping the body politic through their role as republican mothers, the educators of patriots and citizens.
In Book III, the tutor introduces Emile to outdoor manual labor as the next step in his physical education. Rousseau considers the sedentary life suitable for only women, eunuchs, and weak bourgeois slaves. Men who dwell in the feminine empire of the family without periodically escaping to revive their manhood through outdoor work and exercise become completely effeminized and emasculated.
Rousseau argues that the main problem with modern education is that it produces neither men nor citizens, but rather petty bourgeois slaves and tyrants. These men are slaves to amour-propre, or the narcissistic impulse to compare themselves to others. They are also tyrants in their selfish quest to dominate their competition. He will be good neither for himself nor for others. He will be one of these men of our days: a Frenchman, an Englishman, a bourgeois.
He will be nothing.
This does not mean, however, that Emile can be either, or neither, a man or a citizen. Rather, it means that education must first serve the ends of nature and subsequently the ends of society. First, the education of nature produces a man; second, this man is introduced to the education of society within the rural family, forging the perfect hybrid of man and citizen, or a man who is capable of accepting and performing the duties of subjecthood in any corrupt regime, and the rights and duties of republican citizenship and subjecthood if he is so lucky to inhabit a legitimate state.
He is defeated. He goes home delighted that there were three hundred men worthier than he to be found in Sparta. I take this display to be sincere, and there is no reason to believe that it was. This is the citizen. A Helot arrives; trembling, she asks him for news. This is the female citizen. They live only for the state, not for themselves or their families. Domestic education or the education of nature, in contrast, can bring about the perfect balance between man and citizen.
Emile has been raised to find authentic self-governance in his own heart and in his own family, even if he cannot also find it within his state. I believe I see the people multiplying, the fields being fertilized, the earth taking on a new adornment. The crowd and the abundance transform work into festivals, and cries of joy and benedictions arise from the midst of the games which center on the lovable couple who brought them back to life. You will do no more than complete together what her worthy parents have begun. They will experience in an authentic way what the Wolmars attempted to create at Clarens with the festivals and dances staged for their farm and vineyard workers.
Their own rural family may not inhabit a republic, but it will help to create a culture in which future rural families will be able to serve as the moral foundation of a state with popular sovereignty. It is clear that Rousseau upholds republicanism as the best form of government in his major political works, from his abstract theory of popular sovereignty in the Social Contract, to his actual prescriptions for republican constitutions in Corsica and Poland, to his long-standing concern with the moral and political health of his native republican city, Geneva, to his continual appeals to the historical examples of the republics of Sparta, Rome, and Venice when constructing his own theoretical proposals for the ideal state.
Yet Rousseau completely reformulates the meaning of republicanism for the modern age in his revolutionary political treatise, the Social Contract. The Social Contract is primarily a study of how popular sovereignty and the various forms of legitimate government that may be founded on it can be realized.
The members of the popular assembly are both citizens and subjects of the republic; they are citizens insofar as they make law, and subjects insofar as they obey it. A republican state grounded on popular sovereignty may take several forms of government. Rousseau surveys the advantages and disadvantages of the monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic forms of government.
While he defends democracy as the form of government best suited for a republican state that has an evenly distributed population proportional to its small geographic size, he acknowledges that a pure democracy is the most difficult form of government to practice, because the same people would serve as the legislative power, or citizenlegislators, in the sovereign assembly, and as the executive power, or magistrates, in the government.
Because the monarch literally stands alone, apart, and at a distance from the citizen-subjects of the geographically expansive state, he does not have enough checks on his executive power and thus can more easily abuse it than a group of magistrates could. Rousseau seems most inclined to defend the elective aristocratic form of government a small number of magistrates elected by the popular assembly as the most stable and enduring form of government that is free from the dangers of either mob or monarchical tyranny.
Such a government is best suited for a republican state that has an evenly distributed population proportional to its moderate geographic size. In a word, the best and most natural order is to have the wisest govern the multitude, so long as it is certain that they will govern it for its advantage and not for their own; institutions and procedures should not be multiplied needlessly, nor should twenty thousand men be employed to do what a hundred well chosen men can do even better. Here, it becomes clear that while Rousseau remains a vehement critic of the cultural practices of hereditary aristocracy such as the class system and its unjust institutionalization of arbitrary economic and social inequalities , he is not opposed to the practical value of elective aristocracy as a mode of government for a republican state.
For example, Rousseau believes it is possible to have a republic with a monarchical government, wherein the monarch is solely the administrator of the laws made by the sovereign people. For reasons mentioned earlier, however, he admits that this form of government will likely deteriorate into tyranny. Here, it is important to note that what matters most for Rousseau is the proportional relationship between population and land mass, and the even distribution of the population throughout the country. The population should neither be sparse, and fodder for tyranny, or dense, and ripe for moral corruption—but rather, even, moderate, and capable of sustaining a self-sufficient agricultural economy.
In other words, all forms of republican government—democratic, aristocratic, monarchical, or mixed—can be best administered in states that are essentially rural or not dominated by a single city or set of cities. Rousseau has the most hope that small to medium-size states with mainly rural populations and democratic or elective aristocratic governments can found and practice enduring, genuine republics grounded on popular sovereignty.
Such states have enough geographic space to support a self-sufficient agricultural economy, in which the labor of its denizens yields produce in moderate excess of its needs. Just as he expands the meaning of the term republicanism from mixed government, as it was understood in the classical and Renaissance traditions, to a range of forms of government founded on popular sovereignty, Rousseau expands the meaning of popular political participation.
He portrays the rural family as the moral foundation of the republican state, even though it often stands remote from the actual daily governance of the state. The physical distance of these rural families from the governmental administration of the republics they inhabit is not a sign that Rousseau believed that the natural man and the citizen ROUSSEAU 57 could never be reconciled, that one could choose either the natural life of the countryside or the political life of the city. Rather, the rural families of Emile and Julie attempt to illustrate how this idyllic reconciliation of nature and culture could be possible—though, like all human social institutions, they are not immune to the difficulties of implementation or the inevitable threat of corruption.
For it is within the family that the invaluable project of the moral and civic education of citizens first takes shape, and rural families, because of the protective buffer between them and the corruption of the city and even the daily administration of the republic, serve this purpose better than their urban counterparts.
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Consequently, the male citizens participate in the political life of the republic mainly through the care, support, and education of their families. It is the preservation and prosperity of its members? And what is the surest sign that they are preserving themselves and prospering? It is their number and their population. A rotating location for the popular assembly respects the integrity of the various rural communities that form the state. Remember that the walls of cities are only built with the wreckage of farmhouses. For each Palace I see rise in the capital, I seem to see an entire countryside reduced to hovels.
The mothers of these rural families, though excluded from formal citizenship, perform a political role perhaps even more important than any vote cast in the popular assembly, and equal in selflessness as that of the soldier. Rousseau glorifies women as the primary educators of future citizens and the inculcators and caretakers of manners and moeurs and, as such, they exert as much, or perhaps even more, influence on politics, as it is most broadly conceived, compared to their male counterparts. The first education of men depends on the care of women. Because women are the chief architects of moeurs in the next generation, they act as the main conservators of the moral and social order of the republic.
Rousseau , claimed Rousseau as her hero. His famous fictional female heroines, Julie and Sophie, provided unforgettable illustrations of the power he expected women to wield within the constraints of the patriarchal family. Late eighteenth-century women writers from both sides of the political spectrum—religious conservatives such as Hannah More and radical republicans such as Helen Maria Williams—embraced the Rousseauian ideal of motherhood and wifehood because it called attention to the positive moral influence that women may exercise over men, children, and future generations of citizens.
Rousseau thus stands in late eighteenth-century European political thought as a paradoxical supporter of both female empowerment and male patriarchal authority. It is precisely this paradoxical character of his thinking that has captivated the imagination of his followers, and ignited the critical fires of his enemies, from his own time to the present day. Emile and Sophie tells the sad tale of how the marriage and family of his two protagonists falls apart when they move from the rural countryside to the corrupt environs of Paris.
Seduced by the mixed social gatherings in the city, Sophie commits adultery and becomes pregnant by her lover. Devastated, Emile abandons his wife and their young son for a solitary life. The story ends with Emile enslaved by a series of foreign masters, from a Barbary pirate to the governor of Algiers. As a slave and a servant, Emile rediscovers, despite his chains, the natural, internal freedom and independence of mind and spirit that the tutor had instilled in him as a boy. Emile returns to the only state of nature available to him—the oasis of his own soul and mind, where he stands free of any bonds or any betrayals.
Emile and Sophie charts the tragic fall of the rural family as found in Emile.