Social Contract, Masochist Contract: Aesthetics of Freedom and Submission in Rousseau

SUNY Press
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Provocative reading of the role masochism plays in
structuring the aesthetics and political philosophy of Jean-Jacques

Theorization of sensual desire was not uncommon in the
eighteenth century; like many materialists of the French Enlightenment,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau rejected imperatives founded on metaphysical suppositions
and viewed the senses as the only valid source of philosophical knowledge. In
Social Contract, Masochist Contract, Fayçal Falaky demonstrates that
what distinguishes Rousseau is that the foundational measure on which he bases
his materialist philosophy is a sexual instinct endowed, paradoxically, with the
same sublime, self-abnegating attributes historically associated with Christian,
metaphysical desire. To understand the aesthetics of Rousseau’s masochism is,
Falaky argues, to understand how ideals of Christian morality and spiritual
ennoblement survived the Enlightenment, and how God died, only to be repackaged
in new fetishes. Whether it is the imperious mistress of his erotic fantasies,
the Arcadian nature of his philosophical reveries, or the sublime Law designed
to elevate the citizen from enslaving appetite, Rousseau’s fetishes herald the
new regulative Ideals of the modern secular state.
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About the author

Fayçal Falaky is Assistant Professor of French at Tulane University.
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Additional Information

SUNY Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2014
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Literary Criticism / European / French
Philosophy / Aesthetics
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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