On the Intention of Rousseau by Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss, “On the Intention of Rousseau,” Social Research 14 (1947): pp. 455-487


The antiquarian controversy about the intention of Rousseau conceals a political controversy about the nature of democracy. Modern democracy might seem to stand or fall by the claim that “the method of democracy” and “the method of intelligence” are identical. To understand the implications of this claim one naturally turns to Rousseau, for Rousseau, who considered himself the first theoretician of democracy, regarded the compatibility of democracy, or of free government in general, with science not as a fact which is manifest to everyone but rather as a serious problem.