The General Will is Citizenship: Inquiries into French Political Thought
- Publish Date: 2000-11-28
- Binding: Paperback
- Author: Jason Andrew Neidleman
In The General Will is Citizenship, Jason Neidleman advances a republican conception of citizenship, which is described and defended through a piercing analysis of the general will in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, leaders of the French Revolution, and Restoration-era liberals. Neidleman explains that the 'general will' is the will members of society have qua citizen, as opposed to the will they have qua private individual. It encapsulates tensions fundamental to egalitarian politics--tensions between individual autonomy and the collective good, between voluntarism and virtue, between popular will and rational will. Essential to the general will is its foundation in a conception of civic virtue, roughly understood as the subordination of private interests to the common good. Rather than appeal to universal reason or natural law, theorists of the general will look to the formation of citizens as the only way to secure justice and legitimacy, they attend to the social and cultural prerequisites to the flourishing of those principles. Consequently, all of the theorists studied in The General Will is Citizenship are concerned with the viability of democratic regimes and principles, as well as with the philosophical justification of those principles themselves. From within the framework of this dual emphasis, Neidleman constructs a picture of citizenship that both engages contemporary democratic theory and illuminates some of the more important changes and continuities in the French political tradition.