Front Page Titles (by Subject) 123.: On Rousseau and His Utopia - Judgments on History and Historians
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123.: On Rousseau and His Utopia - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On Rousseau and His Utopia
(I) Rousseau’s utopia had already spread widely from the educated circles down to the semi-educated. This utopia was composed of, and sustained by, the following premises. Human nature was assumed to be good once the barriers were taken down; in connection with this, virtuous feelings, compassion, and the like were extolled and the praises of primitive man were sung at the expense of civilized man; arguments or actions were advanced transcending individual nations, in the name of mankind; the assumption was made of an original contract into which things could be put at will (the more cautious spoke of a tacitly made contract); then, from the “social contract” there were derived liberty and equality, the latter assuming that all men should possess something, but none too much; finally, the volonté de tous [will of all] and the volonté générale [general will] were to be balanced, without its being stated who was to determine the latter.
The French were familiarized with the idea of a leap into the uncertain; the general need for emotion played its part here.
(II) It is strange that Rousseau makes no use of the real, concrete life and sorrows of the French common man whom he must have known so well, but remains a theorist, a utopian. Was this perhaps done so as not to scare away his only possible readership at the time? The new views had ample time over a period of two generations to gain acceptance.
(III) J.-J. Rousseau remained a plebeian. His warmth of heart was only apparent. The Confessions are characterized by an effect of astonishment, a melancholy-rebellious tone, an unnerving dreaminess, and virtuous feelings rather than virtue; there is something un-French about them.