Rousseau’s Volonte Génèrale Demystified

Suzie (Soo Jin) Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of the ‘General
will’ (Volonte Génèrale) remains the locus of
heated interpretative debates in political philosophy
to this day. Specifically, scholars have puzzled
over the passage in the The Social Contract where
Rousseau states that the individual is wrong about
his interests when his conception of interests
diverges from the General will. This passage
raises the following interpretative questions: in
what way(s) may the individual fail to recognize
his own interests? And how are the interests that
one may fail to recognize related to one’s interests
in upholding the General will? I address these
questions by proposing an interpretation of the
General will that is both faithful to the basic tenets
of methodological individualism, and to Rousseau’s
claim that the General will is not reducible to the
mere sum of individuals’ interests.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125
Number of pages158
JournalThe Korean Review of Political Thought
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • General will
  • methodological individualism
  • freedom
  • common interest
  • self-interest


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