Voting the general will: Rousseau on decision rules

Melissa Schwaitzberg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Scholars exploring the logic of Rousseau's voting rules have typically turned to the connection between Rousseau and the Marquis de Condorcet. Though Condorcet could not have had a direct influence on Rousseau's arguments about the choice of decision rules in Social Contract, the possibility of a connection has encouraged the view that Rousseau's selection of voting rules was based on epistemic reasons. By turning to alternative sources of influence on Rousseau - the work of Hugo Grotius and particularly that of Samuel Pufendorf - a moral, and not purely epistemic, logic of rules governing collective decision making emerges. For Rousseau, as for Pufendorf, the proper choice of voting rule can elicit the appropriate attitude of an individual with respect to the decision of the whole, and can support the morally significant activity of acknowledging error upon discovering that one has voted against the general will.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)403-423
    Number of pages21
    JournalPolitical Theory
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jun 2008


    • Condorcet
    • General will
    • Majority rule
    • Pufendorf
    • Rousseau

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science


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