A preliminary analysis of Rousseau's Considerations on the government of Poland



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This essay enters into an analysis of one of Rousseau's less frequently read works, the Considerations on the Government of Poland in an attempt to understand this treatise in relation to his more familiar The Social Contract. We discover that the Government of Poland continues Rousseau's attack on the typical form of the modern political regime, and does so in order to show the way to his conception of ancient virtue. The overarching theme of the work may be said to be Ancients vs. Moderns. Contrary to popluar views, Rousseau is not urging an overthrow of the existing institutions in order that he may superintend a return to the state of nature; rather the thread which runs throughout the work is the continual confrontation of modern political practice with what he considers to be the superior practices of Sparta and Rome. Indeed, the Government of Poland can be taken as a kind of provisional model for the grander programme of refounding the nation-state along lines prescribed by the study of the ancients. It is also a work that gives us a new perspective when read in the context of democratic theory since it is an attempt by a major political philosopher to apply principles of democratic theory to a concrete political regime.