Monday, March 11, 2013

Rousseau: jacobino ou "reaccionário"?

The Reactionary Rousseau, por Bertrand de Jouvenal, em The American Conservative (versão original, escrita em 1962):

In the Social Contract, Rousseau offered no recipe for turning the government of a large and complex society into a democracy: on the contrary, he offered a demonstration that on the one hand great numbers, on the other requirement of great activity in Government inevitably led to the centralization of political authority in a few hands, which he regarded as the opposite of Democracy. Quite early, Rousseau had expressed alarm about plans for the radical reconstruction of the French political system, and in the Dialogues designed for posthumous publication he complained bitterly:

His object could not be to bring back large population and big States to the initial simplicity but only to arrest, if possible, the progress of those small and isolated enough for their preservation form their perfection of Society and the deterioration of the species…But the bad faith of men of letters and that silly vanity which forever persuades everyone that he is being thought of, causes great nations to apply to themselves what was meant for small Republics; and, perversely, one wished to see a promoter of subversion and troubles in the man who is most prone to respect national laws and constitutions and who has the strongest aversion for revolutions, and for ligueurs of all kind, who return the compliment.

The mere quoting of Peter the Great as a model of what should not be done suffices to stress that Rousseau deliberately advanced the view opposed to that of the Philosophes. They all thought highly of Peter’s efforts to “westernize” the Russian people; indeed in his day they were enamored of Catherine the Great, who was pursuing the same object, denounced by Rousseau. Jean-Jacques’s position here is consistent with the more general and extreme statement he made twenty years earlier in the preface to Narcisse: “Everything which facilitates communication between the several nations carries to each not the virtues but the vices of another, and alters in all the mores suitable to its climate and constitution.”

Again his attitude is opposed to that of the Philosophers, and to the modern attitude, in terms of administration. They were all in favor of centralization: he stands against it. He would like to see Poland “a confederation of thirty-three small States.” This fully accords with his desire to involve all citizens in public affairs, and with his finding that the proportion of those so involved declines as membership of the body politic increases. It seems strange that Rousseau should have been invoked as patron by the centralizing Jacobins.

Political confederation rather than unification, limited rather universal suffrage, systematic cultivation of national traits rather than westernization, self-sufficiency rather than foreign trade, rural life rather than westernization, taxes in kind rather than in money, subsistence agriculture associated with cottage crafts rather than farming for the market and establishment of industrial complexes – at every point Rousseau’s advice to the Poles stands in contradiction to that which is now currently given to under-developed countries.

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