Rousseau’s Considerations on the Government of Poland and the General Will Beyond Borders
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Kyungpook National University
Publication date: 2020-06-24
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2016;52(2):323–342
Jean Jacques Rousseau’s thought is typically understood as avowing either cosmopolitan principles or patriotic ones. While a few studies have considered the compatibility of these principles, mostly Rousseau’s cosmopolitan ideas seem impractical or even incompatible with his approach to republican political theory. This is especially asserted in regard to the affective or emotional ties and commitments that allow Rousseauian citizens to practice the politics of common goods. Karma Nabulsi argues, outside of this typical dichotomy, that Rousseau’s General Will and the affective ties between people that go with it are actually compatible with global politics. This article returns to this issue and shows that Nabulsi is right but that the General Will can only be transnational; it cannot be cosmopolitan. Using Rousseau’s Considerations on the Government of Poland to show the connection between the General Will in federal and transnational circumstances, I argue that the traditions necessary to maintain these affective ties can be dissociated from unitary political communities but cannot be extended at once to all of humanity. This recognition may be important since the focus on instituted traditions may prove a precondition for actually building transnational affective commitments, which in turn may be pivotal for realising other normative concerns in international political theory.