front cover of Building a Social Contract
Building a Social Contract
Modern Workers' Houses in Early-Twentieth Century Detroit
McCulloch, Michael
Temple University Press, 2023
The dream of the modern worker’s house emerged in early twentieth-century America as wage earners gained access to new, larger, and better-equipped dwellings. Building a Social Contract is a cogent history of the houses those workers dreamed of and labored for. Michael McCulloch chronicles the efforts of employers, government agencies, and the building industry who, along with workers themselves, produced an unprecedented boom in housing construction that peaked in the mid-1920s.

Through oral histories, letters, photographs, and period fiction, McCulloch traces wage earners’ agency in negotiating a new implicit social contract, one that rewarded hard work with upward mobility in modern houses. This promise reflected workers’ increased bargaining power but, at the same time, left them increasingly vulnerable to layoffs.

Building a Social Contract focuses on Detroit, the quintessential city of the era, where migrant workers came and were Americanized, and real estate agents and the speculative housebuilding industry thrived. The Motor City epitomized the struggle of Black workers in this period, who sought better lives through industrial labor but struggled to translate their wages into housing security amid racist segregation and violence. When Depression-era unemployment created an eviction crisis, the social contract unraveled, and workers rose up—at the polls and in the streets—to create a labor movement that reshaped American capitalism for decades.

Today, the lessons McCulloch provides from early twentieth-century Detroit are a necessary reminder that wages are not enough, and only working-class political power can secure affordable housing.

front cover of The Major Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Major Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Two "Discourses" and the "Social Contract"
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
University of Chicago Press, 2012

Individualist and communitarian. Anarchist and totalitarian. Classicist and romanticist. Progressive and reactionary. Since the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau has been said to be all of these things. Few philosophers have been the subject of as much or as intense debate, yet almost everyone agrees that Rousseau is among the most important and influential thinkers in the history of political philosophy. This new edition of his major political writings, published in the year of the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth, renews attention to the perennial importance of Rousseau’s work.

The book brings together superb new translations by renowned Rousseau scholar John T. Scott of three of Rousseau’s works: the Discourse on the Sciences and Arts, the Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men, and On the Social Contract. The two Discourses show Rousseau developing his well-known conception of the natural goodness of man and the problems posed by life in society. With the Social Contract, Rousseau became the first major thinker to argue that democracy is the only legitimate form of political organization. Scott’s extensive introduction enhances our understanding of these foundational writings, providing background information, social and historical context, and guidance for interpreting the works. Throughout, translation and editorial notes clarify ideas and terms that might not be immediately familiar to most readers.
The three works collected in The Major Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau represent an important contribution to eighteenth-century political theory that has exerted an extensive influence on generations of thinkers, beginning with the leaders of the French Revolution and continuing to the present day. The new translations on offer here will be welcomed by a wide readership of both Rousseau scholars and readers with a general interest in political thought.

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Rousseau’s Socratic Aemilian Myths
A Literary Collation of “Emile” and the “Social Contract”
Madeline B. Ellis
The Ohio State University Press, 1900

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Social Contract, Discourse on the Virtue Most Necessary for a Hero, Political Fragments, and Geneva Manuscript
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Dartmouth College Press, 1994
Contains the Social Contract, as well as the first English translation of Rousseau’s early Discourse on the Virtue Most Necessary for a Hero, numerous previously untranslated political fragments, and the first draft of the Social Contract (the so-called Geneva Manuscript). By placing Rousseau’s famous exposition of “political right” and the “general will” in the context of his preparatory drafts, the editors provide significant insight into the formation of one of the most important and influential works in Western political thought.

front cover of The Social Contract in the Ruins
The Social Contract in the Ruins
Natural Law and Government by Consent
Paul R. DeHart
University of Missouri Press, 2024

Most scholars who write on social contract and classical natural law perceive an irreconcilable tension between them. Social contract theory is widely considered the political-theoretic concomitant of modern philosophy. Against the regnant view, The Social Contract in the Ruins, argues that all attempts to ground political authority and obligation in agreement alone are logically self-defeating. Political authority and obligation require an antecedent moral ground. But this moral ground cannot be constructed by human agreement or created by sheer will—human or divine. All accounts of morality as constructed or made collapse into self-referential incoherence. Only an uncreated, real good can coherently ground political authority and obligation or the proposition that rightful government depends on the consent of the governed. Government by consent requires classical natural law for its very coherence. 


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