Theory of Freedom by Simpson Free Book Review Rousseau’s


Mathew Simpson’s book purposes to elucidate the theory of freedom that was developed by Rousseau’s work of The Social Contract, and focuses outside Rousseau’s work in order to develop his points (Simpson ix). Simpson presents 4 varied types of freedom; natural, civil, democratic, and moral which according to him are relevant to politics while at the same time different in nature, significance, and relationship to a social contract (Simpson 1). Simpson posits that the central subject of The Social Contract is the way in which individuals can create an honest and free political society. This paper reviews and critiques Simpson’s work, “Rousseau’s Theory of Freedom”.


In chapter 1, Simpson treats the state of nature as conceived by Rousseau.

•    Simpson discusses the basis of the social contract

•    He uses Rousseau’s second discourse to identify traits of human beings.

Chapter 2 of the book analyzes social pacts instituting society’s political setting.

•    Simpson defends Rousseau’s requirement of alienation/forfeiture by a social pact.

•    Simpson seeks to find how the good of the community can be achieved.

The two opening chapters provide the conception for comprehension of Rousseau’s Theory of Freedom and the subsequent chapters (3,4, and 5) discusses civil, democratic, and moral freedom respectively. Simpson concludes in the last chapter by analyzing Rousseau’s work and what the works suggested of Rousseau’s general perception of socio-political ideologies. The works refute Rousseau’s utopian interpretation, paradox, and ambiguity of political society.


Simpson begins by a treatise of the state of nature as conceived by Rousseau which he contends provides a theory of human nature and motivation serving as a foundation of the social contract. He surmises that “The Social Contract” does not talk about the making of the contract and turns to Rousseau’s “Second Discourse” to complement his notion that the state of nature deployed by Rousseau in “The Social Contract” do not entail the simplistic life of autonomous savages but entail people propelled by vanity which leads to determination, greediness, and desire to harm others violently in conflicts. Actually, Simpson extends to contend that being human fails to leave the common state of nature contrary to pure states, even in instances of moral relationships like family or business but comes into play as it enters a political society (Simpson 17).

Chapter 2 of the book analyzes social pacts instituting society’s political setting that individuals find themselves in instances of sustained conflicts and are seeking ways of remedying the setbacks of their lives. Simpson defends Simpson defends Rousseau’s requirement of alienation/forfeiture by the social pact that to solve disputes, that it requires one to relinquish his rights to pave way for public resolution of disputes (Simpson 34). In this regard, Simpson argues that one needs to be subordinate only to the community and that the alarm of this discourse brings has been allayed by Rousseau in his works. There are issues which emerge in Simpson’s argument that people bound by a social contract should be subordinate to the good of the community as determined by sovereign comprising of everyone involved in the social pact in the willingness to support the good of the community (Simpson 44). I think that Simpson has not spelled out clearly what his understanding of what Rousseau meant by the term “good of the community”, but fairly brings the issue of preserving lives and properties of members of the community but delves much on tenets of equity, justice, and duty to society later in page 107.  

Simpson contends that Rousseau’s perception of civil freedom means the absence of hindrances that prevent a person from pursuance of their justice when the law is silent (Simpson 52). Simpson has effectively argued that despite the notion that sovereign determines whatever is law regulates, this does not negate civil liberty that a content has. This is true for our general community as sovereign merely legislates issues affecting the community’s will, as Simpson contends, should not be “burdensome” (Simpson 55-56). This is particularly useful as a model of sensibility and balance of the natural freedom without being constrained by law.

Simpson on democratic freedom argues that Rousseau’s arguments that the community should decide their rules and personally make laws are not compelling given that this notion is pertinent. He criticizes the use of Condorcet’s theory on a jury in defense of perception of Rousseau of not delegating decisions to representatives. Simpson posits that Rousseau’s criticism of representation does not lead to bad laws but illegitimate ones and that it would be rational if a representative represented what the people wanted but argues that the representative would be redundant (Simpson 80-81). I think that much needs to be pursued in this regard to the responsibilities of every person on self-rule and taking charge of own lives that representative democracy brings, denying people the opportunity to present their views.

In the chapter of moral freedom, Simpson contends that Rousseau’s definition of moral freedom was independence or obedience that one has set upon themselves (Simpson 92). Simpson uses the analogy of an alcoholic whom he says lacks the moral authority to live within their own judgment. He says that only a single law can legislate itself which is the social pact. Simpson contends that social contract seems to refute Rousseau’s utopian interpretation, paradox, and ambiguity of political society.

Final commentary and Recommendation

Simpson’s book provides a new combination of comprehension of the theory of freedom as argued in the social contract. He presents a thorough evaluation of the theory of pact as proposed by Rousseau and scrutinizes the forms of freedom it results into, demonstrating that Rousseau’s individualistic and collectivist ideologies can be used in a large and logical theory of human liberty. I would recommend the book to audiences who have previously had a peek into Rousseau’s work since this kind of engagement can prove challenging for an apprentice.