Contracts vs Rights

The Social Contract vs Rights of Man

As a fierce supporter of the books, not downloads, I will first review the aesthetics of these two books. Both works are quite light considering the heavy content. I bought these first hand, so the covers are smooth, and the pages firm and crisp. I enjoy Wordsworth Classics beige pages, which I find very easy on the eyes, compared to the reflective, stark whites of the computer I look at for 8 hours a day (plus blogging time). I enjoy the picture on Rights of Man, painting “Fighting at the Hotel de Ville” by Jean Victor Schnetz. It is very indicative of the fervour which in contained inside. However I can’t help but feel the main subject’s face seems apathetic to his victory. The image on The Social Contract, “A Review of the Guards de la Ville de Paris – the municipal militia – outside the Hotel de Ville”,  is set at the same location. It is simple, and straight to the point, but not altogether enjoyable or pleasing to the eye.

Rights of Man

Paine’s words in Rights of Man has a great intensity and fierce tone, which I suppose is fantastically enjoyable if you happen to agree with all his arguments. I, however, could barely get past his scathing remarks and snide attitude to find exactly what his case is. I would also recommend you figure out who this Burke character is, and read whatever it was he wrote that made Paine so gosh-darn angry before commencing Rights of Man.

I found Rousseau’s arguments in The Social Contract easier to follow, and thus I found it a much more enjoyable read. Rousseau is quoted because he makes is points succinctly eg Might does not make right. Rousseau sets out his theories in a logical and rational manner, though there is still enough personal emotion not to put the reader to sleep.

I found the latter read more pleasurable as  Rousseau was less prescriptive, and allows for the will of the people to choose. However, I found many of his methods for choosing a government are no longer applicable. Paine’s passion and steadfastness against certain forms of government does not allow for as much flexibility, and so I often felt like a chastised child.

Paine seems in constant fear of being caught in his own contradictions. He does not give the reader enough to credit. Several times he accuses Burke’s arguments of being so ill-founded and irrational that they do not warrant rebuttal. If the apologies and blank dismissals were cut out, the novel would be much shorter and to the point, and I would definitely be more sympathetic to his cause.

My overall winner is The Social Contract.

The Social Contract

***My interpretations of the writings are formed in isolation based solely on the words I have read***


Filed under Reading

2 responses to “Contracts vs Rights

  1. Jillian

    I can’t wait to read these! 🙂

    • You should time it with other books written around the French Revolution. It gives a context to the characters which the authors of the time assumed you knew. I hope you’re enjoying your adventures in classic literature!

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