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What is freedom? What is equality? And what is sovereignty? A foundational text of modern political philosophy, Rousseau's Social Contract has generated much debate and exerted extraordinary influence not only on political thought, but also modern political history, by way of the French Revolution and other political events, ideals, and practices. The Social Contract is regularly studied in undergraduate courses of philosophy, political thought, and modern intellectual history, as well as being the subject of graduate seminars in numerous disciplines. The book inspires an ongoing flow of scholarly articles and monographs. Few texts have offered more influential and important answers to research questions than Rousseau's Social Contract, and in this new Cambridge Companion, a multidisciplinary team of contributors provides new ways to navigate this masterpiece of political philosophy- and its animating questions.
Adam Smith had a longstanding interest in colonialism and more generally relations between Europe and the rest of the world. It was through engagement with these issues that he worked through some of the central elements of his thought. This paper examines both Smith’s contexts and our own and argues that Smith’s work provides an important resource for reflecting today on relations with distant and diverse others today. It identifies three aspects of Smith’s thought that are particularly relevant: the political and economic costs of colonial ventures to the colonisers themselves, the question of whether and how imperialism had encouraged ‘progress’, and the question of how social and cultural differences should be understood and judged. The paper teases out Smith’s sometimes uncertain arguments in these areas and suggests that they can contribute to our own reflections on the troubled practices of liberal imperialism.