15 May 2008

The Social Contract / Hay-on-Wye

I bought this book from Richard Booth's Bookshop in a town in Wales called Hay-on-Wye. Hay seems to me to be the literary capital of the UK. It has at least thirty bookshops (some specialist, some general) and is the world's largest secondhand and antiquarian book centre. There are approximately 1500 people living in Hay. That's one bookstore per fifty people. Pretty great, if you ask me.

As well as Jean-Jaques Rousseau's The Social Contract, I bought The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and Phaidon's The 20th Century Art Book, which will be a great reference. These three darlings cost me a total of £5.50. Books are the way of the future.

Yesterday I started reading the Rousseau work (unfortunately in English, rather than its original French, which I hope to do one day, too). According to the blurb, The Social Contract "has been interpreted as a blueprint for totalitarianism ... Rousseau was at pains to stress the connexion between liberty and law, freedom and justice." I am only a few chapters in but I am finding it incredibly thought-provoking and as relevant to the 21st century as it was to the 18th. Possibly even more, as the mere existence of such a lasting relevance suggests we haven't learnt anything, which is supremely relevent to us all.

Here are some quotes which especially interested me, even though I'm only in early stages of the book. Let them mill-about in your mind and tell me what you think:

"It is conflicts over things, not quarrels between men which constitute war."

"... in war individuals are enemies wholly by chance, not as men, not even as citizens, but only as soldiers; not as members of their country, but only as its defenders ..."

"... war gives no right to inflict any more destruction than is necessary for victory."

Pics: westwales.co.uk, scielosp.org


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