How Rousseau read Hume’s Political Discourses: hints of unexpected agreement in their views of money and luxury

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Despite mounting scholarship on the Rousseau–Smith connection, the possibility of overlap between the Humean and Rousseauian views of commercial society has not been explored. This is due to opposing views held by these two thinkers on this issue. However, Rousseau in the Confessions recorded a brief, but shrewd impressions on Hume’s Political Discourses, which he held before meeting Hume. In these comments, Rousseau, unlike his other French contemporaries, noted some republican aspects lurking in Hume’s political and economic essays. Moreover, after his two Discourses, Rousseau composed several other important works in which he revealed his more ‘mature’ economic arguments. Careful readings of these textual clues indicate that, in striking parallel with Hume, Rousseau conducts a thoughtful experiment on the drastic change in the quantity of money and elaborates on the significance of industry and a certain type of luxury. Our purpose here is not to prove that Hume’s Political Discourses directly influenced Rousseau’s later writings, but to measure the extent to which Rousseau could share the Scot’s economic ideas by considering that the former may well have read the latter.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of the History of Economic Thought
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018 Jan 1



  • enlightenment
  • Luxury
  • quantity theory of money
  • republicanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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