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PPE Speaker Series: “The Politics of Self-Destruction” with Geneviève Rousselière (Duke)

October 16, 2023 @ 6:30 pm - 7:45 pm

The Politics of Self-Destruction explores Rousseau’s idea that people in commercial societies are on an endless quest for happiness yet only manage to orchestrate their own destruction. Rousseau’s insight seems more convincing today, in the face of imminent environmental disaster, than it did for his contemporaries. While abundant scholarship has examined Rousseau’s anti-Enlightenment stand from a moral point of view, I focus on the economic processes (trade, production, consumption) and tenets of classical political economy (natural equilibrium of interests, priority of wealth accumulation and growth) that Rousseau identifies as key elements in human self-destructive journey because they are based on epistemically faulty values and a loss of control. Sorting out Rousseau’s criticism of classical political economy from his positive economic theory, I show how Rousseau’s position on political economy transforms our understanding of his politics.


I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. I received my PhD in Politics from Princeton. An alumna of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, I hold a BA and MA in philosophy from the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne and the agrégation de philosophie. Before my current appointment, I was Collegiate Assistant Professor and Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago and Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

My research interests include modern and contemporary political philosophy, social theory, the history of political economy, feminism, republicanism and democratic thought. My work asks how individuals can be free in a world dominated by economic, social, racial and gender inequality. I have published articles on Rousseau, Kant, Constant, Jacobinism and popular sovereignty in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, The European Journal of Political Theory and The European Journal of Philosophy. I also co-edited Republicanism and the Future of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2019, with Yiftah Elazar).



October 16, 2023
6:30 pm - 7:45 pm
Event Category:


Caldwell 105