Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Politics and International Relations

Second Department

French Studies

Reader 1

Mark Golub

Reader 2

Dalton Krauss

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© 2014 Summer Dowd-Lukesh


Enlightenment theorists like John Locke and Montesquieu were incredibly influential for the American Revolution. However, while Jean-Jacques Rousseau is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment writers in history and while his work was very influential in Europe, especially during the French Revolution, Rousseau's theories were not widely read and he is not considered a strong influence on American political theory. In this thesis, I argue that Rousseau is considered noninfluential in particular because of the conflict between his theories of communtarianism and egalitarianism and Federalist political projects that aimed to convert the United States into a large, mercantalist, international presence. Anti-Federalists were much more receptive to Rousseau's theories but were unable to commit to them fully because of their reliance on chattel slavery and his firm opposition to the institution. Finally, I argue that the tensions between early American politicians and Rousseau's theories of egalitarianism showcase the pseudodemocratic nature of early American politics and rhetoric and explain American government's oligarchic tendencies.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.