Jean-Jacques Rousseau, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1753.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Geneva’s most famous citoyen, was a philosopher whose work had a definite influence on Adam Smith. Although Smith did translate a section of, as well as recommend, Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (fascinatingly, Smith’s choses excerpt is one in which Rousseau discusses the drive for recognition) for the Edinburgh Review in 1755/6, he does not cite Rousseau in either The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) or The Wealth of Nations (WN). Still, dominant themes from Rousseau resonate in both of these works. In TMS, for instance, the Rousseauian preoccupation with the drive to be recognized and esteemed by others is given sustained attention. And, WN is replete with Rousseauian criticisms of the ways in which many historical institutions of justice have been used as a conceit of the wealthy to preserve inequalities that favor their interests.