Man is born free, but everywhere he is in checkmate


Over a period of forty years, Rousseau combined his devotion to writing with his enthusiasm for chess, and these two passions necessarily intertwined. Rousseau was able to transfer his power of concentration and the strict dialectics of his literary writings to his chess strategy. If Rousseau’s analytical skills influenced his attitude toward the game, then the game of chess inspired his logic and affected his discourse. Interpreted as a form of rationality, as a conceptual paradigm, the rules and strategies of chess accurately describe Rousseau’s ideas for social management, political power, and organization. Reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau through the Prism of Chess shows that Rousseau’s political theory, though allegedly inspired by Nature, found a perfect model in a game created by mankind; chess thus became a reference for his philosophical discourse and practice as well as a method to systematize Nature and organize society.

Florian Vauléon is Associate Professor of French at Purdue University, Northwest.

“This book makes a significant contribution to understanding a towering figure that influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, the French Revolution, and the political vision of a democratic state and educational thought. It guides scholars as well as students of Jean-Jacques Rousseau beyond the familiar road to Rousseau’s prolific mind and his discourse.”
—Ghazi Nassir, American University of Kuwait