The purport of Rousseau's political philosophy has long been misunderstood, for his critics have tried to involve him, sometimes as a comrade-in-arms, sometimes as an enemy, in the daily political disputes of quite different times. But, like every political theory, his philosophy can be adequately understood only i f it is interpreted against the background of its age and in the light of the author's view of his contemporary society. Such an approach will also furnish the key to understanding several apparent contradictions in the complexity of Rousseau's work. For we should not take his political writings separately and in isolation ( C o n t r a t S o c i a l , L e t t r e s d e la M o n t a g n e , P r o j e t d e C o n s t i t u t i o n p o u r la Gorse, C o n s i d e r a t i o n s s u r le G o u v e r n e - m e n t de P o l o g n e , and so on), but rather take seriously his assertion that his works form a unity.1