The new order, or at least the aim of the new order, was the establishment of a peoples' republic where private property is owned by the feudal lord is berated, religion does not play any role in politics or in the lives of the people and a general will is represented by a group of bourgeois leftists. Although when the revolution ended, France was ruled by an emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.
If we look at 1789 France and try to determine the causes of the French Revolution, one fails to identify any decadence of its system. For instance, it was the largest, wealthiest and most powerful state in Western Europe. Its intellectuals led the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment era. French bourgeoisie was prosperous and well-established. Peasants owned and cultivated 40 percent of the land. What reason was there for a revolution Norman Gash (1989) quoting Napoleon's statement argues that the reason for French Revolution was nothing but vanity and that liberty was just a pretext. "One can see the argument. The aristocracy, only 2 per cent of the population, enjoyed a privileged position which their actual services to the state hardly seemed to justify. What the urban and professional middle classes clearly wanted was greater social recognition, easier access to rank and power and wider careers for their talents. Ambition and envy are impelling motives. (Gash, 1989)
Lefebvre (1939) on the other hand asserts that the reason why French Revolution took place was the rise of the bourgeoisie presented by the Enlightenment philosophes as a better alternative to absolute monarchy. The philosophes of Europe appeared to have turned against the age of empires and monarchical rules supported largely by the clergy and the aristocracy. In bourgeoisie, the intellectual community invested lot of hopes perhaps for the reason that they opposed the aristocracy and offered an economy that was more egalitarian and involved for the first time in Europe's history the people.
This paper will make an attempt to examine the question whether Rousseau's Concept of the "Social Contract" had a foremost influence on the intellectual development of the French Revolution and inspired its leaders. The paper will describe the salient concepts of Rousseau's Social Contract theory and enlist the events that took place during the ten years of the French Revolution (1789-1799). An attempt will be made to answer the question by studying the development of the Revolution and comparing that with Rousseau's social contract theory.
It is important to note that the French Revolution was not influenced by Rousseau alone but it would not as well be completely out of place to assert that he wrote down the manual and the revolutionaries built the revolution by following his step-by-step instructions. In fact, Rousseau was one of the philosophes of Enlightenment which basically pushed the idea of liberalism based on virtue, reason, toleration and so on. Other philosophes