It is the misfortune of extraordinary doctrines that they suffer a remarkably common fate in the hands of their interpreters, and at first glance there may appear to be nothing very special about the prevalent distortions of the political thought of Rousseau. His ideas, like those of other great thinkers, have been widely embraced or denounced with almost equal abandon, in fierce and recurrent controversies which merely reflect the striking impact his philosophy has had upon his followers from the French Revolution to the present day. It is not particularly odd that professed disciples should have obscured his meaning as much as his detractors have done, nor even that we have come to judge the significance of his claims in the light of the activities of others who sought to realise them in practice. What is peculiar about Rousseau’s reputation among pre-eminent political theorists, however, is the extent to which his critics are agreed that he could not have been committed to the philosophy he actually set forth.