215. The legacy of the Enlightment and what is left of it

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu were household names not that long ago. Today, few know the names, never mind their doctrines. At a time when selfish kings and ruthless oligarchies ruled, the abovementioned opened our eyes to the basic concepts that brought about the Enlightment period and, with it, democracy. Separation of powers, the right to vote and, above all, the social contract, Rousseau’s idea that the power of a state and its leaders exists only in as much as it is willingly granted by its citizens, in the expectation that it will be wielded in the interest of all those granting it. Alas, this does no longer, in many cases, hold true. Many of today’s regimes have grabbed power and no longer receive it from citizens (Putin or Xi, for example). In other societies, governments represent some, but not all (Brexit Britain, Trump’s USA, Torra’s Catalonia). The social contract that legitimated our democratic systems survives no longer, relinquished in febrile populism 

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