Rousseau's theory of the effect of culture on politics is critical to his philosophy. In "Making Citizens," Zev M. Trachtenberg takes Rousseau's theory as a model of how considerations of culture can be incorporated into a wider account of political life. He critically evaluates Rousseau's account and concludes that it is, finally, inadequate.
Using techniques from the theory of collective action to devise an interpretation of Rousseau's concept of the general will, Trachtenberg identifies the ways culture conditions politics. He examines the attitudes individuals can adopt that facilitate or impede social cooperation--attitudes that Rousseau holds as culturally formed. Trachtenberg takes up Rousseau's account of the two paths for the evolution of human psychology: toward the actual political failure of existing society, or toward the possible political success of an ideal society. He concludes that Rousseau's cultural ideal conflicts with his theory of legitimacy, rendering his views of culture inconsistent with his political theory.