Rousseau's argument was controversial, and drew a great number of responses. One from critic Jules Lemaître calling the instant deification of Rousseau as 'one of the strongest proofs of human stupidity.' Rousseau himself answered five of his critics in the two years or so after he won the prize. Among these five answers were replies to Stanisław Leszczyński , King of Poland, M. l'Abbe Raynal , and the "Last Reply" to M. Charles Bordes. These responses provide clarification for Rousseau's argument in the Discourse, and begin to develop a theme he further advances in the Discourse on Inequality – that misuse of the arts and sciences is one case of a larger theme, that man, by nature good, is corrupted by civilization. Inequality, luxury, and the political life are identified as especially harmful.
Rousseau’s central argument in The Social Contract is that government attains its right to exist and to govern by “the consent of the governed.” Today this may not seem too extreme an idea, but it was a radical position when The Social Contract was published. Rousseau discusses numerous forms of government that may not look very democratic to modern eyes, but his focus was always on figuring out how to ensure that the general will of all the people could be expressed as truly as possible in their government. He always aimed to figure out how to make society as democratic as possible. At one point in The Social Contract, Rousseau admiringly cites the example of the Roman republic’s comitia to prove that even large states composed of many people can hold assemblies of all their citizens.