Sure. But Locke is a better example of the actual libertarian view though.
No he isn't. He's one of the first liberals, yes, but liberal thought has evolved a loooooooong way since then. Locke didn't really grapple with the issue of rights at all, since he was writing in a time when property was barely spread out. That's why he cares so much about economic inequality. He was living and working in a fundamentally different system.
Rousseau (and others) were more about what government was obligated to do for the people and specifically that it must act to balance out social inequities (which I'm sure is why liberals love to study Rousseau btw).
Rousseau didn't talk about government obligations, he offered a theory about why we should have a gov't in the first place. Social contract theory isn't about obligations, it's about the way people organize themselves. It isn't about what a gov't has to do, but what a good gov't does do. That's a significant difference.
Locke was the one who really focused on the idea that government should do the least it has to.
No. He didn't.
If you're reading Rousseau and thinking you're learning about libertarianism, then that's probably your first mistake. He believed that society was a set of rules imposed by the rich on the poor, and that any new rules should enforce a reversal of that proposition.
Again, no he didn't. Did you know Rousseau was one of the most popular thinkers at Versailles before the revolution? Nobles adored him.
Rousseau felt that following the general will, which law should reflect, was the best path to freedom. Why? Because you:
A. Make the choice to join in the social contract. You don't lose any rights unless you choose to forfeit them. But you also don't gain any protection from your fellow humans.
B. Joining the social contract is wise, because the collective is better able to defend the rights of each individual than each individual is able to do on their own.
Understand? Anarchy actually leads to people retaining fewer rights, because you can only keep those you are personally able to defend.
As such, the best path to liberty is to form a gov't reflecting the general will.
While I fully understand the importance of his philosophies in the context of a very class-based European society, it isn't really libertarianism (or classical liberalism). It's more correctly an early form of (or precursor to) social liberalism. He's more akin to later folks like Engels and Marx.
HA No. No, really, it's isn't Marxist at all. Both have similar premises (basically a combination of Locke and Aristotle on both ends), but he is definitely not a precursor to communism.
Rousseau was all about capitalism (not that it was known as such at the time). He actually favored the middle class the most. AKA, the merchants and craftsman. He didn't give a **** about the peasants, or minorities. He had many gripes with nobles, yes, but spent most of his life in love with a noblewoman. He wasn't adverse to their existence, but didn't really like their current role in society.
The only class he really hated were the clergy.
Again, it's no surprise that Rousseau is taught more to university students than Locke. His philosophies are more in light with modern liberal thought. Liberalism is more in line with modern conservative thought (absent the strawman "impose our religious values on everyone variant of course).
I've read both. A lot. The problem isn't that Locke is less in line with modern thought, it's that many of Locke's premises are not accepted by modern peoples, which means his political theories fall apart. The stuff that isn't grounded on those premises was picked up by later thinkers (like Rousseau) to construct political theories without those holes.
Frankly, his idea of the state of nature is all you actually need to turn to. He pictures anarchy as having been all sunshine and butterflies (I used the past tense for a reason--Locke does not believe you can return to the State of Nature).