A response to social contract a political treatise by jean jacques rousseau

The First Discourse is highly rhetorical, and its surface impression can mislead about its deeper thesis.

Rousseau social contract theory

However, Rousseau says that unlike all other creatures, humans are free agents. What guarantee is there that the State, in freeing itself, will not enslave its members? By contrast, women both need and desire men. The Discourse on Inequality still has about it much of the rhetorical looseness of the prize essay; it aims not so much at close reasoning as at effective and popular presentation of a case. Author Information. Rousseau wrote the Confessions late in his career, and it was not published until after his death. The statement that man is born free, and is everywhere in chains, is therefore only partly about politics. Pure democracy, however, the government of the State by all the people in every detail, is not, as Rousseau says, a possible human institution. So much so, in fact, that many have questioned whether it really means anything at all. It is not till we come to Rousseau that the second form of the contract theory is stated in its purest and most logical form. Wherever State intervention is for the best, the State has a right to intervene; but it has no moral right, though it must have a legal right, to intervene where it is not for the best. Grotius is sometimes held to have stated the theory so as to admit both forms of contract; but it is clear that he is only thinking of the first form as admitting democratic as well as monarchical government. He concludes book one, chapter three with, "Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers", which is to say, the ability to coerce is not a legitimate power, and there is no rightful duty to submit to it. The title sufficiently defines its scope.

Rousseau claims that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government. Thus at the very outset we are faced with the great difficulty in appreciating Rousseau.

What is best for the State must be suffered by the individual.

The social contract summary

His argument, however, really rests on the fundamental character of the General Will. Given this, individuals cannot be given liberty to decide whether it is in their own interests to fulfill their duties to the Sovereign, while at the same time being allowed to reap the benefits of citizenship. His desire is to establish society on a basis of pure right, so as at once to disprove his attack on society generally and to reinforce his criticism of existing societies. The goal in The Social Contract is always about consensus, and in the end one suspects what Rousseau finally wanted was silence. The theory of a contract between government and people had, as we have seen, been used mainly as a support for popular liberties, a means of assertion against the government. As soon, therefore, as the State is set up, the government becomes for Hobbes the Sovereign; there is no more question of popular Sovereignty, but only of passive obedience: the people is bound, by the contract, to obey its ruler, no matter whether he governs well or ill. Add the desire to find actual justification for a theory in facts, and, especially in an age possessed only of the haziest historical sense, this doctrine of consent will inevitably be given a historical setting. For the Enlightenment project was based on the idea that progress in fields like the arts and sciences do indeed contribute to the purification of morals on individual, social, and political levels. Rousseau was O'Brien's villain. Both SMs and CMs take into account the strategies of the other with whom they interact. Rousseau was accused of attacking learning and science while himself obviously being a man of great learning, of desiring a return to primitive barbarism, and of advocating the burning of the great libraries of Europe.

Rousseau has given his opinion of it in the Confessions. It was originally published just several months after the Social Contract.

rousseau social contract pdf

The funny thing about this, as I came to realise, is that Rousseau would have agreed. Historically, modern theory passes from the first to the second of these forms.

Social contract theory definition

This principle once admitted, the precise amount of State interference that is necessary to secure freedom will be always a matter for particular discussion; every case must be decided on its own merits, and, in right, the Sovereign will be omnipotent, or subject only to the law of reason. Before the value of this conception can be determined, there is a criticism to be met. These passages, with many others that may be found in the text, make it quite clear that by the General Will Rousseau means something quite distinct from the Will of All, with which it should never have been confused. In particular, it accords them the power to make contracts, to be the subjects of the contract, whereas other persons are denied such privilege and are relegated to the status of objects of contracts. Contemporary Critiques of Social Contract Theory Given the longstanding and widespread influence that social contract theory has had, it comes as no surprise that it is also the objects of many critiques from a variety of philosophical perspectives. It is highly abstract because rather than demonstrating that we would or even have signed to a contract to establish society, it instead shows us what we must be willing to accept as rational persons in order to be constrained by justice and therefore capable of living in a well ordered society. XV, No.
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An Introduction to the Work of Rousseau