General Will and Rousseau’s Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a French philosopher who is credited with helping to shape modern political thought. One of his most influential works is “The Social Contract.” In this book, Rousseau argues that society should be based on a contract between the people and the government. This contract should ensure that the government protects the natural rights of the people.

Rousseau’s ideas were influenced by those of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes believed that humans are naturally selfish and will only cooperate if there is a strong central authority to keep them in check. However, Rousseau believed that humans are basically good and can live harmoniously if they have a shared sense of justice and equality.

The concept of the “general will” is central to Rousseau’s political thought. The general will is the will of the people as a whole, rather than the will of any individual. It is based on the idea that humans are social beings who need to work together for the good of society.

Rousseau believed that the general will should be the driving force behind government policy. He thought that laws should be made in order to reflect the will of the people, and not just the interests of those in power.

The concepts of liberty and freedom have been around for a long time. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, among other political theorists, had previously developed their own interpretations of liberty, and in fact Locke published his ideas on the social contract years before Rousseau wrote The Social Contract. Rousseau revolutionized the notions covered by such lofty words, and he introduced us to a new way of looking at the problem of the social contract.

Rousseau’s social contract differs from Hobbes’ in several key ways. First, Rousseau believes that man is born free, and only enters into society when he agrees to do so. This is in contrast to Hobbes’ view that man is born into a state of nature where there is no freedom, and liberty can only be found within the confines of society.

Second, for Rousseau, the general will is what gives legitimacy to the state and its laws. The general will represents the common good of all citizens, and it is this that should guide the state’s actions. In contrast, Hobbes believed that the sovereign was the source of all legitimacy, and that the state exists to serve the interests of the sovereign.

Finally, Rousseau believed that citizens have a duty to obey the laws of the state, even if they do not agree with them, because they have consented to be governed by those laws. In contrast, Hobbes believed that citizens only had a duty to obey the laws if they had agreed to them beforehand.

Rousseau’s social contract is significant because it provides us with a different perspective on liberty and freedom. His view of the general will allows us to see that the state exists for the benefit of all citizens, and not just for the benefit of the sovereign.

His belief that citizens have a duty to obey the laws, even if they do not agree with them, is also significant because it reminds us that we have a responsibility to the state and to our fellow citizens. Rousseau’s social contract is an important contribution to political thought, and it provides us with a different way of thinking about the relationship between the individual and the state.

The definition of freedom in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s thinking was significantly different from that of traditional liberals. To him, freedom meant having a voice and taking part in things. It wasn’t enough for Rousseau to merely be shielded by a sovereign; he thought that man needed to participate in the process of becoming the ruler who provided the security so as to rise above the state of nature. The disparities between Rousseau’s ideas and those held by previous liberals are borne out of different interpretations of the natural condition.

For Hobbes, the state of nature was a war of all against all, and the only way to escape it was to submit to an absolute sovereign. Rousseau argued that while man in the state of nature may not be living in a utopia, they were not at war with each other. He saw the state of nature as a time when humans were free and had equality. It wasn’t until humans began living in societies that inequality arose.

The way out of the state of nature for Rousseau was not submission to an absolutist monarch, but rather a social contract where everyone participated in their own governance. This is where Rousseau’s ideas begin to take on a more democratic bent. In his view, the general will is what allows for a just society. The general will is the good of the community as a whole, rather than the good of any one individual. It’s what allows for laws that are in the best interest of everyone, rather than just those in power.

The problem with democracies, according to Rousseau, is that they often devolve into tyranny of the majority. In order to avoid this, he proposed a system of direct democracy, where all citizens would participate directly in the lawmaking process. This would ensure that the laws passed were truly in line with the general will, and not just the wishes of those in power.

While Rousseau’s ideas may seem idealistic, his notion of the general will has had a significant impact on political thought. His ideas were taken up by the founders of the United States, and his notion of direct democracy has influenced movements for social change around the world. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment, and his ideas are still relevant today.

Rousseau’s philosophy is significant in that it provides a way to have equality and liberty while also having order and submission in society. Unlike Hobbes, who saw submission as the only way to avoid anarchy, Rousseau believed that man could be free if they participated in their own governance. This is what separates Rousseau from traditional liberals like Hobbes. It is also what makes his ideas still relevant today.

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