Jean-Jacques Rousseau - The Social Contract

The Social Contract ePUB download
”Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Let us free him then! But how do we solve the conflict between the demand for individual freedom and the need for collective order? How can an individual receive the protection of society without surrendering his precious individualism? How do we balance these two competing demands, each seemingly at the expense of the other?

Rousseau says that, ‘the problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole, while the individual, uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before.’ “This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.”

The General Will
Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) believes that, in the ideal society, civil order would be a product of the General Will—a quasi-mystical concept of civic responsibility and virtue toward which one naturally inclines when considering the good of all instead of one’s private will.

He bases “The Social Contract” (1762) on the fundamental principle that sovereignty belongs to the people (who possess inalienable wills).Power is transferable but will never. Rather than individuals submitting to a king for protection (as Thomas Hobbes envisioned in “The Leviathan”), individuals would submit to each other and to the judgment of the community as a whole. Rousseau proclaims that this association is safe because “Each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody.” (35:391)

From this notion spring The General Will, Popular Sovereignty, and the Social Contract. Each person enters into a contract by accepting the protection of the community, but the sovereign power in any state lies not in any ruler but in the general will of the community. Consequently, the government is merely the agent of the populace operating under its directive, executing the general will.

“The Social Contract” influenced the American Revolution and became a sacred text of the French Revolution. The “General Will” of the people stands “inalienable, indivisible, and infallible.” Individuals must submit to the general will.But what happens when individuals don’t submit to the general will? Rousseau declares that those who resisted it would “be forced to be free”.

And therein lies the problem! Does not the concept of a sole exclusive truth in politics necessarily lead to coercion? Has Rousseau designed a populist totalitarianism that has appealed to revolutionaries ever since, often with disastrous consequences?

Review written June 9, 2013


Here are links to my other reviews of books of political theory.

"The Leviathan" by Thomas Hobbes:

"On Liberty" by J.S. Mill:

"The Social Contract" by Jean Jacques Rousseau

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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
File size3.4 Mb
Release date 03.05.2006
Pages count168
Book rating3.73 (20692 votes)
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