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Rousseau- Social Contract Notes

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    – Aims to discover why people gave up their natural liberty, which they possessed in the state of nature – How political authority became legitimate. * “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. ” -> These chains result from the obligations that each person has to the community. * This sense of communal duty is founded upon convention -> Denies that a legitimate, political authority can be found in the state of nature. Oldest and only natural society is the family * Children are only bound to their father as long they depend on him to take care of them -> Once a child has reached maturity, the members of the family return to their previous state of independence

    * Family is the prototype for all political societies: the father is the leader, and his children are the populace * Each person gives up his liberty to receive the protection of the family and thus promote his own utility Force cannot be the foundation for legitimate political authority * People obey those stronger than themselves out of necessity, not by choice -> the right of the strongest cannot create the sense of a duty that is necessary to establishing a true right * Since strength is a relative term, the effect of this right changes with the cause * As soon as one person makes himself the strongest, all previous claims established on the right of the strongest are nullified -> The primary flaw with this right is that it can be broken legitimately. Because no man has a natural authority over other men and because force cannot establish right, all legitimate authority must depend upon convention * Grotius argues that a state can be legitimate even if the people are slaves and the government is their master * Rousseau disputes his claim that the people can alienate their liberty and give themselves to a king

    * No one will give up his liberty without getting something in return * Popular argument made by political philosophers holds that people can renounce their freedom in exchange for the civil tranquility offered by a monarch * This promise of civil tranquility becomes nsignificant when kings drag their countries into numerous wars and place unnecessary demands on their citizens * Even if a person willingly sacrifices his own liberty, he cannot offer the freedom of his children without their consent * For such a society to be legitimate, each generation must offer their expressed approval of it * Slavery can be considered a contract between master and servant -> no possible compensation for a person who has given up his freedom. Actions can be moral only if they have been done freely. * Grotius’ other argument for slavery is based in war: because the victors in war have to right kill the vanquished, the latter can sell their liberty in exchange for their lives.

    * The victors have a right to kill the vanquished * Wars are fought by states, not by men -> After a nation has lost in battle, its soldiers cease being enemies to the opposing state, and no one has a right to their lives. People form societies when the obstacles faced in the state of nature become too arduous for any one person to overcome * Each person gives up his natural liberty – the freedom to do anything he desires – in exchange for the greater power of the entire community * Everyone gives himself and all of his rights to the community, the conditions of the social contract are equal for all those involved * Association of many individuals with the same interests creates a collective body with its own life and will.

    * The “state” when passive * The “sovereign” when active. Because the sovereign can be considered a private individual, there is no law that is obligatory to the people as a body * The sovereign cannot do anything that harms the social contract -> would result in its dissolution * Since it’s formed by the association of private individuals, the sovereign cannot have interests that contradict with those of its members * Each person may have a private interest that interferes with or even harms the general will, but the social contract tacitly requires an individual to act in accordance with the common interest The transition from the state of nature to civil society creates a sense of justice that man previously lacked * Whereas man acted only upon his physical impulses in the state of nature-> feels a duty to his fellow men when placed in the context of society-> man’s mental faculties are developed, and his soul is elevated

    * Would be a very positive development if the demands of civil society were not so high * Each person gives himself – including all of his possessions – to the community when it is formed * Sovereign does not control the use of private property-> offers it better protection than any individual could give * Public possession is stronger and more easily accepted than private possession * Community legitimizes the right of the first occupant-> turns usurpation of natural resources into a true right, because all citizens acknowledge the legitimacy of private property – Instead of destroying natural inequality, the social contract makes the physical differences found in the state of nature insignificant so that all men may be equal by convention and by right Book 2 Only the general will can direct the forces of the community toward the common good * Private individual may temporarily have the same interests as the general but will not share the community’s interests in all circumstances

    * Sovereignty is inalienable * The sovereign cannot be represented by anything other than itself * Sovereignty is indivisible -> the will either reflects the interests of all citizens, or it does not. Rousseau complains about political theorists who divide sovereignty into different parts, such as legislative and executive power. In reality, he believes, these parts are subordinate to the general will and merely put into effect the interests of the community.

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