Monday, July 10, 2017

Rousseau and the Idea of Social Contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a social philosopher that came up with the idea of the Social Contract in his 1762 Treaties. His belief was a powerful one and eventually led to a number of major societal changes and revolutions throughout the world. According to the Social Contract monarchs have no right to enslave their people and the legitimate rights of governance exist only when people willingly give up an equal amount of rights for the benefit of all. 

The only legitimate form of government is that which is separate from the people and subject to their well. A form of democracy where the will of the people superseded the rights of any king, class, or government. In this view, all men (and women) have the same rights and obligations to follow the law in so long as those laws represent what the people want. 

No person, president, or class should be above the law and in turn the law should not be above the will of the people. If a person or class of people are above the law, then the entire government should be questioned. Each person, regardless of wealth or social connections, must take a second place among the needs of the country and its people. 

In doing this Rousseau helps us understand that people bind together to create a government because it is in their best interest. They willingly give up some of the freedoms they have when they were in their natural state for the benefit of everyone. They are not obligated to do so unless that government takes into consideration their needs. 

He puts together the basics of what a "legitimate" government is and how it must continue to be responsive to the people's needs. To ensure it seeks to highest form of existence, government should continuously seek to better represent its people without the misinterpretation, or self-interest, of an elite class. When the laws are jaded or curbed to help the powerful it becomes important to put government back on the right path through reform and reformation. 

I happened to see the book for 50 cents at a used books store in San Diego. Worn and tattered pages it came to be an interesting read. I often found myself wondering how a person at this day an age came to have such radical but beneficial thoughts? Rejected, abused, and pushed aside throughout his life he became one of the most powerful thinkers of his time. 

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