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Man Is Born Free And Everywhere He Is In Chains These Are The Famous Opening Words Of A Treatise That Has Not Ceased To Stir Vigorous Debate Since Its First Publication In Rejecting The View That Anyone Has A Natural Right To Wield Authority Over Others, Rousseau Argues Instead For A Pact, Or Social Contract , That Should Exist Between All The Citizens Of A State And That Should Be The Source Of Sovereign Power From This Fundamental Premise, He Goes On To Consider Issues Of Liberty And Law, Freedom And Justice, Arriving At A View Of Society That Has Seemed To Some A Blueprint For Totalitarianism, To Others A Declaration Of Democratic Principles An update to the previousRousseau probably has the most recognized opening line in political theory philosophy Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains The idea of the social contract is to move man from the state of nature with unlimited freedom and limited security to a society The society is a compromise where a man gives up his unlimited freedom and receives security in exchange Giving up freedom never sounds like a good idea, but Rousseau makes his point In the state of nature, a man devotes much of his time protecting his stuff If someone takes you stuff you are free to punish the offender if you are capable In society, you lose the right to punish offenders and forfeit that right to a legal system There are rules that are enforced by law so one does not need to spend all his time guarding his stuff There is an exchange of freedom a loss counteracted with a gain i.e freedom to do something other than guarding your stuff Rosseau promotes the idea of a general will Society, all its members, provide a voice for direction It is all the voices that determine the general will Although not always practical many societies result to representative legislatures, Although this limits the individual voices, it can work unless 1 Factions are formed political partiesespecially when there are only two 2 Members of the legislature coming under the influence of interests rich, corporations, musket lobby Rousseau writes much in the way of a democratic society always doing the right thing by following the general will the majority view, which should be very large since every voice is heard as an individual You are not limited only two opinions or parties Society should move along very well and move along in the utmost of fairness and justice Rousseau is often cited as the father of modern democracy Rousseau is also credited as the Father of modern totalitarianism The general will idea plays well into the hands of tyrants Look how many dictators get elected and reelected with 97% of the vote General will all the way Perhaps a bit chilling is Rousseau comments on what happens if you disagree with the general will Rousseau states rather simply that, everyone makes mistakes It s OK It happens Society will simply force you to be free I totally made up the musket lobby but I imagine the reader gets the jest of it Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique The Social Contract Principles of Political Rights, Jean Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract, originally published as On the Social Contract or, Principles of Political Rights French Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique by Jean Jacques Rousseau, is a 1762 book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way to establish a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society, which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality 1754 The Social Contract helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate Rousseau asserts that only the people, who are sovereign, have that all powerful right 1974 1348 1345 1329 1347 The one star rating does not mean I don t recommend reading The Social Contract Everyone should It s that important, that influential and reading this was certainly eye opening One star does not mean this was tedious, dry or difficult In fact this treatise is not long, is easy to understand and can be read in a few hours And Rousseau can certainly turn a phrase Lots and lots that s quotable in this book But I don t simply not like the book which on Goodreads means one star I absolutely despise this book and everything it stands for Leo Strauss called Machiavelli the teacher of evil and goodness knows I have nothing kind to say about Marx But both feel clean and wholesome in comparison to Rousseau Machiavelli at least is open about urging there is no place for morals in politics, but Rousseau is positively Orwellian He begins the first chapter of Social Contract with the stirring worlds Man is born free and everywhere is in chains. But though he speaks of liberty and democracy it s clear that his ideal state as he defines it is totalitarian Those who don t want any part of his state, who won t obey, should be forced to be free Locke argued inalienable rights included life, liberty, and property governments are instituted to secure those rights For Rousseau, life, liberty and property are all things you give wholly to the state retaining no individual rights Rousseau states Whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body the social contract gives the body politic absolute power over all its members when the prince says to him It is expedient for the State that you should die, he ought to die.Even Rousseau thought his ideal system couldn t work in large territories He ideally wanted direct democracy, with all citizens meeting in assembly such as in the ancient city state of Athens, not representative democracy, which he doesn t see as true democracy And the larger the state, the absolute in its powers and autocratic the government should be lest it fall into selfish anarchy Alissa Ardito says in the Introduction to my edition that Politics is also about language, talking, negotiating, arguing and for that Rousseau had no need and little patience The goal in The Social Contract is always about consensus, and in the end one suspects what Rousseau finally wanted was silence You cannot have liberty or democracy while shutting up and shutting down anyone who dissents from the general will And then there s Rousseau s urging of a civil religion, where one literally worships the state What you get then is the obscenity of a state as the Democratic People s Republic of Korea, whose only nod to democracy is in the name, and where its leader takes on a quasi religious status Can I see any good in this treatise I can see the form the United States took in the discussion of a mix between monarchy President , aristocracy Senate, Supreme Court and democracy Congress and checks and balances between them But such features are also discussed in Locke s Second Treatise of Government and in Montesquieu s The Spirit of the Laws, both of which predate The Social Contract In fact, Rousseau s categories of government can even trace its roots to Aristotle So, what good I can see in it is hardly original Well, and The Social Contract did argue for sovereignty being lodged in the people rather than a Divine Right of Kings it s supposed to have inspired the French Revolution, and its cry of liberty, equality, fraternity If so, it s easier to understand why the French Revolution turned into the Reign of Terror I do consider this a must read, and I m glad I read it It s enlightening, like turning over a rock to see all the nasty things that were hiding underneath. google translate.