Equality and Liberty in Rousseau, Calhoun and King

Topics: Political philosophy, Social contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau Pages: 7 (2627 words) Published: April 7, 2013
Equality and Liberty in Rousseau, Calhoun and King
Rousseau's central aim in the Social Contract is to explain the sources and limits of legitimate authority. He believes that our duty towards the state stem from a social contract or social pact. By means of which groups of individuals are transformed into a body politic; a whole which has its own genuine will which is not necessarily from some of the individual wills of the people which is composed.

Indeed, Rousseau declares the social contract as if it were a historical event. However, he does not mean by this to undo how actual states were created; rather it simply a device to bring out the undermine structure of the states. He is not saying that there was a moment in history where people gather together and make a deal with each other, but only that the relations between citizens and state can best be understood by considering the origins of the association. The basic agreement made by members of the state is that they show unite for their common good: "Let us draw up the whole account in terms easily commensurable. What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship all he possession" (p.12). There was a great deal to be gain by cooperating as part of the society, rather than living alone. As seen here, society can provide protection of life and property, so individuals has a strong incentive to collaborate with the state. At first glance it might seem that Rousseau entertains two incompatible ideals since he both praises the liberty that all humans have outside society and emphasizes the great benefits of life within society. Unnatural liberty is a necessary part of humanity. If we give up our freedom entirely, we become slaves; and we ceased to be fully humans. If society would to take away our freedom entirely, then there would be no point in joining it, since in the process we would lose our humanity: "We might, over and above all this, add, to what man acquires in the civil state, moral liberty, which alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty" (p.12). Rousseau said some several task explaining how we can form a state without sacrificing liberty. This may seem impossible since the essence of life in society is you give up most of your natural freedoms in order to reach the benefits of protection, but Rousseau believes that his particular version of social contract theory does provide a formula that combines genuine liberty with the fruit of society. Central to his account is his doctrine of the general will.

Once every individual has been transformed into a state by the means of the social contract, they are united by common goals. The general will is the wish of the state as a whole where there is a general pursue of the common good. It can be that all individuals make up a state and desire a certain outcome because they stand together individually by it: "As long as several men in assembly regard themselves as a single body, they have only a single will which is concerned with their common preservation and general well-being" (p.71). For instance, they might all desire a reduction in taxation. However, if the whole state stands against by keeping taxes high, then that is the general will, even though the individuals with their personal interests do not wish to precede this policy, but based on the common good, taxes should be remain high, and anyone who resist this should be forced to be free. Rousseau's philosophy draws a clear distinction between individuals with their personal interests and desires and those same individuals as part of the state. The self interest that the individual has for his own should always be inferior to the higher aims of the general will. The general will is for the...
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