The Social Contract
In ancient times all men lived in a state of nature until hardships and the necessity to form a civil society between one another became eminent. Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “The Social Contract,” analyses the steps and reasoning behind this transition. In Rousseau’s work he focuses on several key terms in order to define this transition clearly, they include: state of nature, social contract, civil society, general will, and the sovereign. It would be impossible to define the latter terms without first analyzing Rousseau’s definition of state of nature. This has to do with the fact that none of the terms have relevance without the existence of the state of nature. According to Rousseau, the state of nature is when there is no outside force influencing an individual’s decisions. It is here that a person can truly be called an individual. A good example of this definition is when a caveman lives alone and does what he pleases, when he pleases. He is in no way tied down to any social restrictions. A civil society is the contrasting state of being where two or more individuals unite for the betterment of themselves and the group. This is done so by implementing rules, laws and regulations, and social restrictions. Because of this, a justice system is implemented to regulate the accepted norms of the society. To build upon the cavemen reference, a civil society is when the aforementioned cavemen have developed to the point where they rely on each other through a basis of civil norms and laws As Rousseau describes it, “‘Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.’” To establish movement between the state of civil society and the state of nature, individuals must form an understanding between each other. This understanding can be based on an array of different arrangements that can be considered a...
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