rousseau and Montesquieu on socialization

Topics: Government, Form of government, Political philosophy Pages: 10 (2269 words) Published: May 8, 2014


Rousseau and Montesquieu views on Socialization and Political Power

Jean Jacques Rousseau and Baron de Montesquieu were great philosophers that enlightened the world with their revolutionary thoughts on different forms of government. These two philosophers inspired the debate on the origin, the necessity, and the consequences of the establishment of societies and governmental authorities. They discussed the required conditions for the sustainability of societal institutions. In his book The Persian Letters, Montesquieu makes use of fictional stories to relay his thoughts on various themes including the advantages and the disadvantages of different systems of governments, the nature of political authority, and the proper role of law. Montesquieu believes that if the right type of government is in place, it can prevent a state of war. As an opposing view, evidence in The Discourse on Inequality shows that Rousseau believes that humans are happier in a natural state. He seems to view all societal forms as legitimized chains that would eventually lead to a despotic system of government in which men are in a state of war. Both authors share the view that the sustainability of a society political stability depend on whether or not its system of government is in accord with the law of nature. However, they present two opposing views on whether or not such sustainability is possible. Rousseau sees the presence of society as problematic regardless of the form of government in place whereas Montesquieu views the political authority of the right system of government as a necessity. Therefore we would first present Rousseau’s pejorative perspective on the institution of societies by pointing out its negative influence on natural liberty and equality before comparing it to Montesquieu’s arguments on the necessity of the presence of a monarchial system of government preferably. Rousseau presents an optimistic perspective of the human condition of living in a natural state. In order to fully understand Rousseau ‘s view of humans in the state of nature, it is important to understand that Rousseau description of humans in a natural state is purely hypothetical (Rousseau 81). Rousseau clearly points that there is not a state of nature per-say because there is not any evidence that supports its existence. However, Rousseau describes the conditions and ways of living that could have been typical to men before the establishment of any societal interactions or any forms of government. Rousseau thus depicts humans in their natural state as animal-like beings that are equal and free to dispose of the surrounding natural resources (Rousseau 109). Human beings in their natural state do not possess any right of property over others, as all natural resources are equally available to all. Humans are thus self-sufficient and do not need to compete for reasons of self-preservation. They are able to thrive outside of any social relationships. In Rousseau’s hypothetical state of nature, men can thus be characterized as isolated, self-sufficient beings with the ability to self-improve. Rousseau argues that this state of isolation in self-sufficiency is what maintains peace and harmony among humans as they prosper independently from each other (Rousseau 105). Rousseau hypothetical state of nature is thus judicially favorable to human beings resulting in peace so that human beings are able to enjoy their freedom and independence. We conclude then that he savage man, wandering in the forest without work, without speech, without a home, without war and without relationship, was equally without any need of his fellow men and without any desire to hurt them (Rousseau 104)

However, Rousseau believes that the establishment of societal relationships has compromised this state of “juridical” stability by promoting natural inequalities among men. He acknowledges that human...
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