Rousseau and individualism

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Forced to be Free Ever since the fall of feudal societies, all men have shared an obsession with individualism. Even in the days of fierce nationalism during WWI, the idea was still seen as the individual’s endorsement of the state rather than the state’s imposition of an idea. This obsession with individualism reaches not only politics, but art, culture, and even religion (the protestant reform); these ideas shape our modern world and are a driving force in the way each of us think in our daily lives. During the time of Rousseau these ideas we just taking off, with thinkers like Hobbes and Locke were carrying the idea forward. However, what Rousseau provided in his works, in particular piece The Social Contract challenged those notions of individualism, highlighting holes in reasoning as well as exposing the inherent flaws that lie in a hyper-individualist society. Rousseau sought to counter previous notions of not only primitive man, but of the way man should be ruled in a society. Of his theories, which are many, there exists one idea above them all and serves as the cornerstone upon which Rousseau frames most of this later works: The General Will. These ideas of common good and “general will” stand alone, but also serve as a foundation for thinkers like Marx and it is in many ways to communism what Locke is to capitalism. It is important to note that Rousseau does not reject the notion of the individual, in fact, Rousseau endorses the notion that individuals control the real power in a society; the difference arises in the way these thinkers deal with the individual vis-à-vis The State. This fissure on ideas finds its roots in how Locke and Rousseau differ in their imaginations of primitive man and the state of nature. For Locke, a man’s primary value is freedom. A freedom then cannot be infringed upon, lest the individual return to the state of nature to seek his full level of freedom – man in the state of nature is essentially the same man under a state,


Cited: Gildin, Hilail. Rousseau 's Social Contract: The Design of the Argument. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1983. Print. Huffmen, James. About Japan: A Teacher 's Resource. Japan Society, 21 Apr. 2008. Web. 30 Oct. 2013. Johnson, Merwyn S. Locke on Freedom: An Incisive Study of the Thought of John Locke. Austin, TX: Best Print., 1978. Print Locke, John. Two Treaties of Government. New York: Legal Classics Library, 1994. Print. Noone, John B. Rousseau 's Social Contract: A Conceptual Analysis. Athens: University of Georgia, 1980. Print. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Lester G. Crocker, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract ; And, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. New York: Washington Square, 1967. Print. Works Consulted Viroli, Maurizio. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the "well-ordered Society" Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.

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