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Rousseaus Social Contract Essay Research Paper JeanJacques (стр. 1 из 2)

Rousseau`s Social Contract Essay, Research Paper

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fascinating individual whose unorthodox ideas and

passionate prose caused a flurry of interest in 18th century France. Rousseau’s

greatest work were published in 1762 -The Social Contract. Rousseau society

itself is an implicit agreement to live together for the good of everyone with

individual equality and freedom. However, people have enslaved themselves by

giving over their power to governments which are not truly sovereign because

they do not promote the general will. Rousseau believed that only the will of

all the people together granted sovereignty. Various forms of government are

instituted to legislate and enforce the laws. He wrote, ?The first duty of the

legislator is to make the laws conformable to the general will, the first rule

of public economy is that the administration of justice should be conformable to

the laws.? His natural political philosophy echoes the way of Lao Tzu: ?The

greatest talent a ruler can possess is to disguise his power, in order to render

it less odious, and to conduct the State so peaceably as to make it seem to have

no need of conductors.? Rousseau valued his citizenship in Geneva where he was

born, and he was one of the first strong voices for democratic principles.

?There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no

virtue without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need;

without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves, from the rulers of the

State downwards.? In the civil order, there can be any sure and legitimate

rule of administration, men being taken as they are and laws as they might be.

In this inquiry we shall endeavor always to unite what right sanctions with what

is prescribed by interest, in order that justice and utility may in no case be

divided. We enter upon this task without proving the importance of the subject.

We shall be asked if we are the prince or the legislator, to write on politics.

We answer that we am neither, and that is why we do so. If I were a prince or a

legislator, I should not waste time in saying what wants doing; I should do it,

or hold my peace. As we were born citizens of a free state, and a member of the

sovereign, we should feel, however feeble the influence of our voice can have on

public affairs, the right of voting on them makes it our duty to study them: and

we are happy, when we reflect upon governments, to find the inquiries always

furnish us with new reasons for loving that of our own country. Man is born

free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others,

and still remains a greater slave than they. How did this change come about? we

do not know. What can make it legitimate? That question can be answered. If we

took into account only force, and the effects derived from it, ?as long as a

people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake

off the yoke, and shakes it off, it does still better; for, regaining its

liberty by the same right as took it away, either it is justified in resuming

it, or there was no justification for those who took it away.? But the social

order is a sacred right which is the basis of all other rights. Nevertheless,

this right does not come from nature, and must therefore be founded on

conventions. Before coming to that, we have to prove what has just been

asserted. The most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural,

is the family: and even so the children remain attached to the father only so

long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the

natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed

to the father, and the father, released from the care he owed his children,

return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no

longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only

by convention. This common liberty results from the nature of man. His first law

is to provide for his own preservation, his first cares are those which he owes

to himself; and, as soon as he reaches years of discretion, he is the sole judge

of the proper means of preserving himself, and consequently becomes his own

master. The family then may be called the first model of political societies:

the ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all,

being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage.

The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his

children repays him for the care he takes of them, while, in the state, the

pleasure of commanding takes the place of the love which the chief cannot have

for the peoples under him. The strongest is never strong enough to be always the

master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty. Hence

the right of the strongest, which, though to all seeming meant ironically, is

really laid down as a fundamental principle. But are we never to have an

explanation of this phrase? To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of

will at the most, an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a duty? Suppose

for a moment that this so-called ?right? exists. Maintained that the sole

result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense. For, if force creates right, the

effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first

succeeds to its right. As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity,

disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the

only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest. But what kind

of right is that which perishes when force fails? If we must obey perforce,

there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we

are under no obligation to do so. Clearly, the word ?right? adds nothing to

force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing. Obey the powers that be.

If this means yield to force, it is a good precept, but superfluous: we can

answer for its never being violated. All power comes from god, we admit; but so

does all sickness: does that mean that we are forbidden to call in the doctor? A

brigand surprises me at the edge of a wood: must we not merely surrender my

purse on compulsion; but, even if we could withhold it, are we in conscience

bound to give it up? For certainly the pistol he holds is also a power. Let us

then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey

only legitimate powers. In that case, my original question recurs. Since no man

has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must

conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men.

If an individual, ?can alienate his liberty and make himself the slave of a

master, why could not a whole people do the same and make itself subject to a

king?? There are in this passage plenty of ambiguous words which would need

explaining; but let us confine ourselves to the word alienate. To alienate is to

give or to sell. Now, a man who becomes the slave of another does not give

himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence: but for what does a

people sell itself? A king is so far from furnishing his subjects with their

subsistence that he gets his own only from them. Do subjects then give their

persons on condition that the king takes their goods also? It will be said that

the despot assures his subjects civil tranquillity. Granted; but what do they

gain, if the wars his ambition brings down upon them, his insatiable avidity,

and the vexations conduct of his ministers press harder on them than their own

dissension?s would have done? What do they gain, if the very tranquillity they

enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is

that enough to make them desirable places to live in? To say that a man gives

himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is

null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his

mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and

madness creates no right. Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not

alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to

them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to

years of judgment, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their

preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without

conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the

rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimize an

arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a

position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no

longer arbitrary. To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender

the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no

indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man’s nature; to

remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts.

Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one

side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience. Is it not

clear that we can be under no obligation to a person from whom we have the right

to exact everything? Does not this condition alone, in the absence of

equivalence or exchange, in itself involve the nullity of the act? For what

right can my slave have against me, when all that he has belongs to me, and, his

right being mine, this right of mine against myself is a phrase devoid of

meaning? The victor having, as they hold, the right of killing the vanquished,

the latter can buy back his life at the price of his liberty; and this

convention is the more legitimate because it is to the advantage of both

parties. But it is clear that this supposed right to kill the conquered is by no

means deducible from the state of war. Men, from the mere fact that, while they

are living in their primitive independence, they have no mutual relations stable

enough to constitute either the state of peace or the state of war, cannot be

naturally enemies. War is constituted by a relation between things, and not

between persons; and, as the state of war cannot arise out of simple personal

relations, but only out of real relations, private war, or war of man with man,

can exist neither in the state of nature, where there is no constant property,

nor in the social state, where everything is under the authority of the laws.

War is a relation, not between man and man, but between state and state, and

individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens, but

as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders. Finally,

each state can have for enemies only other states, and not men; for between

things disparate in nature there can be no real relation. Furthermore, this

principle is in conformity with the established rules of all times and the

constant practice of all civilized peoples. Declarations of war are intimations

less to powers than to their subjects. The foreigner, whether king, individual,

or people, who robs, kills or detains the subjects, without declaring war on the

prince, is not an enemy, but a brigand. Even in real war, a just prince, while

laying hands, in the enemy’s country, on all that belongs to the public,

respects the lives and goods of individuals: he respects rights on which his own

are founded. The object of the war being the destruction of the hostile state,

the other side has a right to kill its defenders, while they are bearing arms;

but as soon as they lay them down and surrender, they cease to be enemies or

instruments of the enemy, and become once more merely men, whose life no one has

any right to take. Sometimes it is possible to kill the state without killing a

single one of its members; and war gives no right which is not necessary to the

gaining of its object. These principles are not those of grotius: they are not

based on the authority of poets, but derived from the nature of reality and

based on reason. The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of

the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the

conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which

does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make

him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the

right to kill him. It is accordingly an unfair exchange to make him buy at the

price of his liberty his life, over which the victor holds no right. Is it not

clear that there is a vicious circle in founding the right of life and death on

the right of slavery, and the right of slavery on the right of life and death?

Even if we assume this terrible right to kill everybody, we maintain that a

slave made in war, or a conquered people, is under no obligation to a master,

except to obey him as far as he is compelled to do so. By taking an equivalent

for his life, the victor has not done him a favor; instead of killing him

without profit, he has killed him usefully. So far then is he from acquiring

over him any authority in addition to that of force, that the state of war

continues to subsist between them: their mutual relation is the effect of it,

and the usage of the right of war does not imply a treaty of peace. A convention

has indeed been made; but this convention, so far from destroying the state of

war, presupposes its continuance. So, from whatever aspect we regard the

question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate,

but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right

contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally

foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: ?I make with you a

convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as

long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.? Even if we granted

all that we have been refuting, the friends of despotism would be no better off.

There will always be a great difference between subduing a multitude and ruling

a society. Even if scattered individuals were successively enslaved by one man,

however numerous they might be, we still see no more than a master and his

slaves, and certainly not a people and its ruler; we see what may be termed an

aggregation, but not an association; there is as yet neither public good nor

body politic. The man in question, even if he has enslaved half the world, is

still only an individual; his interest, apart from that of others, is still a

purely private interest. If this same man comes to die, his empire, after him,

remains scattered and without unity, as an oak falls and dissolves into a heap

of ashes when the fire has consumed it We suppose men to have reached the point

at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature

show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal

of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition

can then subsist no longer; and the human race would perish unless it changed

its manner of existence. But, as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite

and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than

the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the

resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive

power, and cause to act in concert. This sum of forces can arise only where

several persons come together: but, as the force and liberty of each man are the

chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without

harming his own interests, and neglecting the care he owes to himself? This

difficulty, in its bearing on the present subject, may be stated in the

following terms: ?the problem is to find a form of association which will

defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each

associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey

himself alone, and remain as free as before.? This is the fundamental problem

of which the social contract provides the solution. The clauses of this contract

are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would

make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been