RousseauSocialContractNotes - Rousseau Social Contract Book...

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Rousseau, Social Contract Book I begins by taking up the subject of men ‘as they are’ and laws ‘as they might be.’ Here is the grounds of the conflicts and contradictions that make his system unattainable. Note the conception of citizenship, “Born as I was the citizen of a free state and a member of its sovereign body, the very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affairs, however little influence my voice may have upon them,” (49). Key concept: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they,” (49). Rousseau disproves the argument that might equals right (which can be used to justify an absolute monarch): “The strongest man is never strong enough to be master all the time, unless he transforms force into right and obedience into duty…Force is a physical power; I do not see how its effects could produce morality. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will; it is at best an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a moral duty?” (52). He shows the right of the strongest is nonsense, it is merely force and vanishes when that force is vanquished (53). So: “Might does not make right, and…the duty of obedience is owed only to legitimate powers,” (53). And legitimate powers can only be based on covenant. Men are not naturally enemies – all conflict arises over property (55). War, moreover, is a relation between states, not individuals, who even in war between states are enemies only by chance and only in their capacity as armed soldiers (56). War gives no right of untrammeled destruction, and is restricted from harming the persons and property of private persons wherever possible (57). There can be no right to slavery – it cannot be justified – and the very words ‘right’ and ‘slavery’ cancel each other out entirely (58). Despots may subdue a multitude, but they never rule a society (58). Before considering how a people submits, we ought consider how a people becomes a people, because that act is the real foundation of society (59). When nature becomes too inconvenient, our only option is to combine our powers. The difficult question is how each individual is able to preserve his powers, remain free and obey no one but himself while still being bound to a system that unites the force of all under a single will (60). “These articles of association, rightly understood, are reducible to a single one, namely the total alienation by each associate of himself and all his rights to the whole community,” (60). This is done unconditionally. In sum: “Each one of us puts into the community his person and all his powers,
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2010 for the course POLI SCI 365 taught by Professor Buzby during the Spring '10 term at Rutgers.

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RousseauSocialContractNotes - Rousseau Social Contract Book...

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