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Michael Short Western Civ Paper

Michael Short Western Civ Paper - The ideas of the...

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The ideas of the Enlightenment era brought about a transformation in the Western world that continued to shape the world for hundreds of years to come. The introduction of reason to everyday life and modern society played a large role in shaping the changes that took place throughout the 19 th century. One of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His ideas influenced many famous documents of the nineteenth century. The Enlightenment ideals in Rousseau’s Social Contract have clear presence in the National Assembly’s The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen regarding the structure of the basic rights of men and how those rights are protected in a state. There are also enlightenment principles, specifically from the writings of Rousseau, in a document by John Stuart Mill entitled On Liberty , discussing the role of the state and the individual. In Benjamin Constant’s The Principles of Politics , Constant follows and critiques Rousseau’s ideas of sovereignty while shaping his own visions for tomorrow’s France. There are several parallel thoughts concerning the rights of man in society and state between Rousseau and the National Assembly. As Rousseau stated: “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” 1. Similarly, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen states, “Liberty consists of the power to do whatever is not injurious to others; thus the enjoyment of the natural rights of every man has for its limits only those that
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assure other members of society the enjoyment of those same rights; such limits may be determined only by law” 2. These two statements make claims for the individual to have the same freedoms as the individual would if not in a state. The National Assembly then moves one step further by announcing that these rights are always protected, as long as they do not restrict and are not “injurious” to the rights of other citizens within the state. Both documents call strongly for equal rights. Through the writings of Rousseau it is evident he is calling for a democracy. Years later, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens begins to set up the democracy for which Rousseau calls. Rousseau pushes strongly for equal rights; he states: “Every authentic act of general will, binds or favours all the citizens equally; so that the Sovereign recognizes only the body of the nation, and draws no distinctions between those whom it is made up” 3. This statement by Rousseau goes directly against the powerful monarchies that were dominant in the west at the time. It calls for equality for all citizens, across all social and economic classes. The National Assembly puts this idea in action by claiming: “Law is the expression of the general will; all citizens have the right
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Michael Short Western Civ Paper - The ideas of the...

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