2 Ibid., 333-4. 3 Rousseau, The Social Contract , Great Books, Vol.38. 387.
“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. 4 ( emphasis mine) And what is this Social Contract? Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will , and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole. 5 ( emphasis mine) Here we have the idea of the general will . This concept seems to be not entirely clear in the text and there has been much debate about its precise meaning. 6 However, we can see that the general will is the will of the state, which is nothing else than a persona ficta 7 , which is “formed wholly of the individuals who compose it…” 8 Answering how one determines what the general will is, Rousseau contends that general will is concerned with the common interest, and 4 Ibid., 391. 5 Ibid., 392. 6 Cf. Christopher Bertram, "Jean Jacques Rousseau", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <;. 7 Social Contract ., 393. 8 Ibid., 392.
not the interest of all particular wills, and which is expressed in the laws determined by a majority vote of the citizens. 9 Rousseau, thus, advocates a republican form of government (broadly speaking) as the only legitimate kind. The citizens make the laws, yet it is unthinkable that all the citizens would govern in the strict sense. He sees pure democracy as unimaginable given the impossibility that the “people should remain continually assembled to devote their time to public affairs.” 10 How that is exactly carried out is not so much a concern, for the end of political society is: … [t]he preservation and prosperity of its members. And what is the surest mark of their preservation and prosperity? Their numbers and population. Seek then nowhere else this mark that is in dispute. The rest being equal, the government under which, without external aids, without naturalisation or colonies, the citizens increase and multiply most, is beyond question the best. The government under which a people wanes and diminishes is the worst. 11 Finally, let us examine what Rousseau means by law . There are two statements that offer themselves to us. [W]hen the whole people decrees for the whole people, it is considering only itself; and if a relation is then formed, it is between two aspects of the entire object, without there being any division of 9 Ibid., 396, 399. Later, he writes, “As long as several men in assembly regard themselves as a single body, they have only a single will which is concerned with their common preservation and general well-being.” (425) 10 Ibid., 411.