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Jean Jacques Rousseau a French philosopher and theorist, has had an effect on societies of in the past by his expression of general will. In the general will freedom and equality are presupposed. Governments of the past and present have had Roussean content. Freedom and equality have presupposed each other by way of the general will and compelled obedience. Freedom and equality are used in today?s society although Rousseau would have some criticism to share with the founders of our government ideas of freedom, when compared to Rousseau model of the body politic.
Rousseau saw that a man?s moral nature was more important than his intellect. He saw that individuals were born good but corrupted by the society around them. Nevertheless, he saw the solution was not in the same state, in speaking of the state of nature, but in an entirely new reorganized society the body politic.
As mentioned above freedom and equality are presupposed by general will. As said in one of Rousseau?s writings, ? In accepting the authority of the general will, one does not only belong to a collective, moral body but also achieves true freedom by obeying a law which he has prescribed for himself ? (Rousseau 197). As an example from Rousseau?s book ? The Social Contract,? he stated that ?no man has any natural authority over his fellow-men, and force is not the source of right? ( Rousseau ). That simply states that all men are equal. Rousseau also states that ? Man?s participation in society must be consistent with his existence as a free and rational being. Society is therefore unthinkable without a freedom that expresses man?s most fundamental attribute. All people when entering the body politic are equal, moral beings, and to say that a man would give his natural freedom up would be inconceivable and absurd. Therefore it would be illegitimate and invalid for the simple reason that he who performs it is not in his right mind? (Rousseau ). He connects freedom and equality in the body politic, because if a man gave up his freedom, he would not be in his right mind. The state would not be legitimate. So for a society to be legitimate it has to have freedom and equality by way of compelled obedience or by the general will.
When Rousseau speaks of compelled obedience or ?forced to be free? he is speaking regarding the ?Social Contract? that says,
the social pact may not be a vain formuiary, it tacitly includes this
engagement, which can alone give force to the others, –that whoever
refuses means nothing else that he shall be forced to be free; for such is the condition which, submitting every citizen to his native land, guarantees him from all political machine, and alone renders legitimate civil engagements, which, without it, would be absurd and tyrannical, and subject to the most enormous ( Rousseau ).
To translate, this simply says that if one decides to disobey the general will they will be constrained from the body, to do this that makes one force to be free. In our world today people are sent do jail if they to something that is against the United States Government. In a way they are constrained from the world in a way that they are sent to a different society. In the society that they are constrained to, they have no freedom but are considered equal. So in our society today people are not necessarily always free because the government can take away and give back freedom at their convenience. So in the United States freedom and equality are not presupposed.
Rousseau was a very eloquent prophet of modern democracy, and some of his precepts helped guide the founders of American democracy. Rousseau?s views have influenced many thinkers and political movements, partly because of the central problem with which he was concerned and partly because of the vigor with which he wrote ( Benton, 300). Rousseau?s ?The Social Contract? was written in 1762, that is right around the time when the Constitution was adopted. One could easily believe that Rousseau had a part in the thought process and content of the Constitution. America?s state would be describe as a democracy, where individuals would be able to vote their representatives to run their government. Rousseau believes this would be legitimate because he said that one cannot have special privileges based upon their position. If that is true then he would not agree with our society in America.
Think back when American?s had master slave relationships, and where one would beat another legitimately. Rousseau said, as mentioned before, that one would not be in his right mind to enter into that kind of relationship. The American society would have ended right there in Rousseau?s eyes, because he believed in freedom for all, not just for whites.
Rousseau?s philosophies on general will, where freedom and equality are presupposed are different from the philosophies of our government’s founders. Freedom does not have to be present for one to have equality in a state. Although Rousseau would agree with some ideas of the American government, he would agree with the thought that ones freedom could be taken away.
Benton, William. ?An Influence on Modern Education.? Compton?s Encyclopedia.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Social Contract.
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