Rousseau's Social Contract

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In Rousseau’s political thoughts general will is at the heart of social contract. General will is the most fundamental principle in Rousseau’s social contract. Social contract gets its legitimacy through only the application of general will. But what this “general will” actually is? To Rousseau general will is not simply the sum total of all individual wills, rather it is the collective will of the people of a community. The general will is something additional to the simply the will of all the individuals. In Rousseau’s view general will is the only source of law and it is the only sovereign. A government drives its legitimacy through “the general will”, a government against the general will cannot be a legitimate one. The foundation of social…show more content…
How can an individual remain free while submitting to the authority of a state? After all, the whole concept of a social contract is to give up individual freedom for the sake security. Rousseau’s solution to this dilemma is the idea of general will. A social contract based upon “general will” can save the individual freedom, in addition to providing security. Rousseau would argue that as the general will is the collected will of the community, and by following the general will each individual will be following himself. The individual would not be following a third party, but following his own will. In this way, by obeying the law enacted by the general will an individual would be truly free. In Rousseau’s opinion one can only be free in a society by following the general will. It will not be an unabated freedom like that of the state of nature, but it will be a civil liberty, a moral freedom. Hence, Rousseau made a very provoking claim in Book 1 chapter 7 of The Social Contract, where he says that a citizen who does not obey the general will must be forced to do so. He writes such a citizen must “forced to be free”.…show more content…
Individual deliberation of self interest under right kind of circumstances and proper constraints of generalities and universalities will lead to the general will. In order to determine the general will Rousseau gave the following principle, “the more important and serious the issue, the closer the deciding vote should be to unanimity; the other, that the greater the urgency of the matter, the smaller the majority required should be.” (Rousseau 96) He explained that to determine the general will of all the community will not be practical and feasible at every single occasion. So, he maintained that for simple and procedural matters consent of the simple majority would be sufficient, while in case of substantive issues consent of the major portion of the community is essential. Though Rousseau argues that for the original social contract to emerge a complete unanimity of consent is required and no representative body can replace the sovereignty of general will, yet, on some places, he supports representative assembly for as the manifestation of the general will. He writes should the whole nation or community be assembled after every event to discuss the legislation? His answer is a negative one, to him it would be highly impractical and the mere assembly of people cannot guaranty the manifestation of the general will.
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