Rousseau: Relationship Between Liberty And The Civil State

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Locke and Rousseau were both concerned about the relationship between liberty and the civil state. The civil state is a potential threat to the liberty of its citizens. For both authors this liberty exists naturally in the state of nature. Both authors use the state of nature to establish that liberty preceded political society and how a properly designed government can maintain this natural liberty. Because their method of deriving the ideal state from the state of nature is the same, the stark difference between Locke’s and Rousseau’s civil state must be attributed to their different conceptions of liberty.
For Locke liberty is the freedom from the arbitrary domination by others. According to Locke, in the state of nature we have the most liberty, as we have the least impediments on our actions. However within the state of nature exists the natural law which acts as a natural maxim on which actions can be judged just or unjust. Because the natural law exists before civil society it cannot be a product of the
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If each person can be the executioner of the law of nature, conflict will not end until the injured party is satisfied. As there is no common judge between them each party is privy to judge whether or not the other has violated the law of nature in their initiation of the conflict, or by their retributive actions. . As society becomes more populated and developed, each individual being the executioner of the natural law becomes unpractical. No one will be able to judge when conflict is over, thus individuals could live in a state of perpetual chaos. The establishment of a civil authority facilitates the judgement of whether or not the natural law has been violated and what is owed to the injured party, ending the conflict. The state forms when population consents to giving up their right to execute the natural law, and transfers that right to the civil

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