Analysis Of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract post-French Revolution because he wanted to create a system of government he thought to be legitimate. Rousseau explains throughout The Social Contract that for a government to be legitimate, the power must lie in the hands of the general will, which represents the whole body politic. Rousseau’s idea sounds great, that is until it is put into practice and, alongside the strengths, you can also see the weakness of it. His philosophy of governance is not one that I can fully support. I cannot support his idea of a legitimate government because I do not think the people can properly govern themselves. I agree with some things he states in this contract, but I do not believe his idea of a legitimate …show more content…
When the power lies fully in the general will there is no true order or direction. I believe people should definitely have a huge say in government and how it affects their life, but I firmly believe that there should be at least one authoritative figure who can make final decisions. Even Rousseau acknowledges that mistakes can come from not having a specific idea of what sovereign authority is (71). There should be someone who makes the final call, if not one individual then a small group of representatives that people vote into office. Rousseau wanted the people to be able to govern themselves because of the negative way he saw the King govern his citizens. The King made decisions without thinking about how they affected his people; he never took their opinions into consideration and Rousseau believes that people should be in control of how the government affects their lives. I understand what he is trying to do, but there needs to be a more controlled system in place. Another downfall about his vision of governance is: what is the group to do when a law does not apply to everyone? Should they enforce it anyways because it is for the good of the majority, or would that be breaking the general will? If they were to execute a law anyways without society’s representation, it would be going against the general will. …show more content…
Now, if this form of governance would actually work in today’s society, I feel I would support it. Unfortunately, I see too many disadvantages in Rousseau’s vision of a legitimate government, not enabling me to support this form of governance in today’s society. For starters, in order for the general will to work, everyone must exchange their individual interests for the groups interest. The participants of The Social Contract, must give up their personal beliefs and put the group’s needs first. Rousseau states that “each one of us puts into the community his person and all his powers under the supreme direction of the general will; and as a body, we incorporate every member as an indivisible part of the whole”(61) he believes that when people exchange their liberties, they become apart of the general will and they act as a whole. Basically, as a citizen under this form of governance, you submit yourself to all, or the common good, and leave behind your personal interests; by doing so you become united with the general will. The problem with that is: people are selfish, not selfless. It is in our human nature to think of ourselves at times, especially on controversial topics. We are more likely to act based on our personal interests rather than the interests of a group. Imagine trying to put this into practice in today's society. Nothing would ever get

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