“On the Social Contract”
I. Book I: The State of Nature and perfectibility
II. The Legislator (Ch. 7). Similarities with Mach’s prince?
• Ideal “founding” conventions (810)▯an ideal people?
III. Government vs Sovereignty▯Why not democracy?
IV. Civil religion (Book II, Ch. 8)
Background on Rousseau
o Born in Geneva, which he loved. The feelings went unreciprocated, and much of
Rousseau’s works were banned with the country.
o Geneva was a republic, in which Rousseau had an interest (though he’s not
a ‘diehard’ democrat)
o Lived in France, in which resided very corrupt people
o Believed he could become a famous composer and write on politics
o Meets Madame de __________, converts to Catholicism in exchange for financial
o Considered himself lucky to participate in and wrote on politics—being a citizen
is about more than enjoying life, it also requires action, duties, etc.
Part I—Book I: State of Nature and Perfectibility
• Individual vs. political liberty reconciliation (p. 17)
o He wanted to “Inquire whether there can be some legitimate and
sure rule…” but all you see are corrupt people and enslaved citizens
masters (powerful and rich) are also enslaved. They spend their lives (and
everything they have) to protect their position in society
• People are dependent on assets, and do absurd acts in order to preserve
them… we only have ourselves to blame (for creating institutions and laws)
• Why do we accept wearing chains?
o It’s become a second nature—we can’t see those chains as they’ve
become obscured by superficialities
• Is there a way to avoid exploitation and cast aside the chains? (no answer…)
Hobbes’ State of Nature
• Before property, laws, gov’ts, political rights were absent. The only natural
society is the family—political associations are conventional.
• When the strongest of the group starts to inflict force over and fear into others, the
power is illegitimate (might is not right, as opposed to Hobbes)
o Pg. 1920: “force is a physical power, an act of necessity, not of will.”
Hobbes: you can’t will yourself into a contract through necessity
• (*Moral) Convention is the basis of political right.
• Condemnation of Slavery: Why would an entire people put itself under the
absolute power of another?
o There’s no convention that justifies this, including a convention of war o Renouncing one’s liberty is renouncing one’s dignity as a man
Laws of Nature
• We all want to preserve ourselves (whereas Locke says we must preserve
mankind, to the best of our abilities)
• We’re not sociable; we are selfish and independent (but unlike Hobbes, who said
we are constantly comparing ourselves to others.
• Nature is relatively peaceful (why do we leave it??)
• Civil society can’t be basis for political right
Legitimate Movement to Society
Pg. 24: “let’s try to find…”
• Freedom is self rule
• Each one of us will give up everything to everyone.
o The social compact requires this
o “By giving myself to all, _________ I give myself to no body.” i ▯ n order
to avoid dependency
o We’ll all be equal subjects in this system
o Even further: we won’t be subject of this law, we will be markers of it
(more citizens than subjects, but we’re all at once both)
The General Will (Sovereign; the Body Politic)
• The expression of the Sovereign, wherein everyone equally consents (this must
apply to all)
• Decide on laws of the broadest, most general kind (not particular groups,
minorities, individuals, though)
• Not meaning we won’t be selfish individuals, but when we act the Sovereign it
cannot be muddied by private interests
• What happens when this conflict with personal interests?
o The indivi