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Lecture

L8 - Rousseau
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Department
Political Science
Course
POL2108
Professor
Sophie Bourgault
Semester
Winter

Description
March 31, 2014 Rousseau (1712-1778) I. Book I: the state of nature *perfectibility* II. The Legislator (ch. 7) *similarities with Machiavelli’s prince? *ideal “Founding” conditions (8-10) III. Government vs. Sovereignty  Why not democracy? IV. Civil religion (ch. 8-10) • Great love of Geneva – not reciprocated – lost citizenship and would not repatriate him • The republican ideal (republic) looms very large in his writings • Arepublican regime does not mean fully democratic • Experience living in France – pathetic type of absolutism and very corrupt people – reinforced his view of the ideal republic • Left Geneva to go to France to get famous • For financial support from Madame, Rousseau agrees to convert to Catholicism • Rousseau acted as a kind of legislator (for Poland) – might influence chap. 6 • As a citizen, you have a duty to think about politics • Being a citizen entails action and duties (thinking about politics is something you ought to do) • His quest in this book is to reconcile natural individual liberty with political liberty • Not giving up completely on individual liberty • P. 17 inquire whether there can be some legitimate and sure rule of administration in the civil order taking man as they are (human nature) and taking laws as they might be. • Human beings are by nature free, independent, and good • But if you look around, you see men who are bad and not free (in shackles) • He who believes himself the master of others does not escape being more the slave than they • Masters are not exempt from this, they are also enslaved (rich and powerful people are not free) • Why not? They’re dependent too. They spend their lives doing everything to maintain or protect their position • We’re all dependent on things (dependencies) • We have no true self-mastery – he wants us to be masters of our own selves • Collective freedom – we must unite and free ourselves • Chained through rulers (employers, etc) and public opinion (misguided), and desire from acquisitions • “man runs to his death” • We have only ourselves to blame for our misery, we created sick institutions and wrong laws • But we can change these • Why do we accept wearing chains? • Rousseau: Because it’s become a second nature – we can’t see those chains anymore – the chains are covered by flowers, covered by the goods of civilization • He wants to figure out if there’s another way to live – another way for us to surrender our natural freedom and yet not be in chains I. Book I: the state of nature *perfectibility* • First few chapters – what men were like in the state of nature before there was property, laws, kings, etc. Establish what constitutes political right • Politics is not natural to human beings – the only natural society is the family • All political associations are conventional (ch. 2) • Nature does not establish political right • Nature does not give us any legitimate authority over others • What is the strongest in the group established his power over us? Can fear establish legitimate fear and power over others? • Rousseau: No. Force is a physical power. Morality is not related. Act of necessity, not of will. • Contracts based on force or fear are illegitimate • If force does not establish political authority, what does? • R: conventions. • Ch. 4 – criticizes the institution of slavery • Challenge the idea that an individual or an entire people could put themselves into slavery; under the absolute power of another • R: no convention could justify slavery • Differs from Locke – nothing justifies slavery, including a convention of war • Our individual liberty is key to our dignity • Renouncing one’s liberty is renouncing one’s dignity as a man; no compensation for someone who denounces everything (lives under an absolute sovereign) • Hobbes’reasons for submitting to a sovereign are illegitimate Key characteristics of the state of nature i. Acondition of equality (we are by nature equal) ii. condition of perfect freedom; individuals have the freedom to pursue whatever they deem necessary to preserve themselves; we all want to preserve ourselves Locke vs. Hobbes – state of nature, but not of license; you have an obligation to preserve the rest of mankind R – state of perfect freedom, we can do whatever we want to do so iii.We’re not very sociable. But we’re not the nasty creatures described by Hobbes. We don’t necessarily seek to abuse each other either. Thinks the state of nature is relatively peaceful iv. No principle of political right. General will is the basis of morality and political right. -were not naturally political, but we can be made political animals -we are perfectible creatures • Mode where we will remain as free as before • Find a method of living that protects the good of each and, though united, remains free (self-rule) • p. 27 – obedience to the law one has prescribed for oneself is liberty. • How can one unite and retain individual freedom? • The social contract requires each person to give up everything to everyone (personal dependency) – by giving myself to the entire community, I give myself to nobody. • I will belong to everybody and everybody will belong to me – central to the problem of avoiding dependency • Although we’ll all become subjects, we’ll all equally become subjected to the law – will try to make the laws as applicable to everyone • Be citizens – be makers of the law we will obey • We subject ourselves, but we will be the maker • We’re all at once subjects and citizens • As subjects, we are all under the laws, we all obey. • As citizens, we partake in the making of laws. WeARE the sovereign • Laws can only be legitimate if they are the expression of the general will • General will – the expression of the sovereign; the will of the people • The general will must come from all and apply to all • It will only decide on laws of the broadest and most general kind (laws that apply to us all equally) – universals – not minorities or specificities (group or individuals) • It’s through the general will that we express ourselves as people (collectively) • P. 24 – each person gives himself to all, to no one • For this to work, we need interest in the common good • There are certain goods worth pursuing as a collective body • Not to say we are selfless people and no longer keen on private interests • R knows we will still have private interests • But when we’re acting as the sovereign, private interest should not be the first priority • What if private interest is at odd with the public interest? • P. 26 – we will force you to be free “whoever refuses to disobey the general will, will be force to do so by the general body” he will be forced to be free • Ex:As a Canadian, you can be punished if you break the law. You can be forced to do something. What we think is right for us to do for the community is constantly what we are being forced to do (coercion). • If you break the law, you will be made free by the law that punishes you • Dignity emerges in the conscious, sincere choice of the general will over private interest • Punishing you is not taking away your freedom, it is guiding you back to following the law that you made for yourself • Ch. 8 – things that describe this remarkable change in man (from state of nature to political society) • When we’re free, we acquire a more open take on the world, our feelings are noble (limited animal to intelligent being and man) • P. 27 – what man loses in the social contract is his own freedom, but what he retains is civil liberty and moral liberty. • The sovereignty is the exercise of the general will (all adult citizens) i. Sovereignty is unalienable (you can’t transfer it to anyone), cannot be represented (you as a member of the sovereign cannot send a representative – you must present yourself physically) ii. Indivisible – not divided iii. Infallible – cannot err • Important distinction between the general will and the will of all • Will of all – the sum of our private wills (collection of wills) • General will – the collective interest; the common interest that unites these votes • Determine what interest people share in common • It is possible that the people be tricked into a bad decision or intolerant law • Things can be done to prevent that the general will be influenced i. Avoid all parties and factions (partial associations) from the community o When it’s time to deliberate about a law, people should be able to think individually in silence without influences telling them what to think o If there are partial societies (parties), their number should be multiplied and treated equally o Rousseau cites Machiavelli about probation – he saw that factions (sects) are bad for a republic ii. Make sure that the population is well informed – not tricked by ambitious and self-interested individuals • Although by definition sovereign power is absolute, it’s not completely without limits • Rousseau considers these limits in ch. 4 • Sovereign cannot impose on subjects laws which are of no public utility • Sovereign power will not decide or rule in cases involving particular individuals or minorities • P. 38 – how can a blind multitude carry out on its own an enterprise as great as legislation • The general will is always right but the judgment that guides it is not always enlightened • Objects are not always as they appear • The good must be pointed out • Everything Machiavelli has to say about founders • The legislator is the most criticized part of Rousseau’s theory • Exceptional character who is almost divine – individuals so gifted they seem semi-divine • Gods are needs to give man laws • This figure seems to contradict many things said up to now Contradiction: • Self-legislation vs. the laws of the state devised by someone else (from outside the community. Someone who’s not part of the sovereign II. The Legislator • He is an individual with great wisdom and intelligence i. Knows and truly understands the customs, aspirations, interests, and feelings of a community, and yet feels none of these things himself ii. He’s an individual who cares for what we are and could become as a united and free people, but someone who’s happiness is independent from ours (disinterested – nothing to gain – no vested interest) – impartial yet sympathetic to our cause • Provide the constitutional framework for the community • Different communities have different needs • The legislator will know all these and apply a constitute fr
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