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POLI 362 - Rouseau: Perpetual Peace

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Political Science
POLI 362
Catherine Lu

Rousseau – Abstract and Judgement of Saint-Pierre's Project for Perpetual Peace (1756) Begins where Hobbes leaves off: if we really are as reasonable and rational as we claim, why have we continued to exist in an international state of anarchy, with persistent and devastating warfare? “If there is any way of reconciling these dangerous contradictions, it is to be found only in such a form of federal government as shall unite nations by bonds similar to those which already unite their individual members, and place the one no less than the other under the authority of the law” (55). Concert of Europe: the continent is united in Rousseau's time, insofar as it shares habits, customs, interests, principles, religion, and commerce (56). In ancient times, nations and peoples were divided. The Greeks viewed themselves as rulers, and the rest of the world, as the ruled; the rest of the world, in turn, were as divided among themselves as they were with the Greeks. Under the Roman Empire, conquered nations received the same rights as the conquerors. Europe was thus united in a body politic. The vast empire was united under a shared system of laws and institutions, and legislation clearly defined the rights and duties of ruler and subject. However, that which played the largest role in uniting Europe was Christianity. This leads Rousseau to claim that Europe forms “a real community with a religion and a moral code, with customs and even laws of its own, which none of the component nations can renounce without causing a shock to the whole frame” (59). And yet, despite this commonality, brutal conflict persists. Rousseau on the Causes of War 1) Lack of Common Law “The public law of Europe has never been passed or sanctioned by common agreement; it is not based upon any general principles; it varies incessantly from time to time and from place to place; it is therefore a mass of contradictory rules which nothing but the right of the stronger can reduce to order” (60). 2) On the Social Reality (?) “Things often change their spirit without any corresponding chang eof form; that states, hereditary in fact, remain elective in appearance; that we find parliaments or states general in monarchies and hereditary rulers in republics; that a power, in fact dependent on another, often retains the semblance of autonomy; that all the provinces ruled by the same sovereign are not always governed by the same laws; that the laws of succession differ in different dominions of the same sovereign; finally, that the tendency of every government to degenerate is a process which no human power can possibly arrest” (61). “What unites any form of society is community of interests, and what disintegrates is their conflict... As soon as a society is founded, some coercive power must be provided to co-ordinate the actions of its members and give to their common interests and mutual obligations that firmness and consistency which they could never acquire of themselves” (61). Rousseau also here chastises anyone who dreams of conquering Europe, and argues that this is an impossibility. Interesting, given Napoleon and Hitler. “As all the sources of power are equally open o them all, the resistance is in he long run as strong as the attack; and time soon repairs the sudden accidents of fortune, if not for each prince individually, at least for the general balance of the whole” (63). What about political alliances? “I doubt whether, since the beginning of the world, there has been a single case in which three, or even two, powers have joined forces for the conquest of others, without quarrelling over their contingents, or over the division of the spoil, and without, in consequence of this disagreement, promptly giving new strength to their common enemy” (64). Interesting remark about Germany: “a body formidable to all by its size and by the number and valour of its component peoples; but of service to all by its constitution which, depriving it both of the means and the will to conquer, makes it the rock on which all schemes of conquest are doomed infallibly to break... So long as that constitution endures, the balance of Europe will never be broken” (65). On commerce: “commerce tends more and more to establish a balance between state and state; and by depriving certain powers of the exclusive advantages they once drew from it, deprives them at the same time of one of the chief weapons they once employed for imposing their will upon the rest” (66). “If we are to form a solid and lasting federation, we must have put all the members of it in a state of such mutual dependence that no one of them is singly in a position to overbear all the others, and that separate leagues, capable of thwarting the general league, shall meet with obstacles formidable enough to hinder their formation” (66). How Perpetual Peace Can Be Achieved The federation “must have a legislative body, with powers to pass laws and ordinances binding upon all its members; it must have a coercive force capable of compelling every state to obey its common resolves... finally, it must be strong and firm enough to make it impossible for any member to withdraw at his own pleasure” (68). Rousseau outlines five articles of a constitution for such a federation: 1) “By the first, the contracting sovereigns shall enter into a perpetual and irrevocable alliance... all questions at issue between the contracting parties shall be settled and terminated by way of arbitration or judicial pronouncement” (69). 2) Which nations shall vote in the common legislature; how the presidency will pass; method for distributing common expenses 3) “By the third, the federal shall guarantee to each of its members the possession and government of all the dominions which he holds at the moment of the treaty, as well as the manner of succession to them, elective or hereditary, as established by the fundamental laws of each province” (69). Prior claims shall be renounced; current and future disputes will be settled by way of arbitration, and not warfare. 4) The punishments enacted to any party which leaves the federation; the agreement of all other parties to take up arms against the offender. Problem: this means that individual states must still maintain defence expenditures, so that they may be able to fulfil this agreement to take up arms against defectors from the federation. Rousseau later acknowledges these expenses, but maintains that some savings will still nevertheless be made. Problem: strict requirements against leaving the federation may deter states from joining in the first place. Monarchies or aristocracies are not usually the ones who suffer the blunt of damages in warfare. Such states will not readily relinquish sovereignty, or the prospect for further conquest and glory, just to avoid warfare, since they suffer disproportionately less in acts of war. Only republican democracies would evaluate the gain from such a federation as greater than the loss; this means that all we really have is democratic peace theory. 5) The legislature shall have legislative power to enact policies – provisionally by a majority; definitely after five years with three-quarters majority – for the federation. Each of these constitutional articles, however, can only be changed with unanimous consent. As mentioned before – and akin to the Hobbesian conc
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