The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
There are numerous philosophies that have determined the position taken by individuals, groups, or institutions in the society that shape and determine daily events that occur in such societies. Political science has seen the interrelationship between such individuals, groups, or institutions and how they link with each other. Such philosophical thinking and concepts have proved to provide foundations and framework upon which many other concepts have developed that tie issues relating to the economic, social, or political affairs both in the past and present as noted and observed in many societies. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is among the greatest philosophers who have contributed to presenting varied views and interpretation of the societal affairs that have proved to be relevant both in the past and present times. Born in the year 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 28, he moved to Paris, France, at the age of 16 where he developed his career and reputation as a great philosopher. Jean-Jacques ended up producing many great literal works that presented varied philosophies that include Basic Political Writings, the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, and The Social Contract among others. These works have proved to be critical in developing philosophies and frameworks that define many aspects related to society, education, and politics up to the present times. However, this piece analyzes The Social Contract among his many works, noting the impact and political influence that it has retained to the present times.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau subscribed to the philosophy of maxim that championed for change in the society such as equal representation, justice for all, and unity among other concepts. The social contract, according to Jean-Jacques, describes the relationship that exists between a person and the society. He emphasized the importance of law and morality that ensure that nature’s brutality is neutralized. He further states that there are good people as a result of the society that is formed by people coming together to form a collective human presence that he terms as a “society.” The social contract thus is the compact or solidarity that people agree to abide by and use to become members of that society. Rousseau points out the competition that exists between people in pursuit of varied issues of interests for them and hence notes that only by people coming together and joining their efforts the society can produce a synergy that can overcome threats and barriers that can prevent them for realizing their goals. Rousseau hence advocates for the formation of unions and movements that advocate for change in the society for all.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau further notes that institutions have the mandate and responsibilities to ensure that there is freedom for all citizens and people in the country, which includes the state, as well as the concept of incorporating politics and morality that go hand in hand. The state, therefore, have the responsibility to ensure that there is freedom, justice, equality for all people within a state and it is the mandate and responsibility of the government to provide such critical rights and privileges to all regardless of the will of the majority. The principle of Jean-Jacques Rousseau has applied in many contexts of government in the past and in the present times. Governments that have come to power through democratic and undemocratic processes thus are assumed to have entered into a social contract with citizens of the state and all people who reside within such societies. Hence, they have responsibilities to provide essential services to people such as security, employment, freedom, education, healthcare services, and food security among other necessary and critical aspects for the humanity. In case governments fail to meet the standards and the mandate as observed through the social contract, people have the responsibility to demand a change in the governing structures and leadership through all possible means, including revolutions as noted in the Marxism principles of which Rousseau was a great follower.
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Rousseau also notes that the principle of morality is important for governments to consider in executing services and he questions the view that the majority is always correct. The main reasons he takes this position is that there are many governments and administrations in the society that have embraced policies, rules, and regulation that are unfair to the minority, which perpetuates continuous injustices, lack of freedom, and lack of equality in many affairs, including biased gender representation. Rousseau further notes that when such moral consideration fails to exist in governments, then it ceases and stops to function in the required proper manner and, as a result, it has no authority to extra authority over individuals or groups. Jean-Jacques Rousseau champions for the idea that all laws must value equality and liberty for all the people without consideration of religion, gender, race, and ethnic background among others.
Rousseau acknowledges the presence of the executive branch and people and appreciates the role that the executive branch plays in ensuring that people’s or those governed groups’ interests are realized. He, however, notes that there are plenty of conflicts between the two parties. When people engage in the election process, whether at assemblies or other general elections and referendums, they must always prioritize and vote for ideas and issues that have the general will and not those that intend to help individuals. He calls the collective grouping of people as “sovereign” that needs to be considered as one individual. In this view, many trade unions and movements that represent varied interests in the society such as workers unions, employers’ associations, and students bodies among others have to be encouraged and formed to give them the power and energy to challenge and advocate for the common good and benefits for all members of the groups and people in the society at large.