Impact of Rousseau and Smith on The Declaration of the Rights of Man

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The philosophy of both Rousseau and Smith highly influenced the French document The Declaration of the Rights of Man. Rousseau's theory on the natural rights of man – freedom and equality – comprises the basis of the document. His concepts of the general will to decide law and the intrinsic sovereignty of the people, as well as Smith's stress that government need not play a large role in order for the nation to thrive, also lie at the essence of the Declaration. The emphasis of Smith's The Wealth of Nations on progress and productivity also played a large role in shaping the document. Although Rousseau does seem to advocate community-wide freedom and equality, while the Declaration focuses strictly on individual rights, the concept of…show more content…
He argued that if left to run by the people's interests and the guiding invisible hand, the economy would naturally prosper (CITE). Smith also believed in this general will, though his would be achieved through this invisible hand, which would naturally led to society's best interests. Although his theories are based in the realm of economics, this underlying concept that a nation should function according to the general will and without an oppressive aristocracy still had a great impact on the Declaration. In different ways, both Rousseau and Smith influenced this major theme which shapes the Declaration – that the people, not any ruler or elite, hold sovereignty and that the state must rule according to the general will of its citizens. The Declaration on the Rights of Man focuses on progress. The revolutionaries who wrote the document desired progress at every level and the text aimed to implant it. Socially, the declaration calls for equal rights for all citizens, religious toleration, and free speech – stipulations radical and progressive at the time. In terms of economics, the declaration conveys the duty of the state to promote the common utility. Politically, the document changed everything, with its dissolution of disproportionate aristocratic power and its emphasis on popular sovereignty and the general will (cite). The Declaration on Rights
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