Jean Jacques Rousseau : An Effective Structure Of Sovereignty

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In On the Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau critiques modernity and establishes an ideal state in which he declares that if man is to live in a civil state then the will of the people, general will, is the only binding construction of sovereignty. Rousseau asserts that freedom, the capacity for reason, and morality are the sole reasons for the transition into a civil state, and the “general will tends toward equality” (30). In establishing civil order, there must be a social contract that will protect the natural rights of individuals and protect their freedom. In this paper, I will argue that the general will is an effective structure for a sovereign nation because it does not compromise freedom or liberty, although it is not the…show more content…
The sovereign is “formed entirely from the private individuals who make it up” and a “collective being” (26 & 29). These individuals are allowed their own private will, but it does not supersede the general will of the citizens (26). The preservation of the state is more important than the preservation of that individual citizen within the social contract. The contract establishes unity among the people, and rights that were afforded in the natural state are traded for the advantages in a civil state (27). Therefore, anyone who acts upon their own private will and ignores the general will, will be forced to obey the general will (26). The general will is always what is best for the state and not the individual. The sovereign is always right and never wrong because it is the will of the people, inalienable, and indivisible. Sovereignty, per Rousseau, is “merely the exercise of the general will” which is always aimed towards the greater good (29). Therefore, the sovereignty is inalienable and is represented only by itself, which means that the legitimate power of the sovereign cannot be given or taken away (29). Because the sovereign employs the general will and is inalienable, it cannot be divided (30). The declaration of the general will by the sovereign “constitutes” law and order (30). As stated by Rousseau, “for either the will is general, or it is not” (30). Sovereignty is either absolute or it does not exist at all and the general will is always enacted
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