Rousseau: 'Man Was Born Free but Is Everwhere in Chains'.Explain

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Unit 2 Study Skills – Essay Writing.

“Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains” Explain what Rousseau means by this with reference to Rousseau’s accounts of freedom in the state of nature and in a civil society.

Alexandra Strachan

Word Count: 1260

Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712, although his works were written in French and he was deemed a French freethinker and philosopher heavily intellectually tied to the French Revolution. In 1762 he wrote ‘The Social Contract’ a ‘thought experiment’ concerning political philosophy. It opens with one of his most famous quotes: “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains” (Rousseau, 1968, p.49); this short essay is an attempt to interpret this epigram paying
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As the individual relinquishes all he had to the sovereign, it would suggest he was going to become a slave to the state. However, this is exactly what Rousseau was trying to avoid. This sovereign was not concerned with a simple majority; in fact Rousseau expressed distain for existing forms of civil state and their limited freedoms; “ England regards itself as free, it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of its Members of Parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing.” (Rousseau, as cited in Garrard, 2012, p.33) His general will was a more a greater, almost spiritual consciousness, which Rousseau outlined, somewhat abstractly, as “a form of association which will defend the person and goods of each member with the collective force of all, and under which each individual, while uniting himself with the others, obeys only himself and remains as free as before” (Rousseau, 1968 p.60). The laws or constraints “never formally stated, they are everywhere the same, everywhere tacitly admitted and recognised” (Rousseau, 1968, p.60). Yes, you would give up natural liberty, but you would gain civil liberty, thus achieving freedom, however now within the constraints of the general will, a structure that
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