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Rousseaus Absolute Monarchy Essay

From the very beginning of the book, Rousseau rejects the idea that any political authority is found in nature but rather the only natural authority is that of a father over their children. This only exists for the preservation of the child. This is consistent with the words of Hobbes who also say the relationship between the subjects and their ruler as a father and a child. This political superiority over the subjects comes from a force, not nature itself. “MAN is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.

One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they. ” (Rousseau, Ch. 1) By this, he meant that although people see themselves have free will and are about to do as they seem fit but they are bound by responsibilities of their daily lives such as family, work and even service to the ruler or government they are under. When talking about Hobbes’ notion that state of nature, Rousseau is very critical about the idea that the state of nature has no good and is naturally wicked as people are greedy and put self-preservation before all else.

On the contrary, Rousseau holds that uncorrupted and just morals prevail in the state of nature as the group of the whole will outnumber the wicked few. This seems to in line with the present day as people have a very cynical outlook on the world today but if we each strive to change something we care for that the collective majority of good people can overturn the perception that the world is harsh and cynical. Rousseau’s own social contract ideas overturn his predecessor Hobbes’ notion that an absolute monarch is the best legitimate social authority.

Rousseau proposes the argument that no social contract can be forged with an absolute ruler. These ideas rest of the concepts that when the sovereign surrender their liberties to their monarch, they are consent to a social contract that voids all other contracts with the monarch. He also states that our freedom and liberties are closely linked our will to make choices on their own. If the monarch is absolute he concluded that we lose both our humanity and our liberties and we become slaves. This in effect gives the sovereign no reason to honor the social contract with the monarch and can lead to uprisings and revolt.

Rousseau also says that people reach a breaking point in the state of nature, in which they must come together to preserve either survival. A social contract in his opinion can bind people together while still preserving their own freedoms. This can be done when everyone surrenders themselves unconditionally to the community. He also draws three main conclusions from this, the first being that because everyone gives up the same rights for the social contract, everyone will make the social contract as easy as possible.

The second is that anyone that surrenders the rights and freedoms unconditionally and thus no one has any right to stand against the state itself. Finally, his third point is that because no is set above anyone else, people can retain their natural freedom when entering a social contract. This community he speaks of is not a sum of the total people within it but rather a distinct and united body of life which we would call a sovereign.

As no man can be bound by a contract that he drafted himself, a social contract can enforce and binding laws of the sovereign but this does not give individuals the right to do anything that would violate the contract as it owes its existence to that very social contract. However, the subjects of the sovereign are double bound into this social contract. As the individual, they are bound to the sovereign that they gave their rights to but as a member of this same sovereign, they are also bound to the anyone else in that sovereign.

To continue from his previous ideas about the sovereign, Rousseau builds off them to say that the sovereign is inalienable such that it cannot defer any of its powers to someone or else, or be represented by a committee. It expresses the general will, which will never be aligned with any single individuals or groups private will. The will of the people is only for the sovereign to decide and can only exist so long as the people have an active and direct political voice. He also says that the sovereign is indivisible for the same reasons that the sovereign is inalienable.

Rousseau says that from the sovereign expressing their general will and a law can be formed from these ideas. Whereas the expression of an induvial in its best form is an application of the law of the general. However, Hobbes’ idea about the sovereign have some stark contrasts differences as concludes two fragile truths, the first being that promises under threat of violence are freely made and still binding as any other promise. Hobbes’ says that threats of force don’t deprive us of liberty for if we yield to a threat of violence that is our right and we are physically able to do otherwise.

On the other hand, if we obey the sovereign for fear of punishment that is equally our choice as obedience, in his view, constitutes a promise that we must obey as well. The second truth he concludes that these promises hold a heavy moral weight as they do in all social contracts. His theory is that in the state of nature you could do no wrong as nature dictates that we all are obligated to all things. In Hobbes’ view the sovereign is the king or monarch that passes and controls the laws that dictate life and living under their rule.

Although he would have the monarch appoint judges to administer the verdict of these civil laws, has they would an impartial and proper party to interpret and uphold the law on the king’s behalf. From these judges, comes the punishment which he defined as “Evil inflicted by public Authority, on him that hath done, or omitted that which is Judged by the same Authority to be a Transgression of the Law; to the end that the will of men may thereby the better be disposed to obedience. ” (Hobbes, p. 27) In other words, sovereignty as Hobbes imagined it, can only function when the people, under the king’s rule, feel some additional personal motivation apart from pure self-interest and when they have a clear understanding of the moral codes that come with a civil society and the legislative laws. This is where he sees religion as a part of the driving force to shape human conduct through crude threats of damnation and hell-fire. Although Hobbes’s main interest lies in the educative and political power of religion.

His main problem in his theory of sovereignty is who justifies the limitations on the king’s role in making judgments about moral standards. His other failure, however an understandable one, was underestimating the growth of government and how the sovereign role will change. When forming a commonwealth, Locke was in favor of a Hobbesian type of commonwealth such that “a man should give up his liberty to the magistrate, “and [entrust] the magistrate with as full a power over all his actions as he himself hath. ” (Locke, p. 1) In short, an individual must give up his right to be able to enter the commonwealth and recognize that the commonwealth will act in such a way that benefits not only themselves but rather for the entire community. Locke’s believed that the sovereign was the parliament but only if they pass laws that are aligned with the general will of the public. He expressed his ideas about the different degrees of sovereignty as well as the unifying nature of sovereignty and the diversity of its uses and how they are put to work.

He expresses this mainly through a conception of the dual separation of state, which implied degrees rather than kinds of sovereignty. While absolute sovereignty belongs to God, Locke argued, relative sovereignty is separated into potential and actual sovereignty. The community is established by a fundamental, single contract and is divided into two parts the society and the government. The society role in this arrangement is to fulfill the function of legislation by cultivating the common law, which signifies the potential sovereignty of the community.

While the government’s role is to undertake the execution of these legislations and laws which signify the actual sovereignty of the king and his protection of the commonwealth. My reaction with some of Rousseau’s arguments with serious reservation, we live in an age where individual rights are extremely important, and some would be insulting to think that we are just small parts of a greater machine. Rousseau would counter my argument by saying that we are not free at all.

As a collective group, we may lack any kind of initiative to work towards any goal which can leave us spinning our wheels as we all move in different directions leaving the group motionless. We often have difficulty interacting with one another in any meaningful way, and it could be argued that our decisions and behavior are largely dictated to us by a consumer culture that discourages individual thought. Rousseau might also claim that his system only seems unattractive to us because we have lost the community spirit that brings people together that want to accomplish a goal or have a common interest.

Citizens in his ideal republic are not forced into a community but rather they agree to it for their mutual benefit. He would argue that the citizens of his community were very active and able to accomplish their goals the community spirit that united them did not intrude upon their individuality but instead it gave individuals an outlet for them to express their personal individuality to the masses. Although Rousseau may be seen by some as a totalitarian which I think is a bit of an exaggeration of some of his centralized government ideas in my opinion. These ideas included a commonwealth as well as his ideas about sovereignty.

I think his insight into how the sovereignty should set up and run was revolutionary for his time. Although in the world we live in today his system will have some major flaws when dealing with personal rights and will about the internet as well as freedom of speech, as these issues in my mind would cripple the system he had outlined. The system Rousseau proposed relies on the coming together of a community and everyone giving up their personal will for the general will of the sovereign to speak and act in place of their own. After looking at Rousseau’s ideas and theories it opens.

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