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Summary: Jean-Jacques Rousseau's social contract

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This work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the end result of a project begun in 1743, when he was Secretary of the Ambassador in Venice; What was supposed to be a large volume of political institutions, eventually became a summary the author titled the social contract or principles of political right (1762). Hence the initial warning: "this small treatise has been extracted from a larger work, initiated without consulting my forces and abandoned after some time." Various fragments that could be extracted from it, this is the most significant, and what I found least unworthy to be offered to the public. The rest has disappeared".
In his discourse on the arts and Sciences (1750), awarded by the Academy of Dijon, Rousseau had asserted the irreconcilable nature of nature and culture (science and letters have not promoted the lights of humanity, they have debased her, by more pressing their chains); then, in the discourse on the origin and foundations of inequality among men (1754), established the harmful society, its intrinsic corruption, character to be based on the denial of nature.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
If society is intrinsically bad, now asks Rousseau, by based on inequality and have remote man from the State of nature (primordial state that the human being lives in split between the fact and the law, but in harmony with its original goodness), can this man already corrupted by society build a fair society? Rousseau's response is affirmative, because evil is not in man, but in its relationship with society. Perversion occurred by the bad government, and is the "heart of man" who can change the situation.
In the social contract, Rousseau established the possibility of a reconciliation between nature and culture: the man can live in freedom in a truly equal society. The fundamental problem is "find a form of association which defend and protect with all common force provided by the person and property of each partner, and why each, joining all the others, not will obey more than himself, and remain, therefore, as free as before".
The solution is, according to Rousseau, a social contract based on the alienation of all wills, in such a way that each recovers finally everything it has given to the community. Thus, giving each individual, not given to anyone, and there is no member of society that is not acquired the same right that is transferred. They earn in equivalence the same thing that is lost, acquiring greater strength to preserve that which everyone has.
The contract will be, therefore, expression of the general will. The general will is different from the simple desire of all because it is not a mere numerical majority aggregation of the individual and selfish desires, whose result is always pure private interests. The general will, on the other hand, is always fair and look for the common interest, by the social interest of the community, by the public utility. Of this general will emanate the unique and legitimate authority of the State.

First edition of the social contract (1762)
Unlike all absolute monarchy, or any form of power autocratic, with the exercise of the general will sovereignty will reside in the village. This sovereignty is, therefore, absolute, since does not depend on any other political authority, not being limited nothing more than itself; It is inalienable, given that citizenship would be against his own condition if she renounced what is an expression of his own power; and, finally, it is indivisible, since it belongs to the community, to the social whole, and not a social group or a privileged stratum.
The village, part of the sovereignty, is also simultaneously subject, and must submit to the laws of the State that have been the same people, in the exercise of their freedom. They are thus reconciled freedom and obedience through the law, which is not but realization of the general will and soul of the political body of the State. The question of who dictates the laws Rousseau meets it with the figure of the legislator, that will be "the mechanic who invents machine".
The principles here set constitute the basic ideas of the first two books of the social contract. They are based on a historical situation and serve to design the legal hypothesis of the transit of the natural state to marital status, so that the man loses his natural freedom but wins freedom civil, circumscribed to the general will, and their natural equality is not destroyed by a society that is imposed upon him, but is replaced by moral equality.
In the last two books, Rousseau is the Government, which is defined as an "intermediary body established between subjects and the sovereign for their mutual communication, who is the enforcement of the laws and the maintenance of both civil and political freedom". Its Executive Branch is delegated by the only sovereign, the people, and its members may be removed by the same subject.
Rousseau seems to prefer democracy as a form of Government, whereas suitable application, especially for small States. In fact, the Constitution of a State as the postulate by Rousseau seems to Geneva-based democracy of its time, in which the laws were proposed to the sovereign people by a limited number of judges. But Rousseau also holds a certain relativism which makes it to be considered that a form of Government suitable for all countries, there is although, in any case, any form of Government should be expression of the general will of the citizenry to be legitimate.
Finally, Rousseau considered the conditions for suffrage and elections; proposes the ancient Rome as a model to prevent violations, and ends with the need of founding a civil religion, whose positive dogmas include the sanctity of the social contract and the laws established as an expression of the general will. This civil religion would have a single negative dogma: intolerance.
Contained in the social contract theories exercised a decisive action in the evolution of political thought and morality of the modern world; they influenced many thinkers (such as Kant and Fichte) and in the same French Revolution of 1789, which adopted a slogan of rousseauist inspiration ("equality, liberty, fraternity") and that tried, on several occasions, especially in the Constitution of 1793, to follow the outlines of the legal doctrine of the social contract. The Declaration of human rights would also find his ideas a source of inspiration.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
Biographies of historical figures and personalities

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