Sunday, November 23, 2014
Final Report #3 of 4, Rousseau and The Social Contract
The Social Contract
Prior to this work, Rousseau's Discourses were relatively well-received, written in a more common, interesting-to-the-regular-citizen style.
Then came The Social Contract, which was more serious in tone (i.e., not written in the same captivating, regular style). It was banned in Paris from the get-go, which kind of makes sense because the monarchy was pretty overbearing at the time and definitely NOT open to criticism. Also, The Social Contract basically took silent (or loud, whatever way you look at it) silent stabs at the monarchy, because, well, a monarchy isn't a democracy. That is, a monarchy, at that time, did not do much more than scoff at the ideas of those below them. Though not mentally, Rousseau was indeed below them in rank.
Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains
Okay, so, the picture above has the quote phrased differently, due to different translations, I presume, but it means the same things. This quote opened up the Social Contract. This is Rousseau basically throwing at you what he's focusing on in this work. He definitely doesn't hesitate to jab at the society in which he lived in at the time (France, ruled by inept monarchs, no less). Really, it's like the monarchy was stripping everyone of their freedoms from the start. The citizen in plagued by these chains society has wrapped around them, taking them prisoner. This is not literal, of course, but they were definitely jailing their freedoms.
The General Will
The General Will was basically what was/is best for society. Rousseau's idea was that, by following the General Will, you're releasing and using your freedoms. But, if the General Will really is intended to mean what is best for society as a whole, then doesn't that sometimes conflict with your freedom? For example, it's probably better for society to outlaw killing people, but doesn't that inhibit your freedom? If you're truly free, you should be able to do as you please, killing or not killing (and, just for the record, I am in no way condoning killing fellow citizens). Anyways, the General Will is most simply defined as what is good for the people. You could set up rules and regulations for citizens to follow, but it should not be directly subjected towards specific individuals, because that is inhibiting that individual's freedom.
Anyways, The Social Contract covers many topics and could have been potentially the right-hand aide to Robespierre (who's super cool, by the way) during the French Revolution, which I will touch on in my last blog post. I think my love for French History, particularly the French Revolution, is what drove me to study Rousseau in the first place. Also, he's super cool as well.
Here's a pdf for everyone to take a look at! http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfs/rousseau1762.pdf
Three down, one more to go! I actually really enjoyed doing my presentation in class, because I almost felt like I was discovering more about Emile as I went along. I still enjoy Mary Wollstonecraft, but I hold by my view that she was just a little bit rash which it came to her criticism on Rousseau. Anyways, thanks for reading this installment. My last post should be up within the next few days, and I still plan to cover Discourse on the Arts and Sciences and Reveries of a Solitary Walker, as well as Rousseau's impact on my favorite point of history, the French Revolution.