Title page of the first octavo edition
|Original title||Du contrat social; ou, Principes du droit politique|
|Country||France (edited in Amsterdam)|
The Social Contract, originally published as On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Rights (French : Du contrat social; ou Principes du droit politique) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a 1762 book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way to establish a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society, which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1755).
The Social Contract helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate. Rousseau asserts that only the people, who are sovereign, have that all-powerful right.
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The epigraph of the work is "foederis aequas / Dicamus leges" (Virgil, Aeneid XI.321–22). The stated aim of The Social Contract is to determine whether there can be a legitimate political authority, since people's interactions he saw at his time seemed to put them in a state far worse than the good one they were at in the state of nature, even though living in isolation. He concludes book one, chapter three with, "Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers", which is to say, the ability to coerce is not a legitimate power, and there is no rightful duty to submit to it. A state has no right to enslave a conquered people.
In this desired social contract, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same number of rights and impose the same duties on all. Rousseau argues that it is absurd for a man to surrender his freedom for slavery; thus, the participants must have a right to choose the laws under which they live. Although the contract imposes new laws, including those safeguarding and regulating property, there are restrictions on how that property can be legitimately claimed. His example with land includes three conditions; that the land be uninhabited, that the owner claims only what is needed for subsistence, and that labour and cultivation give the possession legitimacy.
Rousseau posits that the political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, which included women (in a way that was not practiced by almost all countries and so was quite revolutionary to suggest), that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus, the government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew.
Rousseau claims that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government. Since a government is only as strong as the people, and this strength is absolute, the larger the territory, the more strength the government must be able to exert over the populace. In his view, a monarchical government is able to wield the most power over the people since it has to devote less power to itself, while a democracy the least. In general, the larger the bureaucracy, the more power required for government discipline. Normally, this relationship requires the state to be an aristocracy or monarchy. When Rousseau uses the word democracy, he refers to a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy. In light of the relation between population size and governmental structure, Rousseau argues that like his native Geneva, small city-states are the form of nation in which freedom can best flourish. For states of this size, an elected aristocracy is preferable, and in very large states a benevolent monarch; but even monarchical rule, to be legitimate, must be subordinate to the sovereign rule of law.
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The French philosopher Voltaire used his publications to criticise and mock Rousseau, but also to defend free expression. In his Idées républicaines (1765), he reacted to the news that The Social Contract had been burned in Geneva, saying "The operation of burning it was perhaps as odious as that of writing it. […] To burn a book of argument is to say: 'We do not have enough wit to reply to it.'"The work was also banned in Paris.
The work received a refutation called The Confusion of the Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau by the Jesuit Alfonso Muzzarelli in Italy in 1794.
A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state, but also other entities, for example, a company.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.
Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.
Republicanism is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.
Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme legitimate authority over some polity. In international law, sovereignty is the exercise of power by a state. De jure sovereignty refers to the legal right to do so; de facto sovereignty refers to the factual ability to do so. This can become an issue of special concern upon the failure of the usual expectation that de jure and de facto sovereignty exist at the place and time of concern, and reside within the same organization.
The justification of the state refers to the source of legitimate authority for the state or government. Typically, such a justification explains why the state should exist, and to some degree scopes the role of government - what a legitimate state should or should not be able to do.
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order. The relation between natural and legal rights is often a topic of social contract theory. The term takes its name from The Social Contract, a 1762 book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau that discussed this concept. Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in Greek and Stoic philosophy and Roman and Canon Law, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy.
Totalitarian democracy is a paradoxical term popularized by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon to refer to a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government. The phrase had previously been used by Bertrand de Jouvenel and E. H. Carr, and subsequently by F. William Engdahl and Sheldon S. Wolin.
In the fields of sociology and political science, authority is the legitimate power that a person or a group of persons consensually possess and practice over other people. In a civil state, authority is made formal by way of a judicial branch and an executive branch of government. In the exercise of governance, the terms authority and power are inaccurate synonyms. The term authority identifies the political legitimacy, which grants and justifies the ruler’s right to exercise power of government; and the term power identifies the ability to accomplish an authorized goal, either by compliance or by obedience; hence, authority is the power to make decisions and the legitimacy to make such legal decisions and order their execution.
The state of nature, in moral and political philosophy, religion, social contract theories and international law, is the hypothetical life of people before societies came into existence. Philosophers of the state of nature theory deduce that there must have been a time before organized societies existed, and this presumption thus raises questions such as: "What was life like before civil society?"; "How did government first emerge from such a starting position?," and; "What are the hypothetical reasons for entering a state of society by establishing a nation-state?".
Natural rights and legal rights are the two basic types of rights.
Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of a state and its government are created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with social contract philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Popular sovereignty expresses a concept, and does not necessarily reflect or describe a political reality. Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept when he wrote, "In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns".
In political science, legitimacy is the right and acceptance of an authority, usually a governing law or a regime. Whereas authority denotes a specific position in an established government, the term legitimacy denotes a system of government—wherein government denotes "sphere of influence". An authority viewed as legitimate often has the right and justification to exercise power. Political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which a government will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and collapse. In political systems where this is not the case, unpopular régimes survive because they are considered legitimate by a small, influential élite. In Chinese political philosophy, since the historical period of the Zhou Dynasty, the political legitimacy of a ruler and government was derived from the Mandate of Heaven, and unjust rulers who lost said mandate therefore lost the right to rule the people.
In political philosophy, the general will is the will of the people as a whole. The term was made famous by 18th-century Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In political philosophy, the phrase consent of the governed refers to the idea that a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised. This theory of consent is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings and had often been invoked against the legitimacy of colonialism. Article 21 of the United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".
Emile, or On Education is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the "best and most important" of all his writings. Due to a section of the book entitled "Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar", Emile was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned in 1762, the year of its first publication. During the French Revolution, Emile served as the inspiration for what became a new national system of education.
Mixed government is a form of government that combines elements of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, ostensibly making impossible their respective degenerations which are conceived as anarchy, oligarchy and tyranny. The idea was popularized during classical antiquity in order to describe the stability, the innovation and the success of the republic as a form of government developed under the Roman constitution.
18th-century French literature is French literature written between 1715, the year of the death of King Louis XIV of France, and 1798, the year of the coup d'État of Bonaparte which brought the Consulate to power, concluded the French Revolution, and began the modern era of French history. This century of enormous economic, social, intellectual and political transformation produced two important literary and philosophical movements: during what became known as the Age of Enlightenment, the Philosophes questioned all existing institutions, including the church and state, and applied rationalism and scientific analysis to society; and a very different movement, which emerged in reaction to the first movement; the beginnings of Romanticism, which exalted the role of emotion in art and life.
Legitimation crisis refers to a decline in the confidence of administrative functions, institutions, or leadership. The term was first introduced in 1973 by Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher. Habermas expanded upon the concept, claiming that with a legitimation crisis, an institution or organization does not have the administrative capabilities to maintain or establish structures effective in achieving their end goals. The term itself has been generalized by other scholars to refer not only to the political realm, but to organizational and institutional structures as well. While there is not unanimity among social scientists when claiming that a legitimation crisis exists, a predominant way of measuring a legitimation crisis is to consider public attitudes toward the organization in question.
Antoine-Jacques Roustan was a Genevan pastor and theologian, who engaged in an extensive correspondence with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Unlike Rousseau, he believed that a Christian republic was practical - that the Christian religion was not incompatible with patriotism or republicanism.
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