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Excerpts from Rousseau The Social Contract: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract (1762)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau stresses, like John Locke, the idea of a social contract as the basis of society. Locke's version emphasised a contact between the governors and the governed: Rousseau's was in a way much more profound - the social contract was between all members of society, and essentially replaced "natural" rights as the basis for human claims. Origin and Terms of the Social Contract Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains. This man believes that he is the master of others, and still he is more of a slave than they are. How did that transformation take place? I don't know. How may the restraints on man become legitimate? I do believe I can answer that question.... Individual Wills and the General Will In reality, each individual may have one particular will as a man that is different from-or contrary to-the general will which he has as a citizen. His own particular interest may suggest other things to him than the common interest does. His separate, naturally independent existence may make him imagine that what he owes to the common cause is an incidental contribution - a contribution which will cost him more to give than their failure to receive it would harm the others. He may also regard the moral person of the State as an imaginary being since it is not a man, and wish to enjoy the rights of a citizen without performing the duties of a subject. This unjust attitude could cause the ruin of the body politic if it became widespread enough. Property Rights In dealing with its members, the State controls all their goods under the social contract, which serves as the basis for all rights within the State, but it controls them only through the right of first holder which individuals convey to the State....Indivisible, Inalienable Sovereignty The first and most important conclusion from the principles we have established thus far is that the general will alone may direct the forces of the State to achieve the goal for which it was founded, the common good.... Need for Citizen Participation, Not Representation It follows from the above that the general will is always in the right and inclines toward the public good, but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people always have the same rectitude. Sovereignty and Civil Religion Now then, it is of importance to the State that each citizen should have a religion requiring his devotion to duty; however, the dogmas of that religion are of no interest to the State except as they relate to morality and to the duties which each believer is required to perform for others. For the rest of it, each person may have whatever opinions he pleases....

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