Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher whose understanding of political philosophy was essential in the spread of the Enlightenment throughout Europe and France. He discussed the concept of individual liberty, equality, democracy, the will of the majority, and how the concept of property as an institution complicated the social contract. Understanding these concerns is thus crucial in appreciating modern political thought's evolution from the Age of Enlightenment to a democratic state.

Individual liberty, according to the author, exists only in societies where equality reigns supreme. Rousseau thus rejects the concept of legitimate political authority being the foundation of nature. However, the philosopher brings a new concept from this line of thought because he believes that putting emphasis on equality will always lead to progression and the elimination of individual liberty (Rousseau 372). The truth in this statement is based on the fact that political thinkers asserted that the relationship between a father and a child is similar in the sense that it puts emphasis on the need for the observation of rights. The same case applies for a ruler and his subjects because they will end up with unlimited rights and in the process there will be an elimination of individual liberty. The individual liberty should always be the core consideration of a democratic government because it is the foundation where individual rights are nurtured. It is what he refers to as the social contract that is a covenant between the members of the society as it existed between the kings and the people following the emergence of the right of slavery. It is thus noted that the assumption that a society can only be democratic when the rights of the majority are resected. He highlights a case where the human subjects would submit to the king on a free ground (Rousseau 374). It follows that regardless of the level of inequality that will be apparent in the end, there is a justified equality system when the will of the people is met in a mutual manner.

Rousseau argument in the Healthcare Reforms and the Concept of the Tyranny of the Majority

The analysis of the theory of the general will is arguably the most difficult concept among Rousseau’s arguments. It relates directly to the healthcare reforms that was a subject of heated debate recently where a majority of Americans were supporting the healthcare reforms. According to Rousseau’s quasi-metaphysical concept in the context of general will, it can be assumed that the majority of Americans who supported the reform represent the will of the sovereign (Rousseau 380). It creates a feeling where those in support had reached a conclusion that was aimed at a common god because the reforms were meant to serve the interest of the state as a whole. It, however, gets interesting when the thinker postulated that while some people might have been in the opposition and disregarded the healthcare reforms, they represent the minority. It thus appears that Rousseau’s argument is structured such that those who oppose the healthcare reforms need to accept the “will of all” because it is equivalent to the general will. The decisions made by the general will thus need to be given the upper hand and must override the objections of the minority otherwise the state will not have realized and respected the collective desire of the people. It, however, creates in a more difficult concept to comprehend when one perceives the subject in the context of the tyranny of the majority. The key question that one asks themselves, therefore is whether collective sovereignty should be the central authority for enacting and enforcing laws. From the understanding of Rousseau’s argument, it is apparent that what is understood as the general will is simply an orchestration of the tyranny of the majority because it results in the will of the minority being disregarded in favor of what the majority think is right about a given subject (Rousseau 376). It follows that it is permitted for the government to operate under a system of the tyranny of majority provided it is in accordance with the respect of the sovereign will of the people.

Critique of Proper and Social Contract

In describing the concept of the discourse on inequality, Rousseau explains the art of inequality that has dominated the human race and explain which of them are natural and those that are not natural. It is founded on the belief that man is driven by pity and self-preservation and when they meet a few needs, they end up being happy. The desire for perfectibility is thus what separates a human being from the other animals because in the process, they end up being shaped by the environment. In the end, one starts comparing themselves to others under the principle of amour propre (Rousseau 371). The comparison ends up laying a huge role in the desire to seek domination over fellow humans in the process of seeking one’s own happiness. It is thus not a scam that property was invented because it is founded on the desire to be more competitive than other and in the process, one dominates and began exploiting the poor. It is thus conceivable that the right of property is what has destroyed the human race because it is common to find that the poor will naturally join forces to fight the rich to end the unfair domination. The rich recognize this fact that end up manipulating the poor further and convince them to join political societies that purport to grant equality but that ends up sanctifying the oppression. It, therefore, stands that property is what motivates people to live up to our human potential because of the desire to dominate others when we compare ourselves to other humans. It is thus an unfortunate case that the institution of property provides incentives for progress of humanity, but ends up creating a system defined by the rich oppressing the poor (Rousseau 376). The idea of property thus sanctifies the unnatural moral inequality because in the process of seeking property, the poor end up being oppressed further with the inequity being a permanent feature.


Rousseau’s effort in enabling the human race to understand the link between inequality, the will of the people, oppression, the introduction of property, and many other issues of social significance played a key role in the advancement of political philosophy. Liberty of the human race thus seems to the embedded in the complication of the desires of the rich and the instability of the social structures. It is, therefore, affirmed that the modern political thought should be aimed at integrating the varied views Rousseau highlighted in his famous text.

Work Cited

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. “Rousseau, The Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution.” The Social Contract. N.p. Print.

May 02, 2023
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