What Is the Social Contract Rousseau

In Plato`s best-known dialogue, the Republic, the theory of social contracts is presented again, although less favorably this time. In Book II, Glaucon proposes a candidate for an answer to the question “What is justice?” by presenting a declaration of social contract for the essence of justice. What people want most is to be able to commit injustices against others without fear of reprisal, and what they most want to avoid is being treated unfairly by others without being able to do injustice in return. Justice, he says, is the conventional result of the laws and alliances people make to avoid these extremes. Unable to commit injustices with impunity (as those who wear the Ring of Gyges would do) and fearful of becoming victims themselves, the men decide that it is in their interest to submit to the Convention of Justice. Socrates rejects this view, and most of the rest of the dialogue focuses on showing that justice is worth to itself and that the righteous man is the happy man. Thus, from Socrates` point of view, justice has a value that far exceeds the regulatory value that Glaucon attaches to it. The figure of the legislator is a mystery. Like Emile`s guardian, the legislator`s task is to manipulate the wishes of his protégés and give them the illusion of free choice without its substance. So it`s no wonder that many critics saw these characters in a somewhat strange light.

In both cases, there is a mystery about the origin of the figure of the educator and how she could have acquired the knowledge and virtue necessary to fulfill her role. This, in turn, raises a problem of regression. If the legislature was formed by a just society, which fulfilled the role of legislator for that society, and how was that legislator formed? How did the tutor get his training, if not from a tutor who, in turn, was trained by a former tutor according to Rousseau`s program? Thus, from Mills` perspective, racism is not just an unfortunate coincidence of Western democratic and political ideals. It is not that we have a political system that has been perfectly designed and, unfortunately, applied imperfectly. One of the reasons we continue to think that the problem of race in the West is relatively superficial, that it does not go all the way, is the impact that the idealized social contract has on our imagination. We continue to believe, according to Mills, in the myths that social contract theory tells us – that everyone is equal, that everyone is treated fairly before the law, that the Founding Fathers campaigned for equality and freedom for all, etc. Thus, one of the real goals of social contract theory is to hide the true political reality from the eyes – some people are granted the rights and freedoms of full-fledged persons, and others are treated as sub-persons. The racial treaty shapes the very structure of our political systems and lays the foundation for the continued racial oppression of non-whites. So we cannot respond by simply including more non-whites in the mix of our political institutions, our representation, etc. Rather, we need to review our policy in general from the point of view of the racial treaty and start from where we are, with full knowledge of how our society has been informed by the systematic exclusion of certain people from the realm of politics and the treaty. This “naturalized” feature of the racial contract, that is, it tells a story about who we really are and what is contained in our history, is better, according to Mills, because it promises to one day allow us to truly live up to the norms and values that are at the heart of Western political traditions.

In Book I, Chapter 8 of the Social Contract, Rousseau attempts to shed light on his assertion that the formation of the legitimate state does not entail a net loss of freedom, but in reality he makes a slightly different claim. The new claim includes the idea of an exchange of one type of freedom (natural liberty) for another type (civil liberty). Natural freedom implies an unlimited right to all things, an idea reminiscent of Hobbes` “right to nature” in Leviathan. Since all peoples enjoy this right to freedom from all things, it is clear that in a world occupied by many interdependent people, the practical value of this freedom may be almost non-existent. This is because an individual`s ability to get what they want is limited by their physical strength and the competing physical power of others. In addition, inevitable conflicts over scarce resources will pit individuals against each other, so that the unfettered exercise of natural freedom will lead to violence and insecurity. The formation of the State and the promulgation of the laws desired by the common will transform this state of affairs. With sovereign power, the individual is guaranteed an equal sphere of freedom before the law with the protection of his own person and the security of his property. Provided that the law, which affects everyone equally, is not disruptive or intrusive (and Rousseau believes that this will not be the case, since no individual has a motive to enact incriminating laws), there will be a net benefit to the pre-political state. In short, Rousseau is indeed both a critic and a defender of the theory of the social contract. Throughout his work, he views society as corrupting humanity and, above all, he rejects Hobbes` idea of an absolute Leviathan. At the same time, in order to create his own rather different social contract, which he sees as the only solution to escape corruption, he uses the ideas of the social contract tradition that the people should cede their sovereignty to an authority in order to preserve their freedom; Sovereignty lies in the whole, in this case in the general will.

By calling his work a social contract, Rousseau implies that he wants to be understood in the context of contractarianism. With his understanding of society and politics, he thus makes a transition from the “old” to the “new” (Cole, 2007: 10). The system that Rousseau sees as a solution to overcome corrupt society is both vague and immutable. This is problematic because Rousseau does not give us practical examples of how to apply his social contract, and so we do not know how this could work in practice. Moreover, it seems strange that it cannot be changed, given that it seems to recognize that humanity can evolve. On the other hand, it is important not to take it too literally, after all, its method is to create concrete and universal principles from generalizations of human existence, based less on facts than on political “rights” (ibid.). Carole Pateman`s 1988 book, The Sexual Contract, argues that beneath the myth of the idealized contract, as described by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, lies a more fundamental contract on male-female relationships. Contract theory presents itself as opposed to patriarchy and patriarchal law. (Locke`s social contract, for example, is established by him in stark contrast to the work of Robert Filmer, who advocated for patriarchal power.) But the “original pact” (2), which precedes the social contract between equals, is the agreement of men to dominate and control women. This “original pact” is made by brothers, literally or metaphorically, who, after overthrowing the father`s reign, then agree to share their dominion over women who were previously under the exclusive control of a man, the Father.

The shift from “classical patriarchy” (24) to modern patriarchy is therefore a shift in the question of who has power over women. .

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