The Social Contract Essay

Submitted By tygamann1
Words: 2503
Pages: 11

Professor Conyers
Intro to Political Science
5 February 2013 Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract
When I read only a small portion of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “The Social Contract”, I found myself rather intrigued with the concept of political society that he depicted. Rather than the typical monarchy or democracy, Rousseau proposed that a “sovereign” would be the best and most efficient form of political society. However, where would the structure of this political society be derived from? What would be the underlying groundwork of this so called “sovereign”? The foundation that this sovereign surged on is called a social contract, and in my opinion, this form of political society, though risky, may be the best form of political authority after the higher forms had been already determined. Of course by now, it will come to little surprise that you are questioning this contract as well as its structural make-up. According to Merriam-Webster, a social contract is an agreement amongst the people (or in terms of Rousseau, “citizens”) of a particular domain that results in the formation of the state or of an organized society with the prime motives being the desire for preservation. While this briefly outlines the configuration of the contract, the actual theory of it consists of so much more. However, it would not be a justice to dive straight into the theory before also explaining the origins of the contract itself. Throughout the first book of The Social Contract, Rousseau’s aim is to determine whether there can be a legitimate political authority. According to Rousseau, there can be, but it cannot be found in nature; in fact, the family is the only natural form of political authority where the ruler corresponds to the father and the people to the children. Natural political authority is neither found in force. Complying with force is not determined by your decision, but it is rather a necessity because of fear of the possible repercussions. For example, when a slave master enforced authority on his slaves, slaves responded and submitted to the master not because they chose to do it, but because they feared the consequences if they did not. Continuing with the detraction of the force concept, I maintain that if the people (or slaves) ever reached a situation where they could potential overpower or suppress the basis of the force, they would without any regard. Rousseau suggests that there is no legitimate political authority behind these two false beliefs, and that people ultimately do whatever is within their power. With people doing whatever is within their power and formulating that idea into a type of political authority, why not select a form that advocates for the good of everyone? This is where I introduce the theory of the social contract. It is a contract where the clauses have not been written down or set in stone, perhaps because the clauses have not been formally set forth; however, the clauses are in fact implicit. The theory of the social contract is simple: to defend and protect the person and his goods, to allow that person to bond with everyone, but to also allow him to obey himself alone, as well as to remain as free as he was prior to the contract. Yet, even after understanding the theory of the contract, the question “why would the people abide?” may surface. There are definitely perks such as a less competitive labor field or a friendlier community, but ultimately, it is because of the equality and self-preservation aspects of it: people do not lose their natural freedom by entering the contract, the circumstances of the social contract are the same for everyone (everyone will want the social contract to be as manageable as possible because it will affect everyone as an entity), and lastly, people will yield themselves totally (no individual will have rights contrasting or exceeding any other person within the contract). Earlier I mentioned a form of a