The Idea of Consent in the Works of Locke and Rousseau

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The Idea of Consent in the Works of Locke and Rousseau The idea of consent is a key element in the works of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the "Second Treatise of Government," Locke puts forth his conception of the ideal form of government based on a social contract. As Locke develops his theory of consent, he also incorporates theories of political obligation on the part of all citizens of his state as well as his theory of revolution and the conditions under which rebellion is permissible. Though Locke may appear to have explored the notion of consent completely, there are some problems with his theory that weaken its impact. Despite the possible problems encountered with Locke's idea of consent in a political society, Rousseau, in his essay "On the Social Contract," seems to agree with Locke with regards to the concept of consent as it applies to the use of money. The works of Locke and Rousseau explore political foundations that depend on a social contract which requires consent above all things in order to secure liberty for the people. John Locke powerfully details the benefits of consent as a principle element of government, guaranteed by a social contract. Locke believes in the establishment of a social compact among people of a society that is unique in its ability to eliminate the state of nature. Locke feels the contract must end the state of nature agreeably because in the state of nature "every one has executive power of the law of nature"(742). This is a problem because men are then partial to their own cases and those of their friends and may become vindictive in punishments of enemies. Therefore, Locke maintains that a government must be established with the consent of all that will "restrain the partiality and violence of men"(744). People must agree to remove themselves from the punishing and judging processes and create impartiality in a government so that the true equality of men can be preserved. Without this unanimous consent to government as holder of executive power, men who attempt to establish absolute power will throw society into a state of war(745). The importance of freedom and security to man is the reason he gives consent to the government. He then protects himself from any one partial body from getting power over him.
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