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Essay on Jean Jacques Rousseau on Liberalism

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Rousseau had many ideas about how society as a whole should work. His main ideas involve man requiring freedom. With this freedom we theoretically will not compare ourselves to one another, or strive towards being better than others. His other main ideas include the general will and the idea of a collective sovereignty. These suggest that society and government should please the general will and work together as a cohesive unit.

Rousseau has several famous books, one of which is The Social Contract. The book start with the words: “Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains.” By this he means to say that the civil society, in which we live, oppresses our birthright of freedom. Without our freedom we are not man and can never be truly happy. He suggests that general will not only requires individual freedom and diversity but also the idea of well-being of the whole.

Many people believe that Rousseau is rather contradictory. Some people however, have tried to find a happy medium between his contradictory ideas. Even so, both groups of people can agree on some aspects of his philosophy, such as that of the idea that it is directly tied to sovereignty. This Sovereignty, however, is not who holds all of the power, rather the people in power doing things for the benefit of the people. Which is why Rousseau believed in participation rather than representation. He feels that if we are represented we will not necessarily be represented in the exact manner in which we please. If we were to participate in the government instead we could all deliberate with one another and come to a better understanding of what everyone’s ideas are.

Also in The Social Contract, Rousseau comments about how the grouping of people into a civil s...


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...o be perfect our flaws and inequalities emerge. This brings us to Rousseau’s idea that it is impossible to achieve perfection in society, for the only way to be perfect is to be in our natural state.
Rousseau believes that we can not let ourselves get caught up with trying to be perfect. Instead ,he wants us to be nice to one another, ignore any differences or imperfections, and do things purely to benefit everyone else rather than himself. We need to work as a single cohesive unit so we aren’t able to do things strictly for ourselves, everything we do will help or hurt everyone.


Works Cited

"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Rousseau, Jean-Jacques []. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.


"Internet History Sourcebooks." Internet History Sourcebooks. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.


"Themes, Arguments, and Ideas." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.



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