The Social Contract Must Be Under Tight Control And The Civil Rights Of The People

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Western political philosophers have focused their thoughts towards addressing the role of individuals in their large and complex societies. Some, like Thomas Hobbes, argue that individuals need to be under tight control and are better off when living in a society ruled by an absolutist sovereign.[1] According to him, peace and order can only be maintained if power is centralized by a sovereign under a social contract.[2] Jean Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, believes that “man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”,[3] but he considers that a social contract should be established to protect the civil rights of the people.[4] In the Social Contract, he introduces the idea of the general will, or the idea that the will of the people will always look for what is best for society and for the individuals therein.[5] Rousseau’s social contract requires its citizens to give up their personal freedom and subdue to the common good in order to exist.[6] Henry Thoreau does not hesitate to disagree with Hobbes and favor Rousseau. In Civil Disobedience, the American author boldly states that “government is best which governs least”,[7] leaning towards the belief that perhaps men are more free in their natural state. But Thoreau’s ideas go far beyond this concept and as a matter of fact, happen to contradict Rousseau’s key ideas as well. Moreover, Thoreau states that “we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right”[8] and that “the only obligation which [one has] a right to assume is to do at any time what [one thinks] right”.[9] Incidentally, the idea that people should rebel against the norm if their personal beliefs do not match with it is quite cont... ... middle of paper ... ... against the law.[22] In the three cases exposed before, the social contract was violated because the liberals, the guerrillas, and the FARC performed civil disobedience and the government was unable to force the general will into them. Simultaneously, all of them acted against the established norms and the general will. But Rousseau suggests that, in order for the social contract to exist, people have to give up their liberty and subdue to the general will.[23] In the three scenarios described, civil disobedience escalated into violence and into the disruption of the social order. Because of this and because in the three cases the social contract offenders did not subdue to the general will and because they practiced civil disobedience instead of accepting being forced into the general will it is impossible for civil disobedience and the social contract to coexist.

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