Conversations with Wales' Republicans : Poblachiaethwyr - Repwbligwyr - Gweriniaethwyr
Joined: 09 Feb 2007
|Posted: Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:08 am Post subject: The Social Contract : Rousseau, Hobbes, Locke & Others
|THE SOCIAL CONTRACT
Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I close my eyes
And I shut my mouth - and I tell no lies :
Ignoring their whisperings into my ear,
I take up my pen and I try to make clear
These Repwblican values which I hold most dear.
Truth ? We're required to test each fact.
Love ? Without it we should not act.
Freedom ? Is when we give - not take ( please ! )
Peace ? Is when we put others at their ease.
Life ? Results from The Social Contract.
Lies ? That is how we break our deal.
Hatred ? Denying to others what we ourselves feel.
Slavery ? Refusing to others our very own needs.
War ? Violence to others in all of our deeds.
Death ? Is when we break The Social Contract.
dai repwblic - Dai Saw - David B Lawrence - the author asserts the moral right - not to sue for copyright !
I wrote this proem into the mobile phone several weeks ago, then started to mess around with further perverses of it - they might yet be written - but in the meantime I realised that I had not actually knocked up a thread on this subject, and after all it is an important text to have read ... as some readers already know, I am interested in Rousseau's arguments about Civil Religion i.e. constructing and transmitting good moral and ethical values without resorting to the corrupt practices of Hierachy : call it merely the art of propaganda if you wish, but there is more to it than that.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Contract#Overview - one of the key texts of Republican Democracy ( i.e. it advocates " The General Will " )
" ... The stated aim of The Social Contract is to determine whether there can be a legitimate political authority, since people's interactions he saw at his time seemed to put them in a state far worse than the good one they were at the state of nature, even though living in isolation. ... In this desired social contract, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same amount of rights and impose the same duties on all. Rousseau argues that it is illogical for a man to surrender his freedom for slavery; thus, the participants must have a right to choose the laws under which they live. Although the contract imposes new laws, including those safeguarding and regulating property, a person can exit it at any time (except in a time of need, for this is desertion), and is again as free as when he was born.
Rousseau posits that the political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, women included, that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus, government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew.
Rousseau claims that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government. Since a government is only as strong as the people, and this strength is absolute, the larger the territory, the more strength the government must be able to exert over the populace. In his view, a monarchical government is able to wield the most power over the people since it has to devote less power to itself, while a democracy the least. In general, the larger the bureaucracy, the more power required for government discipline. Normally, this relationship requires the state to be an aristocracy or monarchy. It is important to note here that when Rousseau talks of aristocracy and monarchy, he does not necessarily mean they are not a "democracy" as the term is used in the present day — the aristocracy or monarch could be elected. When Rousseau uses the word democracy, he refers to a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy. In light of the relation between population size and governmental structure, Rousseau argues that, like his native Geneva, small city-states are the form of nation in which freedom can best flourish. For states of this size, an elected aristocracy is preferable, and in very large states a benevolent monarch; but even monarchical rule, to be legitimate, must be subordinate to the sovereign rule of law.
SPARKNOTES OFTEN OFFER A GOOD READY REFERENCE : THIS IS FROM THEIR OVERVIEW ( - AND THEY HAVE COMMENTARIES ON EACH CHAPTER.)
" ... Rousseau's principal aim in writing The Social Contract is to determine how freedom may be possible in civil society, and we might do well to pause briefly and understand what he means by "freedom." In the state of nature we enjoy the physical freedom of having no restraints on our behavior. By entering into the social contract, we place restraints on our behavior, which make it possible to live in a community. By giving up our physical freedom, however, we gain the civil freedom of being able to think rationally. We can put a check on our impulses and desires, and thus learn to think morally. The term "morality" only has significance within the confines of civil society, according to Rousseau. ... Not just freedom, then, but also rationality and morality, are only possible within civil society. And civil society, says Rousseau, is only possible if we agree to the social contract. Thus, we do not only have to thank society for the mutual protection and peace it affords us; we also owe our rationality and morality to civil society. In short, we would not be human if we were not active participants in society. ...
... This last step determines the heavily communitarian perspective that Rousseau adopts. If we can only be fully human under the auspices of the social contract, then that contract is more important than the individuals that agree to it. After all, those individuals only have value because they agree to that contract. The contract is not affirmed by each individual separately so much as it is affirmed by the group collectively. Thus, the group collectively is more important than each individual that makes it up. The sovereign and the general will are more important than its subjects and their particular wills. Rousseau goes so far as to speak of the sovereign as a distinct individual that can act of its own accord. ... We might react to these arguments with serious reservations, and indeed, Rousseau has been accused of endorsing totalitarianism. We live in an age where individual rights are considered vitally important, and it is insulting to think that we are just small parts of a greater whole. Rather than make freedom possible, it would seem to us that Rousseau's system revokes freedom. ... Rousseau would not take these charges lying down, however. Looking at us in the new millennium, he might suggest that we are not free at all. On the whole, we may lack any kind of personal agency or initiative. We often have difficulty interacting with one another in any meaningful way, and it could be argued that our decisions and behavior are largely dictated to us by a consumer culture that discourages individual thought. ... "
SPARK NOTES HAS A STUDY / QUESTION SECTION AT THE END : SOME CHOICE BITS FROM THAT -
What does Rousseau mean when he says people should be " forced to be free " ?
By entering into civil society people gain civil freedom, which is unavailable to them in the state of nature. This freedom is characterized by an ability to be rational and moral. According to Rousseau, this freedom is only possible by agreeing to the social contract, becoming a part of the sovereign, and obeying the general will as expressed in the laws. People who break the law or violate the social contract are violating the very institution that has made their freedom possible. By forcing people to obey the social contract and the laws, the state would only be forcing people to be hold on to the civil freedom that makes them fully human. In other words, the state would be "forcing" criminals to be " free."
What is the difference between the general will and the will of all ? In practice, how can the two be distinguished ?
The general will is the will of the sovereign: it aims at the common good and it is expressed in the laws. The will of all is simply the aggregate of the particular wills of each individual. Thus, we might distinguish the general will from the will of all by saying that the general will is the will of the people in their capacity as sovereign and the will of all is the will of the people in their capacity as citizens. In practice, however, it is not clear how the two should be distinguished. Both, Rousseau claims, are determined by popular vote. However, he gives no criterion for how one might determine whether the results of a certain popular vote represent the general will or the will of all.
[ MY COMMENT : " THE GENERAL WILL " IS THE PURE REPUBLICAN WAY OF DISCOVERING THE RES PUBLICA THROUGH POLITICAL DISCOURSES IN WHICH WE DEVELOP A MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING AND THUS FOUND THE SOCIAL CONTRACT BY VOLUNTARILY ENTERING INTO AGREEMENT - WHEREAS " VOX POPULI, VOX DEI " IS THE AGGREGATION OF ALL OF THE PARTICULAR WILLS OF THE PEOPLE AS IF THEY WERE SELFISH IGNORANT INDIVIDUALS : THIS IS THE PURE DEMOCRATIC WAY OF DELIBERATELY NOT DISCOVERING THE RES PUBLICA BUT INSTEAD EQUATING IT WITH THE OPINION OF THE MAJORITY THROUGH THE MECHANISM OF VOTING. MAJORITY VOTING IS AN ULTRAISTIC METHOD WHICH IS USED TO COERCE MINORITIES TO ACCEPT THE ARBITRARY WILL OF THE MAJORITY : THERE IS NO MUTUALITY IN DEMOCRACY, THEREFORE NO UNDERSTANDING AND NO AGREEMENT, AND SO MINORITIES WILL NOT WANT TO UPHOLD WHAT THE MAJORITY DECLARE TO BE THE RES PUBLICA BECAUSE IT IS BOTH RATIONAL AND REASONABLE TO SUBVERT THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY WHEN IT IS UNJUST. THE SOCIAL DISORDER WHICH RESULTS IS JUST ONE OF THE REASONS WHY PURE REPUBLICANS OBJECT TO BOTH VOTING AND POLITICAL PARTIES AND ESPECIALLY TO PURE DEMOCRACY I.E. TO A GOVERNMENT WHICH IS DELIBERATELY MIS-CONDUCTED BY USING A POLITICAL SYSTEM WHICH IS CONSTRUCTED IN AN ARBITRARY WAY, I.E. WITHOUT A CONSTITUTION E.G. THE UNITED KINGDOM. THERE ARE HOWEVER ARGUMENTS FOR " REPUBLICAN DEMOCRACY " AND " DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICANISM " WHICH PRESENT THESE AS USEFUL COMPROMISES BETWEEN THESE TWO POLITICAL SYSTEMS, ATTEMPTING TO STRIKE DIFFERENT BALANCES BETWEEN WHAT ARE DEEMED TO BE TOO OVER- OR TOO UNDER- PRINCIPLED POLITICAL SYSTEMS, THAT REPUBLICANISM IS TOO RIGID OR DEMOCRACY TOO PLASTIC, THAT REPUBLICANISM LICENCES US TO BE SUPER-HUMAN AND DEMOCRACY LICENCES US TO BE SUB-HUMAN, AND THUS NEITHER ARE REALISTIC : THAT POLITICAL SYSTEMS SHOULD BE DESIGNED TO BE NEITHER RIGID NOR PLASTIC - BUT FLEXIBLE ... but ... whilst in Wales that is one of the conventional Republican Democratic / Democratic Republican arguments - I came to disagree with them in 2013 and I now advocate " Pure " because most of us are involved with or supporters of charities and campaigns outside of the activities which The Democrats in Wales are involved with : we have no use for voting or for their parties, and we should be careful to promote our causes without promoting theirs - voting for any party actively endorses their political system called The United Kingdom and even not voting but remaining on the Electoral Register passively endorses it. I advocate getting off the Electoral Register in order to stop The Democrats in Wales abusing it by stuffing it with stolen names as the basis of a false claim to a mandate from The People. ]
[ I RECOMMEND READING THE REST OF THAT : BUT CAN I FIND ANY OTHER GENERAL COMMENTARIES AND INTRODUCTIONS TO THIS TEXT ? ]
The Social Contract : Summary
Rousseau begins The Social Contract with the notable phrase " Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." Because these chains are not found in the state of nature, they must be constructions of convention. Rousseau thus seeks the basis for a legitimate, political authority in which people must give up their natural liberty. He sets two conditions for a lawful polity and creates several clauses to ensure that they are carried out. First, there must be no relationships of particular dependence in the state, and second, by obeying the laws, an individual only obeys himself.
Rousseau's solution to the problem of legitimate authority is the "social contract," an agreement by which the people band together for their mutual preservation. This act of association creates a collective body called the " sovereign." The sovereign is the supreme authority in the state, and has its own life and will. The sovereign's interest, or the " general will," always promotes the common good. This is in contrast to the private will of each citizen, which strives only for personal benefit.
The law expresses the general will, and must only make regulations that affect the entire populace. The goal of legislation is to protect liberty and equality and to promote the common good. However, the people may not always know how to pursue the common good and may need the help of a legislator to guide them in lawmaking. The legislator prevents private interests from influencing legislation and aids the populace in weighing short-term benefits against long-term costs.
Although the sovereign exercises legislative authority, the state also needs executive power to implement the general will. There are three main types of government: democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. [ WRONG : ROUSSEAU ALSO DISCUSSES RELIGION = HIERARCHY ! ] The type is chosen based on several factors, including population and climate. Smaller governments have more force than larger ones, and the population becomes more unruly as it grows. Rousseau thus argues that in general, there should be an inverse relationship between the size of government and the size of the population. Thus, large states should have a monarchy, intermediate states should have an aristocracy, and small states should have a democracy. [ WHICH UPSETS A LOT OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO THINK THAT REPUBLICANISM = DEMOCRACY ! ]
Rousseau asserts that the establishment of government is not, as philosophers such as Hobbes and Grotius have argued, a contract. [ ? ] The sovereign employs the government as a representative of the people in charge of carrying out the general will. The sovereign [ I.E. THE PEOPLE ] thus can alter the form of government and replace its leaders as it chooses.
As the natural tendency of every government is to usurp sovereignty and to invalidate the social contract, the government's interests are always in conflict with those of the sovereign. [ I.E. THE PEOPLE ! ] The best means of restraining the executive is holding periodic assemblies. Although this may seem difficult, Rousseau cites Ancient Rome to show that this can be achieved even in large states. When the people convene, they must decide whether they approve of the current form of government and their leaders.
Periodic assemblies can prolong the life of a state, but eventually every state will fall because of the usurpations of government. However, all citizens must fulfill their civic duties while the state exists. They cannot employ representatives to articulate the general will because sovereignty cannot be transferred. They also cannot use money to avoid their responsibilities, because this corrupts the state and destroys civil liberty.
When voting, each person must assess whether a law is in accordance with the general will - not whether it supports his private interests. Thus, he has an obligation to follow even those laws to which he does not give his consent. In a healthy state, people share common sentiment and show unanimity in the assemblies. In a declining state, people place their private interests above the common good and try to manipulate the legislative process.
Although the sovereign must allow for the religious freedoms of its members, it can impose a set of values that are necessary to being a "good" citizen. This system of beliefs, which Rousseau calls "civil religion," consists of belief in a God and the afterlife, universal justice, and respect for the sanctity of the social contract. The state has the power to banish from the state anyone who opposes the tenets of civil religion. [ AND RIGHT NOW IN 2015 THE CONSERVATIVE & UNIONIST PARTY ARE RIPPING THIS IDEA FROM ITS CONTEXT TO TRY TO IMPOSE " BRITISH " VALUES - BUT WITHOUT REFERENCE TO REPUBLICAN THEORY THIS MEANS WHAT ? ... BASICALLY THE RULE OF THE POOR NOT OF THE LAW.]
I'm sorry guys, but I have to do other things today and there are plenty of articles out there on The Social Contract : but try reading it for yourselves - oh look ! ... here is how The British Academic Establishment dismiss it : in just two lines which are spoken with truly pseodo-political authority -
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a French philosopher and writer who lead a life rich in contradiction. He lived in an unhealthy garret, but taught hygiene. He wrote about nature, but lived in crowded Paris. He promoted virtues that he obviously lacked.
When he came to Paris he became increasingly aware that ordering society was unjust. The rules were made by the rich to suit their own interests not those of the common people.
In The Social Contract (1762) Rousseau argues that laws are binding only when they are supported by the general will of the people.
His famous idea, 'man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains' challenged the traditional order of society. Where previous philosophers had spoken of elites, Rousseau became the champion of the common person. His perfect world was one in which the will of the people was most important.
His arguments broke down for two reasons:
People are born into society, not freedom
The general will is a vague, romantic idea that can be adopted as readily by dictators as by democrats
- THERE YOU ARE : REPUBLICANISM ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY REFUTED - NOW THEY CAN ALL SLEEP SAFELY IN THEIR BEDS STUFFED WITH OUR MISERY !
Ah ! - Somebody sensible whom I presume is a Citizenne Of The Republic In England - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plk3M0jFrmA
NOW ... before I run away from this for a while, Rousseau was not the first to discuss The Social Contract : here is a Eric Drummond Smith comparing various theories - and if you want to know what a Repwblican in Wales or The World theorising about our societies looks like - well like all the other social inadequates, but just rather more intellectual ...
A GENERAL DISCUSSION OF SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORISTS - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxQ5J5x-3ao
WHAT IS A SOCIAL CONTRACT - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzJ-etzStpE
HOBBES - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4-c2YTvhX4
ROUSSEAU - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7K0a-FtSQM
CRISPIN SARTWELL ( ANARCHIST ) ARGUING AGAINST THE SOCIAL CONTRACT - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESgLYZpVjck
TOM WOODS ( LIBERTARIAN PACIFIST ) ARGUING AGAINST THE SOCIAL CONTRACT - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTqEePlZiqk
STEFAN MOLYNEUX : THE SOCIAL CONTRACT DEFINED AND DEMOLISHED IN FIVE MINUTES - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLg7V_6s5so
OF COURSE, IF YOU OBJECT TO THE UK'S SOCIAL CONTRACT YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE WALES - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fasTSY-dB-s
PERHAPS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS OF RELIGIONS ? ... er ... um ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6uVV2Dcqt0
[ ROUSSEAU IS OFTEN ACCUSED OF TOTALITARIANISM BUT IN FACT HE ARGUED THAT GOVERNMENTS WHICH BREAK THE SOCIAL CONTRACT ARE NOT LEGITIMATE.]
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