Popular sovereignty theory by Rousseau

Popular sovereignty theory by Rousseau

Views on Human Nature:

According to Rousseau man is basically good and his wrong actions makes him wicked, he stated that man is governed by two instincts, self-love and mutual aid or sympathy, man prefers to attend his own presentations; his first cares are those which he be obligated himself. His second instinct is less important but is important and encourages us to do more good than harm. He says that, when self -interest goes off track it gives rise to pride; and his pride is the cause for the evils. If get rid of this pride and ends all evaluations with other men we reach our goal. Wright says that, “we can renounce a lot of imaginary desires and hold fast to the true things, needful cast away a world of illusion and discord our own self. We can be meek, and inherit our soul. In a word, we can return to nature. This is all the famous phrases means”.

Views on State of Nature:

His views on state of nature are quite different from Hobbes and Locke, in his state he said that all men are equal and lived peaceful life and the property had the joint ownership, people led simple life. They were not in organized structure even though they lived in peace atmosphere, they led solitary, happy, free and independent life, no law and morality were existed. These institutions understood the reality of reason and could not exist due to its noticeable absence.

The instinct of the social activities forced man to give up their solitary life and to start to live in groups. According to Rousseau, “The first man, having enclosed a piece of ground, he thought himself of saying ‘This is mine’ and found other people simple enough to believe him, was the first real founder of the society”. He stressed the need not to have private property because “the scrambled for the land and other private property resulted in war, murder, wretchedness and horror. The capacity of individuals to own and produce being different there came into existence inequality in every sphere of life”. Rousseau visualized two stages of the status of state such as, pre-property state and post property state. The pre-property state of nature considered as an ideal state and the post property state as wretched.

Views on Social Contract:

Rousseau’s thoughts were same like that of Hobbes and Locke, he thought that, entering into social contract was to get out of shameful and intolerable conditions of the post property stage. The finalized contract of him, “Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, we receive each individual as part of whole. At once in place of the individual personality of each contracting party, this many members as Assembly contains votes and receiving from his act and unity, its common identity, its life and its will. Yet each person in the state, possessing equal and inalienable position of the sovereignty of the whole, gains back under state protection the rights he has given up”. Consequently he combines individual in the state and made a political society which is based on the agreement of all the members. The contract was dual sided, his individual as a part of sovereign, was guaranteed to other individuals and as part of the state he was assured to sovereign.

Views on General Will:

Rousseau encouraged the theory of General Will, he pronounced that it is the most revolutionary, unique striking and influential doctrine. The main problem with his theory was “to find a form of association which will defend and protect with that whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting with all, may still obey himself alone, and remains as free as before”. To make this association possible every individual puts himself and his power together under the supreme direction of General Will. The result of this act to form association a moral, combined unit having its own identity, life and will is created, he defines it as General.

Before understanding his concept of General Will, one has to understand the difference between actual will and real will.  He asserted that, actual will is based on selfish, irrational and thought of the good of individual alone, without caring for the society and the real will is, higher, nobler, and supreme, which encourages the person to think of welfare of all not his own interest. It is more social than anti-social, collective and personal, it is for the individual as well as the society. It is mainly based on reasons and it is not temporary but it is permanent. Hence, his General Will consists of sum of ‘real wills’ of the individuals which are based on the reasons and forethought of every person.

Rousseau differentiated General Will from the Will of all, he says that it is a majority will and considers only for few people, where as General Will is for the communities good. The main difference of these two wills are explained by him “There is often a considerable difference General Will and Will of all, the former aims at the common interest, the latter aims at private interest and is these wills is only a sum of particular wills. But if we take away from the various particular interests which conflict each other, what remains as the sum of difference is General Will”.

Characteristics of General Will:

Rousseau’s General Will have some of the interesting attributes they are as follow:

1 Like personality of a person cannot be divided, it also cannot be divided. If it is divided it ceases General Will and becomes sectional will

2 It cannot be represented by anyone, like the human will

3 No one can break the rules of General Will, whosoever refused to obey shall be compelled to do so by whole body…he will be forced to free.

4 It is a single unit and cannot withdrawn, to alienated it equivalent to its death

5 He believed through General Will as direct democracy and it cannot be representable.

6 General will is at all times correct it always talks about the good of community, though we are unable to see it. It is based on reason, wisdom and experience and could not be influenced by present times.

Views on Popular Sovereignty:

While formulating the contract he vested the sovereignty not in any single person or group of individuals but in the community as a whole, through the medium of the general will.  Thus, he gives the impression that, he believes in the Sovereignty of the people.  But a deeper study of his writings shows that, he merely gave the appearance of popular government, but in reality he gives absolute powers to the ruler.  He says “whoever refuses to obey the general will, shall be compelled to do so by the whole body”.  Thus, he vested the General will with absolute powers.  He with a view to import popular character to the sovereign he asset that the general will is always right and tends always to the public advantage”.  As the general will is operates to the general welfare, people are morally committed to carry out its verdict.  Legally also people are expected to render free obedience to the general will at the time of contract they surrendered all their rights to the general will without any condition.  He argues that, “as nature gives to everyman an absolute power over all its members, the social pact gives to everyman an absolute power over all its members”. In short, in his scheme there are no limitation on the authority of the sovereign general will.

Thus, the sovereign of Rousseau is as absolute and the sovereign of Hobbes with the only difference that while Hobbes confers all the powers in a single person, Rousseau vests the sovereign power in the community or the General Will.  However, the sovereigns in both the cases are vested with absolute powers and their authority cannot be defined under any circumstances.  It is in this sense that it has said that “Rousseau’s sovereign is Hobbes Leviathan with its head chopped off”.

Sovereignty could be assumed the entire power of the state, the total force belonging to the political association as such, might and power of the political community. This is the field by which the early protectors of popular sovereignty had fought many battles, and by which the organic theory again conducted war. The political power of the state, they held, must be generated by the people as a whole, and not individual and the state is for the people’s welfare only. The sovereignty means neither international independence, nor the whole power to the state, but have the relation between the ruling structure in the state and the other members, the relation of the king.

Sovereignty is a definite mark of the State, which is an essential and vital quality. There could be any State which is not a sovereign State. This idea is highlighted from the earlier years of the century to the starting of the trouble. Ancillon said that the “essence of every political association consisted in the sovereignty.” Waitz held that “every true State must be a sovereign State;” Held maintained that sovereignty denotes the specific, free, independent essence of a State. The important feature of the State is that, it differentiated from all other associations. Sovereignty, then, in this sense, of the whole force of the political association, can be treated as a unit.

Rousseau says, “Whoever refuses to obey the General Will, shall be compelled to do so by the whole body”. By this he gave absolute powers to General Will. Nevertheless, with a view to impart popular character to sovereign, he says that General Will every time right and every time likely to be the advantage of the public. About the legal aspects he says that all the people are supposed to render their obedience to the General Will because at the time of contract they surrendered their rights to the General Will without any condition.