Locke & Rousseau


by Rousseau\'s belief in freedom.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau makes it explicitly clear in his writings, The Social Contract and Discourses that he believes strongly in personal freedom and autonomy. Rousseau believed that a truly free government is one where everyone votes, every citizen. Rousseau argues that by everyone surrendering his or her rights to the sovereign equally they maintain freedom. He believes man has the most freedom in the state of nature, but because man has the ability to rationalize and the desire to be social, he must enter a social contract with others in order to have a free and equal society. Rousseau adamantly defends his belief in autonomy in his Discourses on the State of Nature, the Social Contract, and Sovereignty.


Rousseau believes that for man to exit a State of Nature he must agree to a Social Contract. Rousseaus Social Contract in the simplest terms is, each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and in our capacity, we receive each member as indivisible part of the whole (Rousseau. P. 192). Unfortunately, this Social Contract will require all individuals to relinquish their rights to the legislative whish is to be made up of all citizens, and raises a question about personal autonomy and freedom in Rousseaus philosophy. The Social Contract allows individuals in the State of Nature to establish a whole community. It may be argued that by asking people to give up their rights, that they are subjecting themselves to inequality. Rousseau counters that argument:


These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one, the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others. (Rousseau, John-Jacque. The Social Contract. The Social Contract and Discourses, P. 191)


If people did not give up their rights, they could not leave the State of Nature. Rousseau claims that everyone gives up his or her rights equally:


Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over which he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has. (Rousseau. P.192)


The Social Contract also keeps people from being totally alienated and affords them better protection. If a large group of people enter a Social Contract, they can more easily defend themselves against their enemies, and criminals who live in societies with no Social Contract. Thus in spite of giving up some individual rights for the Social Contract, they have not lost any more freedom, because all within the society have surrendered their rights freely and equally, and suffer the same inequality. In other words, all things being equal, man is still free, and maintains autonomy. Everyone must surrender his or her rights for the social contract to work. If one person gives up their rights and another does not, the person who does not has power over the other person and there is no contract. However, it is to a person benefit to agree to the social contract, because by giving up the freedom of Natural Liberty an individual gains Civil Liberty. Natural Liberty is the freedom man maintains in the State of Nature. Civil Liberty is freedom you have in society, freedom gained from the social contract. Rousseau argues in chapter eight of the Social Contract, What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything he tries to get and succeeds in getting; what he gains is civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses. If we are to avoid mistake in weighing one against the other, we must clearly distinguish natural liberty, from civil liberty. . . (Rousseau, P.196)


John Locke was the son of a wealthy family who sought to maintain and justify his family\'s wealth in the chapter Of Property in his Second Treatise of Government. Locke believes that the purpose of government is to protect property and