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“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2020


Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the greatest French philosophers and political thinkers. He represented interests of every social class, and the idea of sovereignty was the core of his political views. He is the one who inspired Western democratic ideas (Swenson 159). It should be said that the idea of equality is very common in his works.

Damrosch states that “Rousseau’s message was that society was not just imperfect, it was the root of all wickedness and misfortune” (252). Differently put, he believed that established political system was not perfect, and can be dramatically improved. It is also interesting that he believed that there would be no wars if people did not interfere with the rules of nature.

The Social Contract

The Social Contract is one of the greatest works of an author. It was unique and way ahead of its time. The ideas that were written in this book have inspired numerous revolutions. He starts his famous work with an idea that every human is chained in one way or another (Rousseau14).

These words help to grab the attention and create the connection with readers. He wanted to explain how political society was established (Reisert 31). Viroli states that Rousseau believed that “the process which brought civil society into existence is entirely fortuitous and natural, but the civil state is an artificial condition” (36). In other words, the philosopher did not agree with laws and did not accept inequality.

He thought that his concept was perfect, and it would change the world. It is necessary to understand the structure of society and how it was established to understand the point of view of the author. People used to live like beasts and did not have any property. They were free but did not have any morals or a set of rules. The creation of a civilized society is a necessary change for humanity in the opinion of the author (Rousseau 27).

However, it has greatly limited the freedom of many individuals. The philosopher believed that it was founded on the civil right (Reisert 30). The author states that laws should be accepted by the masses before being signed. In his opinion, politicians should not represent the people because they are just commissioners and do not have the right to make final decisions. Any law that was not ratified by the society should not be passed.

He believed in the government of the people. Also, he often said that community should not follow the words of an individual, and it is the most important part of every country. At the same time, every individual should respect the rules and laws that were set, and follow the subordination. Also, he believed that a contract should only be signed by people that have equal rights. The author stated that feudal system should not exist, because it depended on the power, and not the law (Rousseau17).

Our society has a long history, and it should no longer focus on the primal laws. His views on the slavery were also revolutionary because he believed that it is not acceptable in a civilized society. The author agrees that this economic system was created only after the establishment of a first city. He states that everyone should be free and have equal rights. Sovereignty should be the primary focus of every political system in his opinion.

All the individuals should have their own opinion, and not just blindly agree with what is being told to them (Rousseau 26). However, one should also consider the rights and needs of others. He believed that the population should be separated from the government and should be viewed as a separate entity. His opinion on the property is also interesting because he thought that it is one of the most important aspects of freedom.

He agrees that nature has made some people not equal, but the goal of the society is to ensure that there is no discrimination (Rousseau 30). He discusses the rules that should be used to determine the rightful owner. The importance of lands for every individual is also discussed.

He believes that rights of the possession should be respected by the society. It should be said that there are few contradictions in this work because the strength is one of the core elements of nature, and not the freedom. However, he also agrees that it is hard to compare these two concepts (Rousseau 27). It is also important that he ends the first book with a statement about equality.


In conclusion, it is hard to argue with the significance of this work. It has impacted political systems in numerous countries. His ideas were unique and controversial. Philosopher thought that the biggest problem of civil society is that its structure is not natural (Scott 59). However, it should be noted that sometimes he was too demanding because of his idealistic views. Overall, this is an excellent book with numerous interesting points and opinions.

Works Cited

Damrosch, Leopold. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007. Print.

Reisert, Joseph R. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: A Friend of Virtue. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003. Print.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. New York, NY: Cosimo, Inc., 2008. Print.

Scott, John T. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Human Nature and History. London, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2006. Print.

Swenson, James. On Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Print.

Viroli, Maurizio. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the “Well-Ordered Society”. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

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