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Social Contract

            Jean-Jacques Rousseau constructed The Social Contract to solve the question of freedom, specifically, the preservation and survival of what he terms as civil freedom, and his solution to this problem, in its most general sense, is the construction of the civil state. Through the grouping of citizens, each willing to surrender himself to the entire community, one is able to set limitations on their own behavior, live with others as a whole, and, in doing so, think rationally and act morally. More importantly, by agreeing to the social contract, the people simultaneously give up their physical freedom, rooted in the state of nature, and acquire the civil freedom that entails this mode of moral and rational thinking, or allows one to be fully human. In the state of nature, says Rousseau, "man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" (Book I: I 169). The Social Contract is meant to unfetter each individual, each irrational "animal," and help man to fully know his freedom by using self-control and by signing himself over to the civil state: to the communal movement towards the common good, directed by the general will (Book I: VIII 185).
             Book I of Rousseau's The Social Contract stresses that this contract will sustain liberty and/or freedom more efficiently than the state of nature, thus, paving the way for lawful and sound political power. Rousseau says that lawful political power does not exist in nature. Instead, political power becomes legitimate by the formation of contracts built between the members of society. The only legitimate political authority found in nature is that of the authority that a father holds over his child. Rousseau then compares this father-child relationship to that of a ruler and his people (or one of his subjects). The ruler would have to use force, however, as seen in slavery, to direct his subject. The use of force is not natural. Therefore, agreement would have to be the only legitimate means by which political authority would be permissible.

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