Monday, August 08, 2005

Chapters 8 and 9 of book I


THE passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they had formerly lacked. Then only, when the voice of duty takes the place of physical impulses and right of appetite, does man, who so far had considered only himself, find that he is forced to act on different principles, and to consult his reason before listening to his inclinations. Although, in this state, he deprives himself of some advantages which he got from nature, he gains in return others so great, his faculties are so stimulated and developed, his ideas so extended, his feelings so ennobled, and his whole soul so uplifted, that, did not the abuses of this new condition often degrade him below that which he left, he would be bound to bless continually the happy moment which took him from it for ever, and, instead of a stupid and unimaginative animal, made him an intelligent being and a man.

Let us draw up the whole account in terms easily commensurable. 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, which is bounded only by the strength of the individual, from civil liberty, which is limited by the general will; and possession, which is merely the effect of force or the right of the first occupier, from property, which can be founded only on a positive title.

We might, over and above all this, add, to what man acquires in the civil state, moral liberty, which alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty. But I have already said too much on this head, and the philosophical meaning of the word liberty does not now concern us.


EACH member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members.

The right of the first occupier, though more real than the right of the strongest, becomes a real right only when the right of property has already been established. Every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else. Having his share, he ought to keep to it, and can have no further right against the community. This is why the right of the first occupier, which in the state of nature is so weak, claims the respect of every man in civil society. In this right we are respecting not so much what belongs to another as what does not belong to ourselves.

In general, to establish the right of the first occupier over a plot of ground, the following conditions are necessary: first, the land must not yet be inhabited; secondly, a man must occupy only the amount he needs for his subsistence; and, in the third place, possession must be taken, not by an empty ceremony, but by labour and cultivation, the only sign of proprietorship that should be respected by others, in default of a legal title.

In granting the right of first occupancy to necessity and labour, are we not really stretching it as far as it can go? Is it possible to leave such a right unlimited? Is it to be enough to set foot on a plot of common ground, in order to be able to call yourself at once the master of it? Is it to be enough that a man has the strength to expel others for a moment, in order to establish his right to prevent them from ever returning? How can a man or a people seize an immense territory and keep it from the rest of the world except by a punishable usurpation, since all others are being robbed, by such an act, of the place of habitation and the means of subsistence which nature gave them in common? When Nunez Balboa, standing on the sea-shore, took possession of the South Seas and the whole of South America in the name of the crown of Castile, was that enough to dispossess all their actual inhabitants, and to shut out from them all the princes of the world? On such a showing, these ceremonies are idly multiplied, and the Catholic King need only take possession all at once, from his apartment, of the whole universe, merely making a subsequent reservation about what was already in the possession of other princes.

We can imagine how the lands of individuals, where they were contiguous and came to be united, became the public territory, and how the right of Sovereignty, extending from the subjects over the lands they held, became at once real and personal. The possessors were thus made more dependent, and the forces at their command used to guarantee their fidelity. The advantage of this does not seem to have been felt by ancient monarchs, who called themselves Kings of the Persians, Scythians, or Macedonians, and seemed to regard themselves more as rulers of men than as masters of a country. Those of the present day more cleverly call themselves Kings of France, Spain, England, etc.: thus holding the land, they are quite confident of holding the inhabitants.

The peculiar fact about this alienation is that, in taking over the goods of individuals, the community, so far from despoiling them, only assures them legitimate possession, and changes usurpation into a true right and enjoyment into proprietorship. Thus the possessors, being regarded as depositaries of the public good, and having their rights respected by all the members of the State and maintained against foreign aggression by all its forces, have, by a cession which benefits both the public and still more themselves, acquired, so to speak, all that they gave up. This paradox may easily be explained by the distinction between the rights which the Sovereign and the proprietor have over the same estate, as we shall see later on.

It may also happen that men begin to unite one with another before they possess anything, and that, subsequently occupying a tract of country which is enough for all, they enjoy it in common, or share it out among themselves, either equally or according to a scale fixed by the Sovereign. However the acquisition be made, the right which each individual has to his own estate is always subordinate to the right which the community has over all: without this, there would be neither stability in the social tie, nor real force in the exercise of Sovereignty.

I shall end this chapter and this book by remarking on a fact on which the whole social system should rest: i.e., that, instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes, for such physical inequality as nature may have set up between men, an equality that is moral and legitimate, and that men, who may be unequal in strength or intelligence, become every one equal by convention and legal right.


Blogger Mannning said...

Good evening Jason: I came on to tell you two things: first, I cannot be here long tonight; and second, I took time to read your rules, which is just fine with me.

In thinking about this discussion, I felt it necessary for my own understanding of the whole of The Social Contract, to derive a diagram representing all of the entities and their relationships with annotations as best can be done on a two-dimensional sheet. This would permit me, at least, to see the entire scheme, and to discuss the parts and their functional relationships in a more systematic manner. So I have begun a powerpoint diagram, which I will post when finished. I find it difficult to read linear text spread over many pages and to build the image of the process, or "things" and their "relationships" as I go. I found Rousseau most trying in this respect, but not being a lawyer or a legislator, I prefer a design approach, if you will. I will be in touch.

Wed Aug 10, 10:47:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Again said...

to derive a diagram representing all of the entities and their relationships with annotations as best can be done on a two-dimensional sheet

you made me curious

some entries ago (The One and the Many) i told JasonJ, that because of the high level abstraction of philosophy i would like to read someone else's comments just to see how others interpret the texts

so because i tend to think simple, i would be glad to be offered a detailled sheet ;-)

Thu Aug 11, 07:07:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

I have finished the draft of my diagram, and now I am trying to post it! Not sure why it won't post to my blog. I am working on it. Anyone know what is entailed with posting a powerpoint slide to blogger?

Again, I will be happy to get a copy to you when I know how!

Thu Aug 11, 10:56:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Human said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAAAASON. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU. Sorry its late. Getting older-better than the alternative Pops.
your friend Human
PS will post on your latest. just so you don't miss it.
your fellow Human

Thu Aug 11, 06:02:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Again said...

Anyone know what is entailed with posting a powerpoint slide to blogger?

how about converting it in HTML (or RTF or sending it to Word)?

a HTML-file you should be able to post to your blog, i guess

Fri Aug 12, 05:10:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

I finally got it to accept here on blogger, but it was ragged and blurry, I think primarily because of the font conversions. PPT has a converter to JPEG and GIFF, but I had to learn how to use it properly the hard way.

I guess Jason went on vacation for the week.

Fri Aug 12, 10:02:00 AM CDT  
Blogger JasonJ said...

Ok, sorry for the delay. I have a life outside of this web site although it may not seem like it sometimes.

First off mannning, welcome aboard this discussion. I have been hoping you would join in as you have probably read by now. I must apologise for not having read your powerpoint presentation you emailed to me, I just did a reinstall recently and haven't loaded office back onto my computer yet. I must say that I am very interested in seeing what you have put together though and will be taking care of this later this evening.

As far as your problem with the text spanning such a vast space, this is regrettably a problem with setting this up in the manner which I have chosen. I do not for my part notice it so much due to the number of times I have read the book. I unfortunately may have an advantage in my familiarity with the work. I will offer this up however, the book in it's entirety can be accessed at

I hope that this may help you decipher what is written in the order it was written. It was my original intent that we should discuss this step by step. This is due to the fact that most people when criticising Rousseau, seem to want to take little snippets of his text and use them out of context for their own purposes. I would even argue at this point that while you, yourself, were at one point stating that Rousseau was a contributiing factor in the bloody French Revolution; the problem however, laid with the revolutionaries of his day taking his social contract and Emile out of context. But I am getting ahead of myself and first I must see what it is you have sent to me before I jump to conclusions based on your warblogging comments.

A second point we need to discuss here in the beginning is whether we are to debate the Social Contract as a written document or if we are debating Rousseau as a human being as well. I realize while writing this that these lines are blurred when referring to such an enigmatic figure; but we need to make a distinction on whether or not we find a distinction necessary. I leave the choice up to you and anyone else who thinks it matters.

On an unrelated note, I deleted two anonymous postings here in this comment section. I want to be up front about this for any one who did not read the original posts. I have adamantly denied censureship of anyone on my blogsite based on idfference of opinions even if they make me look bad or diametrically opposed to my personal beliefs. This was not the case with either of these messages. I didn't realize that spammers were even taking to attacking blogspot now. I deleted these messages because they were both spam and I will not tolerate that here. My only wish to anyone who finds their way here is that if the spirit of the discussion moves you to speak your mind, have something intelligent to say.

Fri Aug 12, 06:39:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

In order to understand Rousseau's Contract, I believe it is imperative to look at it holistically first, and then begin to analyze it, as I said above.

Once that is done, then a chapter-by-chapter approach is a good as any other. However, I have now identified some 20 or more specific critiques from my point of view that might be appropriate to use up front, to see whether my reading of him is correct. Your call.

While I do not respect Rousseau as a man because of his moral failings, I think we should not consider that aspect at all. Let his words speak for themselves.

Your deletions are most appropriate, I believe. I do the same, not to remove contrary opinions, but to get rid of either spam or pure invective, such as: "You are full of shit". I had a few of these, until I posted my policy on the site. That helped a lot.

We do indeed have another life! So the general rule is usually: the family and health, plus work, comes first. Gaps in timing of responses will occur because of this rule, but that is reality.


Sat Aug 13, 12:49:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

A small suggestion! Would you please consider implementing the date into your comments line? It would help to understand the when of things! LOL!

Sat Aug 13, 12:56:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Mon Aug 15, 09:29:00 PM CDT  
Blogger micheljones5424 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wed Aug 17, 06:53:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

If you decide to continue this discussion some time, please email me. You have sort of dropped off a cliff, so to speak.

There is little point in commenting if you aren't here also.

Thu Aug 18, 12:37:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

No one argues too much over equality before the law, although many unscrupulous people have found ways to go around it. In fact, evading punishment has become a sort of art form for those wealthy enough or well connected.

It is in this book that Rousseau recognizes the fundamental fact of inequality between men, either of physical strength or intelligence, or, I would add, charisma.

The combination of these attributes is the basis for emergence of leaders of uncommon ability: men that others look up to for some fated reason. This is one key rationale behind the instability of a coequal society: leaders will arise, and will corrupt the process and then bend the society to their aims at the first chance they get. The old adage is still correct. Power corrupts. Threat of invasion is as good an excuse as any, for example.

Tue Aug 30, 10:30:00 AM CDT  

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