Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Book II.....The first three chapters.

After an extended break, I am ready to return with our discussion of Rousseau's Social Contract. We pick back up with book 2 which delves further into this man's ideas on the general definitions of the system and the nature of laws and good government, if such things are thought possible.

Jason



THAT SOVEREIGNTY IS INALIENABLE

THE first and most important deduction from the principles we have so far laid down is that the general will alone can direct the State according to the object for which it was instituted, i.e., the common good: for if the clashing of particular interests made the establishment of societies necessary, the agreement of these very interests made it possible. The common element in these different interests is what forms the social tie; and, were there no point of agreement between them all, no society could exist. It is solely on the basis of this common interest that every society should be governed.

I hold then that Sovereignty, being nothing less than the exercise of the general will, can never be alienated, and that the Sovereign, who is no less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by himself: the power indeed may be transmitted, but not the will.

In reality, if it is not impossible for a particular will to agree on some point with the general will, it is at least impossible for the agreement to be lasting and constant; for the particular will tends, by its very nature, to partiality, while the general will tends to equality. It is even more impossible to have any guarantee of this agreement; for even if it should always exist, it would be the effect not of art, but of chance. The Sovereign may indeed say: "I now will actually what this man wills, or at least what he says he wills"; but it cannot say: "What he wills tomorrow, I too shall will" because it is absurd for the will to bind itself for the future, nor is it incumbent on any will to consent to anything that is not for the good of the being who wills. If then the people promises simply to obey, by that very act it dissolves itself and loses what makes it a people; the moment a master exists, there is no longer a Sovereign, and from that moment the body politic has ceased to exist.

This does not mean that the commands of the rulers cannot pass for general wills, so long as the Sovereign, being free to oppose them, offers no opposition. In such a case, universal silence is taken to imply the consent of the people. This will be explained later on.


THAT SOVEREIGNTY IS INDIVISIBLE

SOVEREIGNTY, for the same reason as makes it inalienable, is indivisible; for will either is, or is not, general;6 it is the will either of the body of the people, or only of a part of it. In the first case, the will, when declared, is an act of Sovereignty and constitutes law: in the second, it is merely a particular will, or act of magistracy — at the most a decree.

But our political theorists, unable to divide Sovereignty in principle, divide it according to its object: into force and will; into legislative power and executive power; into rights of taxation, justice and war; into internal administration and power of foreign treaty. Sometimes they confuse all these sections, and sometimes they distinguish them; they turn the Sovereign into a fantastic being composed of several connected pieces: it is as if they were making man of several bodies, one with eyes, one with arms, another with feet, and each with nothing besides. We are told that the jugglers of Japan dismember a child before the eyes of the spectators; then they throw all the members into the air one after another, and the child falls down alive and whole. The conjuring tricks of our political theorists are very like that; they first dismember the Body politic by an illusion worthy of a fair, and then join it together again we know not how.

This error is due to a lack of exact notions concerning the Sovereign authority, and to taking for parts of it what are only emanations from it. Thus, for example, the acts of declaring war and making peace have been regarded as acts of Sovereignty; but this is not the case, as these acts do not constitute law, but merely the application of a law, a particular act which decides how the law applies, as we shall see clearly when the idea attached to the word law has been defined.

If we examined the other divisions in the same manner, we should find that, whenever Sovereignty seems to be divided, there is an illusion: the rights which are taken as being part of Sovereignty are really all subordinate, and always imply supreme wills of which they only sanction the execution.

It would be impossible to estimate the obscurity this lack of exactness has thrown over the decisions of writers who have dealt with political right, when they have used the principles laid down by them to pass judgment on the respective rights of kings and peoples. Every one can see, in Chapters III and IV of the First Book of Grotius, how the learned man and his translator, Barbeyrac, entangle and tie themselves up in their own sophistries, for fear of saying too little or too much of what they think, and so offending the interests they have to conciliate. Grotius, a refugee in France, ill-content with his own country, and desirous of paying his court to Louis XIII, to whom his book is dedicated, spares no pains to rob the peoples of all their rights and invest kings with them by every conceivable artifice. This would also have been much to the taste of Barbeyrac, who dedicated his translation to George I of England. But unfortunately the expulsion of James II, which he called his "abdication," compelled him to use all reserve, to shuffle and to tergiversate, in order to avoid making William out a usurper. If these two writers had adopted the true principles, all difficulties would have been removed, and they would have been always consistent; but it would have been a sad truth for them to tell, and would have paid court for them to no one save the people. Moreover, truth is no road to fortune, and the people dispenses neither ambassadorships, nor professorships, nor pensions.


WHETHER THE GENERAL WILL IS FALLIBLE

IT follows from what has gone before that the general will is always right and tends to the public advantage; but it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are always equally correct. Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is; the people is never corrupted, but it is often deceived, and on such occasions only does it seem to will what is bad.

There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will; the latter considers only the common interest, while the former takes private interest into account, and is no more than a sum of particular wills: but take away from these same wills the pluses and minuses that cancel one another,7 and the general will remains as the sum of the differences.

If, when the people, being furnished with adequate information, held its deliberations, the citizens had no communication one with another, the grand total of the small differences would always give the general will, and the decision would always be good. But when factions arise, and partial associations are formed at the expense of the great association, the will of each of these associations becomes general in relation to its members, while it remains particular in relation to the State: it may then be said that there are no longer as many votes as there are men, but only as many as there are associations. The differences become less numerous and give a less general result. Lastly, when one of these associations is so great as to prevail over all the rest, the result is no longer a sum of small differences, but a single difference; in this case there is no longer a general will, and the opinion which prevails is purely particular.

It is therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to express itself, that there should be no partial society within the State, and that each citizen should think only his own thoughts:8 which was indeed the sublime and unique system established by the great Lycurgus. But if there are partial societies, it is best to have as many as possible and to prevent them from being unequal, as was done by Solon, Numa and Servius. These precautions are the only ones that can guarantee that the general will shall be always enlightened, and that the people shall in no way deceive itself.

7 Comments:

Blogger Again said...

There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will;

sounds like some weighted statistical function...

i can't help myself but ask me who or how the general will should be created in reproducible steps, so that it can be controlled if it is the "general will" or just some more or less wrong representation of that "general will" by some people

the general will has a goal: the common good, the public advantage. So if i know the "common good" i can measure the general will?

But how to detect the common good?

Look at New Orleans: Now the vultures can grab the houses of the poor and rebuild New Orleans in wonderful new colors!

"Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." " Plot the Future

so: what's the "common good" of New Orleans? Justice for all - even if they are poor - or the bright new New Orleans without poverty?

doesn't it sound good "without poverty"

that's my problem with Rousseau: his words don't help me to evaluate real events

Sat Sep 17, 11:04:00 AM CDT  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I don't want to reply yet to your post because it seems like a work.

Allow me a few days or weeks at least, regarding the few occupations in my mind. For me it would be work right now, and working has never made the human being proud only by his free will which is not the case for our new XXIst society. Somewhere we need a new person inside the XXIst century that needs to make some kind of update. Human being is and will always be a failure.

The definition of work from the latin language means: "TRIPALIUM". It was back then a machine that immobilized horses so that we can add horshoes on them. By definition work means "torture" but it has never been accepted by american society since work (aka torture) was accepted by people that were struggling for their ideals compared to the european society. Nowadays the trends have been reversed.

And MANNING.... FUCK YOU!!!

Sat Oct 01, 04:56:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

What a delightful vocabulary you exhibit, UT. Reminds me of someone.....your nonsense writing does not add to the discussion we are having here, and your attitude at this point is not conducive to calm reflection.

This is Jason's site, and he has invited all who want to participate to do so, but not to sling epithets around. I rather expect Jason will have something similar to say.

Sun Oct 02, 11:53:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

>>>so: what's the "common good" of New Orleans? Justice for all - even if they are poor - or the bright new New Orleans without poverty?<<< --again

A confusing question. Do you want the ghettos of the poor reconstructed? Do you want new housing for the poor to be built on the exact sites of the older structures, even if they are completely contaminated? Or can the New Orleans authorities redevelop the city and at the same time take care of the poor in many ways, including housing? Can the trap of welfare be broken, or do we have to recreate the exact conditions of the past --i.e. total dependence on government handouts for many, if not most, of the poor?

Just what is "Justice" in your lexicon? Why must this be an either-or question?

There must be a "rest of the story" somewhere.

Mon Oct 03, 12:12:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Fri Oct 28, 03:52:00 AM CDT  
Blogger JasonJ said...

Sometimes I realize just how long it takes me to entertain some questions here.
Again said...
"i can't help myself but ask me who or how the general will should be created in reproducible steps, so that it can be controlled if it is the "general will" or just some more or less wrong representation of that "general will" by some people"

I must admit that what Rousseau is saying here is teleological in nature, but that is a product of his essence and it is our goal here to understand whether this is good for the 'common good' or just for Rousseau's philosophy. I will say that this concept would be very difficult to reproduce scientifically, say in a labratory experiment, but perhaps not impossible. What we must undertand is that what we may consider a controlled environment from a social psychology perspective may not pass as ideal from the perspective of a physicist. Either way, I should like to leave that for the professionals in that field. But to try and understand what Rousseau was driving at in this statement, I will attempt with this explanation. You need to take this sentence in the larger concept of the statement. Everywhere, I here Jean-Jacques Rousseau quoted and usually mis-quoted. Much of what I hear is taken out of context with what he was trying to explain. Take this current example. We can ascertain nothing about the subject from what you have written, but if we go back to the text we realize that what he is stating here is very clear.

..."it does not follow that the deliberations of the people are always equally correct. Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is; the people is never corrupted, but it is often deceived, and on such occasions only does it seem to will what is bad....There is often a great deal of difference between the will of all and the general will; the latter considers only the common interest, while the former takes private interest into account, and is no more than a sum of particular wills"

Basically that what we may think as individuals may be misguided, what we may believe at any moment as a people may also be incorrect; but collectively a people can never act against what it wishes. Behind Rousseau's philosophy is a general assumption that people are social creatures who wish to get along and help one another. This, of course, is in direct opposition to Thomas Hobbes philosophy that men only scoialized and cooperated out of fear of one another. Whether infuenced strongly from Rousseau's philosophy or from independent scientific study the notion of people wanting to help one another if it is likely to benefit either the helper or the helped or both has persisted in the field of social psychology as an underlying assumption about human nature. It is commonly noted that we actually need interaction with one another to realize our personal goals which is of course interesting considering that the field of social psychology was nonexistent in the 18th century as an official discipline. I say interesting because Rousseau's philosophy makes many assumptions that this field does well before forming generally accepted behavioral phenomenology.

I think with your analogy of Hurricane Katrina you are doing a disservice to the discussion of this subject. No offense intended. But what you describe is not the general will of the people. Land speculation is most definately a private will. Rousseau would have considered this a factional interest. Let us consider what he goes on to say on the subject in the next paragraph.

"If, when the people, being furnished with adequate information, held its deliberations, the citizens had no communication one with another, the grand total of the small differences would always give the general will, and the decision would always be good. But when factions arise, and partial associations are formed at the expense of the great association, the will of each of these associations becomes general in relation to its members, while it remains particular in relation to the State: it may then be said that there are no longer as many votes as there are men, but only as many as there are associations. The differences become less numerous and give a less general result. Lastly, when one of these associations is so great as to prevail over all the rest, the result is no longer a sum of small differences, but a single difference; in this case there is no longer a general will, and the opinion which prevails is purely particular."

What is interesting and applicable to our world here is in the context of the media. You are hearing on the news "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." but this is once again a private interest assuming that the speaker can vouch for the interests of the aggregate of his confederates. While this may be true, it may not be true just as easily. We just happen to live in a world where we tend to believe the first thing we hear. This is of course tied in with our tendancies to place too much emphasis on first impressions but that is a different topic. But returning to your quote as presented, even if this were a reliable spokesman for the general will of the people of New Orleans, I find the statement so ambiguous that what we are seeing is a misrepresentation of the sentiment behind the words by two rival private interests. Those being the impoverished displaced denizens and those specualtive investors who hope for personal financial gain from others' misery; but neither is representative of the GENERAL will of the collective.

Rousseau's crime in this statement is that he leaves out class conflict in his sovereignty argument. If we take away all of the sentiment involved this is essentially what your arguement ends up being. On this point I thoroughly would agree with you; but Rousseau was never a forward thinking philosopher, while he always thought of himself as champion of the underdog, his track record was less than stellar in this category.

Tue Dec 13, 09:50:00 AM CST  
Blogger JasonJ said...

What is most interesting about these three chapters is the question that has always popped up. What to do about factionalism? Indeed, what to do about factionalism? How do we keep the egos of men from bringing their individual tastes before their duty to one another as members of the state? It is commonly considered overtly utopian to assume that education alone will convince men that an enlightened collectivism is the only viable answer for a future of his society. Indeed, some are apparently predispositioned to say 'to hell with society, as long as I get what I want'. This would appear to me to be an increasing phenomenon as multinational corporate interests go largely unchecked by weak governments and poor educational systems.

Rousseau's answer was formal religion for the state. Whether this religion is indeed the worship of a particular divine diety or a secular religion is open for speculation and will be explored later in this book. What is important is that he chose the time honored route of his philosophical forebearers and whether this was sound in our current world or if Voltaire was more forward seeing when he came to the conclusion that men didn't need gods to guide them to do what is right and steer them from what is wrong.

But are there any other answers? Are education or religiousity our only choices? And if so, are these choices always to be locked in diametrically opposed battles for sway over the course of human history?

This is the course of this argument that is important to me.

Tue Dec 13, 10:05:00 AM CST  

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