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This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy.

Ideals of democracy

Thus, the government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew. Rousseau claims that the size of the territory to be governed often decides the nature of the government.

Since a government is only as strong as the people, and this strength is absolute, the larger the territory, the more strength the government must be able to exert over the populace.

In his view, a monarchical government is able to wield the most power over the people since it has to devote less power to itself, while a democracy the least. In general, the larger the bureaucracy , the more power required for government discipline. Normally, this relationship requires the state to be an aristocracy or monarchy. When Rousseau uses the word democracy, he refers to a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy. In light of the relation between population size and governmental structure, Rousseau argues that like his native Geneva , small city-states are the form of nation in which freedom can best flourish.

For states of this size, an elected aristocracy is preferable, and in very large states a benevolent monarch; but even monarchical rule, to be legitimate, must be subordinate to the sovereign rule of law. The French philosopher Voltaire used his publications to criticise and mock Rousseau, but also to defend free expression. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about Jean-Jacques Rousseau's treatise. For "social contract" as a political and philosophical concept, see Social contract.

For other uses, see Social Contract disambiguation. This section does not cite any sources.


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2.9 Social Contract Theory

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18th Century: Revolution!

More About Social contract 19 references found in Britannica articles Assorted References major reference In John Locke: The state of nature and the social contract relation to covenants In covenant: Origins aspect of civil society In civil society: Civil society and modernity Enlightenment philosophy In Enlightenment ethics In ethics: Nonhuman behaviour French political ideology In France: Political ideology political science In political science: Early modern developments influence on constitutional law development In constitution: The social contract Declaration of Independence In Declaration of Independence: The nature and influence of the Declaration of Independence viewed by Burke In conservatism: The Burkean foundations View More.

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The social contract

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Do We Need Government? (The Social Contract) – 8-Bit Philosophy

Keep Exploring Britannica Fascism. Fascism, political ideology and mass movement that dominated many parts of central, southern, and eastern…. With rules in place, people feel protected against attack. In a state-of-nature society, the strongest would control others that are weak.

Society would have no rules or laws forbidding or discouraging unethical or immoral behaviour. People would be forced to be solely self-interested in order to survive and prone to fight over possession of scarce goods scarce because of the lack of commerce. Thus, the social contract can deliver society from a state of nature to a flourishing society in which even the weak can survive. The degree to which society protects the weak may vari; however, in our society, we agree to the contract and need the contract to ensure security for all. The social contract is unwritten, and is inherited at birth.

It dictates that we will not break laws or certain moral codes and, in exchange, we reap the benefits of our society, namely security, survival, education and other necessities needed to live. While social contract theory does not tell people how they ought to behave, it does provide a basis to understand why society has implemented rules, regulations, and laws.