Political Philosophy: Locke and Rousseau

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John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are excellent writers and philosophers. Their theories are very much alike with each other as well as differ at times. As they are political philosophers, their theories' main focus is based on society and its norms. Although their theories seem so similar, many differences will be observed when reading them in detail. Both of them have based their theories on different conjecture, which then results in total different ideas about the formation of government and development of society. Locke's and Rousseau's different thinking give us the two separate ways to think bout the development of society, the unit, power and system of the government. According to John Locke, the parliament power, common men are legitimate to subvert the parliamentarian; while on the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau holds a belief that people do have the legislative power but they don't have a right to riot against the parliamentarian.

If we summarize Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory, it says that individual it doesn't mean a lot but a society has the power to generate a person. He states that whatever decision is being taken should aim the betterment and development of the society only because if the society is developing automatically an individual will develop. His theory is more generalized then John Locke's theory in which he is more specific about the issues and has a point of view that if each and every person utilizes his power, automatically the society will develop and the system will be powerful.

If we Interpret John Locke's theory separately, it holds a belief that everyone is equal. Every person has a power to change their parliamentarian when the people are not represented fully or properly. The aim of the government is to protect the powers of the common man and so the government has no right to diminish the powers of the people of the state neither they have right to force them for certain thing. He states that there should be an administrative power who can work in a state as a secondary power and its purpose should be to punish those who harm others or who violate the rules and regulations of the state. He also holds a view that these secondary powers work should respect each and every individual and not harm anyone although he stated that these powers should give a little more favor to the majority.

Ethicality, Assets and Blanche are the main themes in their theories which make both the theories different from each other. John Locke holds a view that a person comes in this world with an inborn and innate ethics. While on the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau believes that a person doesn't born with innate ethics and only does whatever his urges, drives and basic needs tends him to do. "His [Man's] first law is to see to his preservation". This is an extract from one of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau's writings and this line clearly shows that according to him, a man has no morality and he is materialistic.

John Locke says that a person's possession is his right and it can be achieved by hard work. Whereas, on the other side Jean-Jacques Rousseau says that this world is not ours and we don't have any possession here. Then, John Locke comes to the point of Blanche. On this, Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues that man can never be free as he is always after his desires. He always has to follow his needs. So, in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory, freedom has no space at all.

When we see what both of them say about nature of man, both of them give different reasons of how the society forms and how it works. John Locke holds a belief that as a man is innate ethically and morally strong, people develop such an attitude from the beginning that family creates and they learn to work in a team, performing their own roles individually. The contrast, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory suggests that an emotion called "love" generated the society. As far as the concept of family is concerned, his theory suggests that family starts with a woman.

Money is the root cause of corruption in the realm of possession and property, according to John Locke. As the value of money is not fixed and keeps on varying, people are not sure about the punishment of violating the rules related to property and possessions and this result in injustice. And no doubt, the greed of having more and more money, crimes and corruption is increasing and the chances of rules violation is becoming higher day by day. And of course, when people start striving for more and more money, and start achieving it, then they will have to have a parliamentary system to preserve it, secure it for them who possess it and to punish those who try to harm it. On the opposition, Jean-Jacques Rousseau claims "as men cannot engender new forces, but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance" (VI). He holds a view that if we want to develop, we should be one, unite and then make efforts. Jean-Jacques Rousseau holds a very strong view about free will. He again claims that a man is always and will always be a slave of his desires. He goes on claiming that the hidden reason of forming a government is nothing else but to achieve another type of freedom. "What man loses by the social contract is his natural liberty and an unlimited right to everything that tempts him and to everything he can take; what he gains is civil liberty and the ownership of everything he possesses". He holds a view that in order to attain some sort of freedom; one has to have loose the other type of freedom. In a nutshell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory revolves around the free will concept. He goes on saying that there's already a social petition in which everyone has signed and it says that one has to give up some of his freedom for the other person, and the cycle goes on.

John Locke believes that the legislative power of the country is present in the society but Jean-Jacques Rousseau believes that this is not the fact. The power is not in the society but the people have it. Locke writes, "This legislative is not only the supreme power of the common-wealth, but sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once placed it...over whom no body can have a power to make laws, but by their own consent, and by authority received from them." (XI 134). Jean-Jacques Rousseau holds a believe that a state doesn't have the right to acquire the power but only can work as managerial. He also states that this legislative power is the power of people and solely comes from them and government should follow it and should not force it to work in a different manner. Rousseau writes that, "Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme control of the general will, and, as a body, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole". This extract from one of his writings proves that he solely believes that the legislative power is of the people and it's their property.

Individualism is the other concept presented by John Locke. He supports that Individualism works in the society. While, the other side that is Jean-Jacques Rousseau talks about the collective working in a society as his theories are based on free will. Although John Locke talks about the individualism, it doesn't mean the person must be isolated but he means that a person works in a team but as an individual. He also says that being an individual of a society, one should respect the three concepts, which are Ethicality, Assets and Blanche. He goes on saying that it's a bond between all the individuals - society and the state. John Locke respects the individual freedom in his theories. He says that government can acquire only those powers which people are ready to give up, which means that there shouldn't be any force on them and through this our assumption gets stronger that he really means to have a strong attitude for free will and free choice. On the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau has more favor towards the society and not the individuals. He states that all the powers which the people have should be given to the general will which can really work for the betterment of the society and the state collectively. When Rousseau talks about the whole and not the individual, it seems a little selfish for the individual's part because they are human having their own desires, values and norms.

This inclination of both the writers makes a huge difference in the concepts of building up a society and the way it ought to work. In the end, I would like to quote Rousseau's line which says, "Each [government] is in some cases the best, and in others the worst." (3 Division) This means that we cannot make an ideal government anywhere in the world but still we can strive for the best.

Works CitedLocke, John. Second Treatise of Civil Government. Edition C.B. Macpherson.Boston: Hackett Company, Inc 1987.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Peter Gay. Basic Political Writings. Trans Donald A.Cress. Boston: Hackett Company, Inc 1980