Social Contract in Rousseau and Locke

Essay by frickin_geniusCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2003

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(This essay explores, through the eyes of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the foundation of government and their subsequent construction and order.)

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's work, "On Social Contract," and John Locke's work, "The Second Treatise of Government," the writers express how governments are founded and should be constructed and administrated. Principally, both authors discuss the ideas of the evolution of man from a State of Nature to the creation of a Republic and why this is necessary. Both Locke and Rousseau have different reasons for man's entrance into society, namely; Locke says man enters the state for what it can do for its protection and preservation of his possessions Rousseau holds that man enters for his personal betterment. Once within the social contract, Locke reasonably holds that man is only obligated to the state as long as it benefits the individual while Rousseau believes that the individual should always submit himself fully to the state.

Since man would not submit himself willingly to a Republic if it were not for his good, the main ideas agreed upon by both authors in these essays are that of the relation between the general will and common good of the people in relation to the state.

Before any government, man began in the state of nature. Locke writes of the state of nature that it is the "state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man." Although no man has an obligation to another in this state, man is still governed by a natural law. This law renders all persons equal, and every person holds the executive power of natural law.