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Jean Jacques Rousseau And Political Powers Essay

990 words - 4 pages

The proper use and limits of governmental power have different implications for each theorist that we have studied. Some see its power as all-encompassing, while others see it as more narrow, controlled and regulated. For this essay, I chose to examine the philosophies of the theorists with whom I disagree with the least: Rousseau, Locke, and Rawls.
One can always recall Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous line: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” This sentence expressed his opposition to the idea that individual should be forced to give up their natural rights to a king. His idea of political power is that which comes from a social contract, and is entered into by participants ...view middle of the document...

John Locke was also on the side of democracy, though he was more reluctant and limited in his view. He also believed in the protection of life, liberty, and property (inalienable natural rights), and sought a social contract for satisfaction. Property is most important out of these rights, and Locke claims that people can do whatever they want in their own property, as long as their acts don’t harm others. This view is much similar to Rawls’s “harm principle.” Unlike Rousseau, Locke saw the agreement not between equal citizens, but between a citizen and a ruler—preferably a monarchy. The people still have a significant voice in government however, as their natural rights served as limits to the sovereign. This means that the government’s power was not absolute, and was on practiced in relation to the protection of the previously mentioned natural rights. He also believed in freedom of speech and religion. Locke’s structure of government included the legislative, executive, and federal powers, with the legislative power considered as most important. It is important to note that he favored the representatives of government to be men of property and business. At the same time, only men who owned property were seen as fit to vote on political and social matters. This is more power than Rousseau gave to his idea of the government, and one can imagine such that there is a higher tendency of such power to be abused in this case. If the government did abuse their power by violating the rights of the people, such an act would break the covenant/social contract. This would justify a revolution by the people for the end of establishing a new government.
John Rawls’s vision is based on the social cooperation of citizens who agree to “share one another’s fate.” Government’s role is to enforce the determined conception of justice. It is to limit freedom of the people only with concern to the actions and expressions...

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