Rousseau and Locke: The General Will Alex Amezquita Section G Mario December 4, 1992 Rousseau uses the concept of General Will as a means by which a group of people enter into a social contract. The General Will is constructed by the people who in turn obey it as citizens. The separate wills, rights and desires of each member of a society brought together as a single unit is the General Will. In the derivation of the General Will, Rousseau emphasizes that every man is free. Therefore, every subject is equal and has no more power or influence on the General Will than any other citizen in the society. This social contract provides an environment where its citizens experience natural freedom. Ultimately, insuring the natural freedom of a society is the goal of a government. In Rousseau's explanation of freedom, there is a division between two types of freedom. They are personal freedom and social freedom. Personal freedom comes from humans' basic instincts and natural selfishness. An individual acts only if he benefits. Rousseau also called this freedom a state of nature. The second freedom, social freedom, is achieved when an individual obeys the desires of the General Will. All people are born free, but the natural freedom is not achieved until these people enter into a social contract. It is at this next point where Locke and Rousseau differ. According to Rousseau, natural freedom is acquired by allowing the General Will to be the ruling factor of a government. In order to enter into Rousseau's social contract, personal freedom must be alienated. By disregarding the state of nature, the powers of each individual is directed towards a common interest. Rousseau notes that social freedom is superior to a state of nature, and that in a state of nature people are not completely free because they are ruled by their desires instead of by reason. The General Will is rational and should then be the ruling body. Locke differs by stating natural freedom is obtained when the natural law is obeyed. Locke does not need people to alienate their personal freedom, he just wants it to be entrusted to the natural law. The natural law preserves the freedoms of each individual in order to preserve all of mankind. If the natural laws are carried out against their wills, the people have the obligation and the right to alter the natural law. For both Rousseau and Locke, this acquisition of natural freedom is called natural subjugation. The term natural subjugation comes from the fact that this is a willing act to pledge membership through a social contract and not to the ideals of an individual or minority. Both Locke and Rousseau agree that the only way for a social contract to insure the rights of the General Will is for complete involvement. Rousseau insists those who do not join the pact are ignorant to the advantages of a social contract. These madman must be forced to see the light of the social contract and thus forced to be free. In a more harsh view, Locke views the failure to join the social contract an attack on the preservation of mankind and this violator should be punished. This is because those who violate the natural law, violate the preservation of mankind. Rousseau and Locke's theories on the General Will, natural subjugation, natural freedom, and government are the basis of ruling bodies today. Even the United States of America uses the intentions of Rousseau and Locke in the Constitution and its following amendments. However, the ideas of Rousseau and Locke are too idealistic. For example, Rousseau believes in order to fully express the General Will, there must be a complete democracy with no representation. In a country of our size, both geographically and in the degree of population, this is physically impossible. Our country run without representation would be completely ineffective in legislative and executive abilities. Just think what would happen if every citizen of America voted on every law proposed by every American citizen. Obviously, this would be absurd. But according to Rousseau, representation eliminates the purity of the General Will. The accuracy of the General Will varies with the degree of representation. The government of America and other countries use this fact and try to find an equilibrium between the largest amount of representatives and the ability to legislate in order to gain an accurate insight on the General Will. Another point that Rousseau develops that is too idealistic is the request for people to abandon their personal freedom in order to sacrifice for social freedom. Disregarding our state of nature is like disregarding our basic instincts or our primal urges. People are instinctively selfish and to eliminate this fact would be very difficult. There is a lot of good that came out of Rousseau and Locke. The concepts and ideals of equality are very important. This concept of equality and freedom is the theme and the fundamental building block of the United States of America. Our country was based on equality and will continue to thrive with equality as our primary goal. Also, there is the right to voice an opinion which was another reason for the founding of America. One of the most powerful theories is the idea that a government's legislative or executive branch can be altered by the people if their General Will is violated or disregarded. Again, this concept is employed by the ruling body of America and many other democratic countries. Rousseau and Locke were pioneers in analyzing the modern systems of government. From their conclusions, most of the laws and regulations of America and countries undergoing revolutions (e.g. ex- USSR) are based. Their contributions to the world past, present, and most probably in the future are immeasurable.