Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Government is the granter of Rights

A blog posting about Rousseau from here may seem odd to my two readers. I guess I can't really pull off jokes like that, considering that I've got a whole 44 followers.... whohoo! So why Rousseau? Well, for those of you who have listened to my audio recordings, you know full well that I'm a young man. I have expressly wished for this blog to be one primarily about authoritarian progressives and not myself, but what I'm being exposed to in my re-education camp, my limits are being expanded. The indoctrination on college campus is something I'm going to want to address, even if it's in my own unique 'direct to the source' way. That, and it seems to me that while most of those who write about collegiate indoctrination talk about socialism, marxism, and progressivism, there appears to be scant discussion in this direction about Utilitarianism, Contractarianism, Rawls, Rousseau, and a few other things. Perhaps I can help to fill in that gap. On to Rousseau.
In his book The Social Contract he writes the following:(Page 19)

EACH member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members.

The State is master of all their goods. The State is the basis of all rights. If the state is the basis of all rights, and thus the place where you get your rights, it's no wonder that the French Revolution turned out so badly - to which Rousseau's ideas were so profoundly influential.

I'm sure some may be wondering(because I would be) how Rousseau was mentioned in my college textbooks. I can't go posting pictures of the pages, unfortunately, so it's merely my word about this. But Rousseau is mentioned as a "Swiss philosopher" and a major contributor to the social contract tradition. No mention of the results of his ideas. I'd say that the fact that towards the end of the French Revolution, they were beheading children....... Don't you think that merits at least one small mention? In another version of Rousseau's Social Contract(still mostly in French) the introduction by Charles Edwyn Vaughan, the translator, makes some rather interesting observations about Rousseau's ideology largely within this same context:(page xv)

It is our business to make every individual member absolutely independent of his fellow members and absolutely dependent on the State. It is only by the force of the State that the liberty of its members can be secured.

Now there may be an argument about the validity of the second part of this, but the first part is the bomb blast that demolishes it. Further in the introduction, it says this:(page xxii)

What then are the conditions which, in Rousseau's view, the ends of the Contract thus inexorably impose? They may be summed up in one phrase: 'the absolute surrender of the individual with all his rights and all his powers to the community as a whole'; in other words, the replacement of his own will by that of the community, of his individual self by the 'corporate self' (le moi commun), which he has joined with all the others to create. And if we ask what is the justification for this sweeping sacrifice of individual liberty; Rousseau is at once ready with his answer. By no other means can we form that corporate self, without which there can be no moral life for the individual. By no other means can we secure that absolute equality, without which there can be no such thing as individual liberty. By no other means can we shut the door aga1nst that oppression of the weak by the strong which it is the first object of civil society to prevent.

This is just evil, evil stuff. Especially when you consider the real world application of all this: the necessary growth of big totalitarian government that squashes all who dare oppose it. Rousseau, a major contributor to the social contract tradition - Contractarianism - this is tyranny. No matter how much modern progressive theorists such as Rawls may try, you cannot pick good fruit off of a bad tree.

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