What are the reasons in which Rousseau believes in a government by the people?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rousseau believes that a government "by the people" is possible only when some elements fall into place.  The first would be that individuals have to fully recognize that social settings do a great deal to add to the corruptibility of mankind.  When Rousseau speaks the idea of, "Man is born free, but lives in chains," he speaks of the notion that individuals must break free of such a social condition, he speaks of attempting to rid oneself of the amour de soi, or unhealthy vision of self love, that drives individuals.  It is this particular element that causes individuals to see oneself in the eyes of another, fosters inequality, and helps to make government a tool of oppression and not one of social and personal actualization.   For Rousseau, when individuals embrace on both community and individual levels the ideas of amour de soi, or a pure love of self that is devoid of external competition, government becomes representative of one element that is "by the people."  In this condition, individuals become represented more in their government because they are not ones that are oppressed by government, but rather recognized by it.  I think that this is where individuals can see a government work for the interests of the people, and this is where Rousseau sees real change able to happen.

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