Discuss Rousseau's ideas on the legitimacy of authority.Discuss Rousseau's ideas on the legitimacy of authority.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While much in Rousseau is complex, one certainty is that he believes that authority results from the sovereignty of the people.  This is the source of all power and Rousseau is quite explicit in his assertion on this point.  This forms the basis of Rousseau's concept of "the general will," a concept in which people give their ascent to any form of government.  In certain contexts, Rousseau understood the need and value of different types of authoritarian structure.  Yet, he was convinced that individuals have to give their consent and their approval to government if it is to have any sort of hope of effectiveness.  For Rousseau, authority is legitimized when it represents the will of the people and delegitimized when it goes away from it:  "If a government acts contrary to the will of the people, the people have a right to replace it."  Rousseau's fundamental belief about the nature of authority's legitimacy lies in this idea.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Rousseau's vision of legitimacy is limited when compared to that of Max Weber.  I think that Weber provides us with a better view of why people might accept authority as legitimate.  This fleshes out Rousseau's idea that legitimacy must come from the will of the people.  Weber asks when the people will see authority as legitimate.  He says that they might if the leader has either A) charisma, B) the support of tradition or C) legal authority from a constitution or other such law.

sigarett | Student
How did the government began legitmate?
mimozia | Student

explain the legitimacy and how the government becomes legitimate according to rousseau

poznan | Student

How Rousseau's idea are implemented in the social contract theory and why it is important to include virtue ethics? Are there any other ideas that contributed to the social contract theory and what it involves?