Discuss Rousseau's ideas on the legitimacy of authority.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in The Social Contract, published in 1762, sets out his beliefs concerning where authority should rest in an ideal society. His primary belief is that sovereignty should always rest in the hands of the citizens and their general will. This general will, in Rousseau’s thought, is a decision collectively made by the people concerning what is best for them, based on a strong sense of social justice. According to the general will of the populace—in which Rosseau includes women—laws are voted on, after which each individual has an obligation to abide by them. In this regard, Rousseau views the people themselves as the sovereign leaders of their society.

In terms of carrying out the laws, Rousseau favors aristocratic rule in smaller city-states, and the rule of a benevolent monarch in larger states or countries. To Rousseau, this is a practical matter, since a single ruler running a government is more effective, in his view, than a complicated government where...

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