In Guns, Germs and Steel, why does Diamond disagree with the premise of Rousseau's famous "social contract" theory?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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According to Rousseau, people voluntarily create states with governments through the creation of a “social contract.”  They make a contract by which they voluntarily give up their independence in exchange for having a government that will protect them from people who want to take away their major rights.  Diamond disagrees with this theory because, he argues, there is no evidence that this happens.  He says, on p. 283 in the paperback edition of the book, that

Smaller units do not voluntarily abandon their sovereignty and merge into larger units.  They do so only be conquest, or under external duress.

Diamond is arguing in this chapter that states with governments are really not ideal forms of government.  He argues that it is better to live in small groups that do not have “kleptocratic” governments.   When you start to have large states, the governments tend to do things like taking the commoners’ money and using it for their own purposes.  They start to do things like requiring people to go to war when the government wishes to do so.

Diamond argues, therefore, that small groups do not really want to become bigger groups like Rousseau says.  Instead, they only form into larger groups when they are forced to do so.


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