How does Locke apply the social contract when it comes to property?

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

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Locke's vision of the social contract differs from Rousseau's because both begin with a fundamentally different point of view regarding the basic nature of human beings.  Locke operates from an individualistic point of view, whereby individuals must have a sphere free from external coercion or bother.  At the same time, Rousseau believes that some level of external control is where the social contract lies.  Rousseau believes that "Man is born free, but lives in chains."  In a world of amour de soi, a type of destructive self- love, the good form of self- love, amour propre, is lost.  For Rousseau, the social contract is the agreement that individuals make in order to ensure that amour de soi is limited in terms of the damage it can do.  The notion of a setting where individuals surrender some level of rights in order to ensure a greater and more successful collective entity is the basis of Rousseau's social contract.  While Locke's vision is a social contract between ruler and ruled in which a form of individualized freedom exists away from external reality, Rousseau's social contract is one in which the collective is present in order to prevent a sense of social destruction.  In order to preserve the fabric of social cohesion, the social contract in which individuals willingly surrender some of their propensity for amour de soi becomes enacted.


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