What is the ancient meaning of state?  Jean Jacques Rousseau. What is the ancient meaning of state, sovereignty, democracy, and war according to Jean Jacques Rousseau.

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The previous posts addressed the topic quite nicely.  I think that the idea of "ancient" is something that requires some attention.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, Rousseau was aware that the ancient conception of political power as suggested by the Greeks and Romans could not be replicated in the modern...

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The previous posts addressed the topic quite nicely.  I think that the idea of "ancient" is something that requires some attention.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, Rousseau was aware that the ancient conception of political power as suggested by the Greeks and Romans could not be replicated in the modern setting.  By its own admission, this was fairly groundbreaking.  At a time when many Romantic thinkers were convinced of the need that "the Greeks and Romans got it right," Rousseau inspired a generation of thinkers such as de Tocqueville and Constant who all believed that the differences in conditions between the ancient time and the modern setting made it impossible to replicate such beliefs.  Bearing that in mind, Rousseau developed his concept of general will, suggesting that the state had to adopt a collective sense of freedom for all of its people to ensure that total political and psychological self actualization could be accomplished.

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Rousseau seems to think that the state has complete power over its citizens.  This power is what he calls sovereignty.  He argues in "Social Contract" that the "body politic has absolute power over all its members" and that this power is defined as sovereignty.

The state has this power because the people have freely consented to join it and subjugate themselves to it.  To Rousseau, this total sovereignty is acceptable because the sovereign is nothing more or less than the collective will of all the people.  So, to him, the state must be a pure and perhaps even direct democracy.  If it is democratic in this way it will be perfect because

the Sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest contrary to theirs; and consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects, because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members. We shall also see later on that it cannot hurt any in particular. The Sovereign, merely by virtue of what it is, is always what it should be.

So Rousseau believes the state will be sovereign and perfect as long as it is truly a democracy.

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