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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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

mkcapen1 | Student

Jean Jacques Rousseau is considered to be one of the great thinkers of the 18th century.  He found fame because of his talent and philosophical thoughts on many topics. 

On the topic of war, Rousseau believed that in order for humans to be in a state of war, their thoughts would have to be complex relative to ideas on property, ideas about their future, and the identification of other humans as being threatening. 

 He also felt that the individual who has most to lose is the one who would serve to organize other individuals to halp protect his resources.

Of government he determined that government and state was the intended to be a unified whole of the population.

To maintain a happy population and  balance the state must:

-follow the general will of the public

-ensure the general will agrees with the whole of the population

-public needs must be satisfied