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What are the characteristics of the state according to Jean Jaccqus Rousseau? Rousseau's view on the characteristics of the state.

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For Rousseau, the notion of general will is essential.  The state can only function well when individuals are able to sacrifice their individuality for a conception of freedom that is collective in vision and scope.  A few things should be noted with such a revelation.  The first would be that Rousseau felt that freedom is a collective and social one, and that the state must acknowledge that.  Recall his quote, "Man is free, but born in chains."  For Rousseau, the successful state works to break this form of bondage and that can only happen when there is a collectivized general will amongst individuals.  Additionally, the state's primary function is to enhance the notion of proper love of self, amour propre, and mitigate its antagonistic other, amour de soi.  For Rousseau, the general will- a state where individuals forgo their sense of individuality for something larger- is where this can be accomplished.

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Among the characteristics of the state according to Rousseau:

  • It has the legitimate right to demand that people obey it.  This is because they have voluntarily agreed to become a part of it.
  • It also has the right to demand obedience because it gives people benefits (protection, etc)

So what Rousseau is arguing is that people form states through a social contract.  This contract gives the state the power to demand their obedience as long as the state is keeping its end of the bargain.  This second part is very important because it argues that the state does not just have the power to do whatever it wants.

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