What did Jean-Jacques Rousseau believe in?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau strongly believed in the innate goodness of man and in basic human rights founded upon universal natural law; in addition, he believed that both rulers and the citizens have natural human rights as well as obligations to each other which should be bound in a social contract. Further, Rousseau felt that society corrupted man.

In Emile, a treatise on education, Rousseau suggests ways that children can be raised in order to avoid the corruption of society. While "[T]he natural man is interested in all new things," he must still be exposed to various things, but kept from the limitations often enforced by society; instead the "natural tendencies" are encouraged. Later, when the child reaches adulthood without corruption, he can enter into the Social Contract:

First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, women included, that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. 

Rousseau's was a new idea that the people are as important as the ruler. Also, if the ruler should become abusive, then the people have the right to dissolve the government and form a new Social Contract. The general will, a composite of the wills of the individual, should devote themselves to advancing the common good.This concept of the Social Contract strongly influenced the Founders of the United States Constitution.

Truly, Rousseau valued freedom, liberty, individualism, natural expression of emotion, and unaffected simplicity.