What is Rousseau's contribution to our government? What did he believe?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s most influential works on government was his piece on the Social Contract. In his work, Rousseau described the methodology towards the establishment of a stable political community. His work inspired political reforms and revolutions in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

He publicly disputed the monarchies divine authority to lead the masses. He asserted that the administration should only govern with the consent of the governed. He also stated that the laws are subject to decisions and opinions of the masses. Thus, people should be free to choose the laws that bind them. The idea behind this assertion was that the masses forfeit a certain amount of rights to ensure that their collective rights and freedoms are guaranteed. This would be achieved because not only would the administration be required to protect these collective freedoms, but the masses would be responsible for the mutual protection of their freedoms.

His work offered impetus to the Founding Fathers to challenge the crown’s authority, leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they"-- (Social Contract)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,-- (Declaration of Independence)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial