What would Rousseau think of the government of the USA?

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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rousseau would almost certainly agree with certain aspects of American government, such as the idea that American government is a government by the people and for the people.  However, he would potentially disagree with others including the use of a representative form of government and the significant levels of inequality present in American society. Rousseau argues that all legitimate government derives the source of its authority from a social contract based on the collective will of the people, an idea that no doubt influenced America's Founding Fathers. On the other hand, Rousseau preferred direct democracy to representative democracy, arguing that in a representative democracy, such as the United States, elected representatives would necessarily substitute their own desires and preferences for the desires of those they claimed to represent. Rousseau also would have found fault with the levels of inequality in contemporary American society, arguing that such levels of inequality could not possibly be agreed to by the poor members of society and could not therefore be seen to represent their will. All in all, Rousseau would probably argue in favor of amending American democracy by instituting a more direct role for the common people in setting laws resulting in a more egalitarian society.

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