Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rousseau, book 2

Link to book two in post below.

ch 1-5

These chapters are further explorations of the nature of sovereignty, the general will, and it's relation to the individuals who compose it. A few questions to think about:

-why is sovereignty indivisible? Why can the sovereign 'not be represented'?
-the general will isn't fallible--what does this mean? Does this mean political decisions are never in error under a social contract?
-What are the limits on sovereign power?

ch. 6-7

Getting down to brass tacks. Chapter 6 addresses the question of law--how we get from the abstract level of legitimacy to the actual, written law. How does he define law, and why must it always be 'general and not particular'?

Chapter 7 returns us to the question of what happens at the founding of a political society. We've already seen the formula for the social contract oath all citizens must give (1:6), but here we get into a little more detail. Apparently, it's not as egalitarian as he made is sound. Very smart, powerful clever men (this translation calls them legislators, but the French term is often translated as "lawgiver") who create the legal codes for a people--and 'give' them their laws. Historical examples, Rousseau tells us, include Moses, Lycurgus, and Mohammed.

-what is the task of the legislator? What role, if any, does the legislator play in the state itself? Finally, what advice does Rousseau give to would-be lawgivers at the end of the chapter?

ch. 8-10

These chapters are titled "The people". They all describe what sort of preexisting societies can be "given laws" and become a legitimate social-contract based political society? Why do you think he selects these conditions? Would any society meet this conditions today?

Note that at the end of ch. 10 he reveals where, in Europe, the potential for a social contract exists.

ch. 11-12.

You've worked hard enough at this point. The final two chapters aren't required. This is plenty of Rousseau to try to digest in a weekend.

Feel free to use this discussion thread, and the one below, to begin to think about any of my questions, pose your own, or generally comment on Rousseau.

1 Comments:

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