The Social Contract  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains."

The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is the book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1754).

Like John Locke, who believed that a government can only be legitimate if it has been sanctioned by the people in the role of the sovereign, Rousseau claimed that a perfect society would be controlled by the "general will" of its populace. While he does not define exactly how this should be accomplished (as there are many possible ways, each suited to different situations), he suggests that assemblies be held in which every citizen can assist in determining the general will. Without this input from the people, there can be no legitimate government. Importantly, this input cannot come from representatives, but must be from the people themselves.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Social Contract" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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