Questions for *On the Social Contract,* Book I

  • In Book 1 of On the Social Contract, Rousseau discusses what individuals gain from submitting themselves to a sovereign and abiding by the social contract. In Chapter 8 he writes that “although in this state he deprives himself of several of the advantages belonging to him in the state of nature, he regains great ones” (Rousseau, 889). Some of these include exercising and developing one’s faculties, broadening ideas, and elevating one’s soul. He goes as far as to say that when one engages in the social contract and the sovereign it “transformed him from a stupid, limited animal into an intelligent being and a man.” Do you agree with Rousseau and his ideas on what a person can gain from playing a part in the sovereign? Have you been privy to any of these positive changes suggested by Rousseau as a result of your participation in your political community?
  • In Book 9, Rousseau writes that “each private individual’s right to his very own store is always subordinate to the community’s right to all, without which there could be neither solidarity in the social fabric nor real force in the exercise of sovereignty” (890). Do you agree with Rousseau? Do you think this ideology could successfully exist in American society?