.. as individuals, and see themselves first and foremost as citizens of the state. The collective of these citizens then forms the sovereign. The newly formed collective body is to rule, with the collective interest of the community as a whole, disregarding personal interests. “The sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neither had nor can have any interest contrary to their.” (Social contract, 194) Unlike Hobbes, who sees citizens as egocentric, Rousseau sees citizens as exocentric.
Rousseaus view of the citizens role is much simpler. Citizens are to participate in the making of laws and act for the good of the general will of the society. Rousseau is not say that citizens do not want to benefit their own interests, but rather, those interests would be benefited by decisions made to benefit the community. Rousseau says this is a result of being a voluntary party of the society. Citizens also have an obligation to be free and participate in the general will of the society.
Unlike Hobbes, who believes the citizen should only agree to a sovereign, which is the total extent of the citizens participation, other than obeying, Rousseau believes the citizen has an obligation to participate. While participating in the general will, there will come a time when a citizen must act in a way, which is not in his personal interest. The citizen must do what is for the collective good. Even though a particular decision benefited somebody else, and not me, there will come a time when a decision will benefit me and not somebody else. More importantly, even though this decision did not benefit me, it benefited the community as a whole.
Rousseau finds the problem mankind faces, is that “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” (Social Contract, 181). Only in a system when a man is free to express his interests has an individual and not that of an overriding group, can a man be truly free. Each individual continues to retain this individuality except when he is acting on behalf of the sovereign. “Each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody,” (Social Contract, 192). In any society, in which there is a successfully functional government, citizens are expected to perform certain duties and expected to give up some power or interests in support of the state.
Hobbes and Rousseaus expectations exceed what the average man is willing to do in support of the state. In a Hobbsian state, a citizen is expected to give up all power to the state in the name of self-interest. The reason is the benefits the citizen receives, such as life, is in their self-interest. Other things begin to arise out of this situation that are not in the citizens self interest. The Hobbsian state can produce laws, which hurt or oppress nearly every citizen in the state, and the laws are justified because there is no such thing as a bad law, because of the absolute authority the Hobbsian state has as a result of the contract.
The citizens have no recourse against the government, which is oppressing them, in the name of their own self-interest. This state, once the contract is agreed to, gives the citizens no action the sovereign does not allow. The sovereign does not give the citizens a voice in the decisions being made, and therefore, it does not have to please the citizens. It makes no difference if the citizens within this state are discontent, because they have no form of action they can take. While the citizens in this state are allowed to fulfill self-interest, they are not free to pursue their interests via the state.
The citizens in Rousseaus state would also be unwilling to meet the demand placed on them. They are asked to give up all self-interest in the name of the collective good. This goes beyond human nature. Man is naturally self-interested and this cannot be changed. Because Rousseau does not allow for self-interest in government, progress will be limited because of the lack of exchange of opposing views. John Stuart Mill states the importance of opposing views, “he who only knows one side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side: if he does not so much as know what they are, he had no ground for preferring either opinion.” (On Liberty, 38-39) It is important to understand the general will may not be correct or most beneficial. A democratic voting system allows for more discourse on a particular issue, while still resulting in the general will of the people voting. The general will is no more than a majority opinion. A majority opinion allows for individuals to enact their in interests. Rousseaus idea of government is more of a utopian idea and not really executable in the real world.
Although neither state produces a workable government in real life, the Rousseau state gives the most satisfactory account of the obligations of citizenship. A citizen is a person who will give the most to a political system, which gives the most to the citizen. A citizen is a person who is willing and able to participate in the state. In Hobbess system, the people did little more than choose who would have absolute rule over them. This is a system that can only be derived from a place where no system exists at all. It is the lesser of two evils.
People under this state have no participation in the decision making process, only to obey what is decided. While not perfect, the Rousseau state allows for the people under the state to participate in the decision making process. The state will not act against the majority opinion of the people because the majority opinion of the people is the decision of the state. People in the Rousseau state are more willing to give more in support of the state because they can make a difference in what the states decisions are. However, neither state does a truly satisfactory job in describing the true obligation of a citizen.
In neither state express their true opinion and interests. Therefore, in neither state would the citizenship, as a whole, be able to receive what is truly the majorities will because ones true will is never really taken into account. Bibliography 1. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan. First Touchstone Edition 1997.
2. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Social Contract. University of Oxford Press, London, 1947. 3. Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1978.