Western Political Thought Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 − 1778) -Social Contract Philosopher for Competitive Exams (2022)

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Jean Jacques Rousseau - Western Political Thought: Social Contract Philosopher (Political Science)


  • Well known social contract philosopher.
  • Given historic theory of General Will.
  • Was product of his times and was influenced by his circumstances.
  • Does not agree that each man is devil by birth.
  • Also refuses to accept that religion is opposed to state.
  • His most influential writing- ‘The Social Contract’ brought him widespread reputation.

Major Concepts

Image Major Concepts

Human Nature

  • Man had no evil tendencies by birth.
  • Wrong social actions made him evil and quarrelsome.
  • Man, by nature has two instincts-
    • self-love
    • sympathy or instinct of mutual aid
  • These instinct makes struggle for existence easier.
  • Also, does more good than harm.
  • Emergence of another instinct called ‘conscience’ .
  • This emerges out of clash between the other two.
  • Pride was the root cause of many evils.
  • Instinct by nature-man՚s freedom to choose his own path.
  • This freedom is essential for the perfection of mankind.

State of Nature

Image State of Nature

Social Contract

Image Social Contract
  • By way of contract man surrender everything to society.
  • Being member of society retained everything.
  • Rights surrendered to body not individual
  • Contact had organic character.
  • It was moral, collective and had a public person.
  • ⚹ Rousseau՚s contract was a continuous process.

Theory of General Will

  • People surrendered all rights to a collective sovereign.
  • And bowed before the General Will, which is ultimate analysis of sovereign.
  • Two terms to be understood for understanding General Will.
  • Actual Will and Real Will.
Image Theory of General Will
  • According to Rousseau General Will is the sum total of Real Will.
  • Based on reason, will of all individual for community welfare.
  • Rousseau՚s sovereign is General will which is permanent and inalienable.
  • It is absolute and possess complete control over state.


  • Vested in people.
  • Community as a whole is sovereign.
  • It has unity, indivisibility, permanency.
  • A right will, inalienable and inseparable
  • His government was under this sovereign.

Natural Rights

  • He believed man was born free.
  • Enjoyed every right which was necessary for his existence.

‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains’

Image Natural Rights