- THE SOCIAL CONTRACT, BY JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU -

 

VERSION FRANCOPHONE

 

SUMMARY OF LEARNER       INTRO & VOCAB

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau published Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique in 1762 (On the Social Contract, or Principles of Political Rights). There followed the French Revolution that momentarily interrupted a near-perpetual state of World War.

Christianity have had two thousand years to succeed and has failed miserably. Its smug hierarchs seized upon Christ’s perfect message (perfection would mean 100% adoption by humanity) and twisted it to such an extent that only one sixth of those on Earth would have anything to do with it.

Per those hierarchs, their doctrine and transmission methods are perfect; at fault are the five sixths of humanity that turned away from Christianity in disgust. It seems evident to these hierarchs that non-believers deserve to die and be damned. How much more un-Christlike could one get, than their fathead conceit?

Rather than two thousand years, Rousseau’s social contract had two hundred to establish itself. It suffered equivalent failure. The advocates of the French Revolution and the Terror worshipped Rousseau and his social contract. If anyone could have made it work the way he intended, they would have. Every conscience-driven liberal, humanist, socialist and democrat has paid due reverence to it since, all for naught.

It seems that Rousseau left out some key element of his social contract, without which it was worthless except as a minor argument against the National Capitalism of Hobbes that prevails in its place. That missing element is what common law calls a consideration: "some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the one party; or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other." It is difficult to contemplate a valid contract in which one party would give something away out of pure affection or fear, and the other expects to do nothing in return. Rousseau himself dismissed this scenario.

 

“Whether from one man to another or from one man to a people, such talk will always sound just as insane: I make a pact with you entirely in your care and entirely to my benefit; I will stick to it for as long as I please, and you will, for as long as I please.” Book I, Chapter 4.

[Note: Such a pact between nations would be just as insane, even if enforced by victory in war. It would require an armed guard over every locality tempted to resist it. It would be unenforceable even then, as the U.S. has found in Iraq and as prior colonial empires have discovered to their great pain and dishonor.]

 

The primary purpose of the social contract is to replace pity: a commonplace virtue among men in a state of nature, which cancels the ill effects of natural inequalities between them. Men in society have substituted pity with “laws, customs and virtue,” and obviously failed at that substitution.

The primary intent of the social contract appears to have shifted from “liberty” (its foremost goal in Book I, Chapter 6), to “the greatest good for all” (the end purpose of all legislation per the first line of Book II, Chapter 11). These intentions were poorly defined and essentially circular. The social contract will be incontestable because it will be incontestably worthwhile because everyone will agree this is incontestably the case. How tidily circular and convenient! There are no loose ends because the uroboros serpent has swallowed its tail.

Essentially, Mr. Rousseau never found the hook on which to hang his hat. That is why he never undertook to describe the foreign relations component of his social contract. Not because he couldn’t find the time (his excuse), but because the slow crawl communications of his 18th Century WeaponWorld prevented its transformation into PeaceWorld. Unlike our communications today, which make global peace entirely practicable despite our mulish bias to the contrary.

To be valid, a social contract must have q  tangible consideration its signatories find worthwhile to establish and useful to maintain through personal and collective sacrifice. Something they could see, feel and hear every day of their lives, worth living to uphold and dying to protect; something a vast majority would support through thick and thin. It would be so obvious that its unmistakable presence would guarantee that the social contract were honestly fulfilled, so obvious that its slightest absence would negate the contract automatically.

That something, that consideration everyone would recognize right away, is PeaceWorld. PeaceWorld would be unmistakable. Its failure to replace WeaponWorld, or its subsequent decay into WeaponWorld, or its disappearance in a distant land, any one of them would be equally obvious and annul the social contract. This would mobilize everyone to reestablish PeaceWorld, the way the loss of an ancient battle ensign or modern radio contact would demand fevered restoration during a furious firefight. The social contract could not be reasserted until it had been allowed to appear once again, like a sunken ship brought back to the surface.

But let’s see what Rousseau had to say.

 

[Author’s note: On PeaceWorld, the following passage would apply to nations as well as individuals (men and women, of course). There would be far less personal degradation than that which WeaponWorld imposes in industrial quantities.]

 

“This shift from a state of nature to the civil state induces a remarkable transformation in man, by substituting instinct with justice in his conduct and endowing his actions with the integrity they lacked. It is only once the voice of duty overrides physical impulse and entitlement to cravings, that man, who up ‘til then had only seen to himself, finds he is compelled to act upon new principles and consult reason before harkening to inclination. Even if, in this state, he passes up on several advantages he inherited from nature, he recovers such great ones, his faculties are exercised and strengthened, his ideas ripen, his feelings are ennobled, his soul reaches such heights that if the misdeeds of this new condition did not often degrade him below that from which he had just escaped, he would ceaselessly bless the lucky moment that tore him from it forever and molded from a stupid, clueless animal, a sentient being and a man.” Book I, Chapter 6.

 

“The first and foremost outcome of the principles established above, is that the general cause alone may direct the power of the state in accordance with its initial end-goal, the common good. If the clash of special interests made the creation of society necessary, the concord of those same made society possible. That which these special interests hold in common forms the social bond; and if there were no common point upon which all interests agreed, no society could exist. Thus, it is only by this common interest that society should be governed.” Book II, Chapter 1.

 

No-one has found the common interest that those special interests could share unanimously. National interests were always in contention, soon substituted and corrupted by lesser ones. Universal agreement could never be established even by Rousseau’s genius.

PeaceWorld is the only principle that could satisfy the strategic interests of every nation. It is the common interest we always lacked, that everyone could adopt for strategic security and mutual benefit. Valid interests would be satisfied and the common interest, best secured. At that point and only then, the social contract could snap into place automatically, everywhere. We could then honor it without exception, everyone of sound mind.

 

Please consider the following quote as if we had exhausted our petroleum reserves. Indeed, on a global scale, demand has already outstripped its supply. The world economy threatens to come apart under this sorry burden, to do so completely within a few years and perhaps catastrophically. This is happening now, not once you’ll be too old to care or once everyone will be “perfectly ready.” This is an inescapable fact: we do not have a second left to waste fooling ourselves and fooling around.

 

[Author’s note: In our case, replace the term ‘State’ with ‘the entire world,’ and ‘the individual’ with ‘nations and lesser aggregates, including individuals.’ Chaosism does not care what level it surges from; peace can only spring from the highest level and all the lower ones acting in concert.]

 

 “But when the social bond begins to fray and the State to fail, when private interests begin to take effect and minor associations influence the greater one, the common interest falters and finds foes, unanimity no longer governs the voice vote, the common will ceases to be everyone’s will, disagreements and debates arise, and the best counsel cannot pass without dispute.

“Lastly, when State is on the verge of ruin and no longer subsists other than in vain and illusory forms, such that the social bond is broken in every court and the most vile interests brazenly assume the sacred title of public good; at that point, the general will goes mute. Everyone, prompted by secret motives, stops thinking like a citizen, as if the State had never existed, and iniquitous decrees are falsely passed in the guise of laws whose only goal is special interest.

“Does it follow from this, then, that the general cause has been annihilated or corrupted? No, it remains steadfast, pure and constant; but it is enslaved to others that overwhelm it.

“Everyone, detaching his interest from the common one, realizes that he cannot free himself from it completely; but his share of public harm seems like nothing when set against the exclusive benefits he intends to claim. Aside from this personal advantage, he hankers after the common interest for his own sake, just as much as anyone else. Even when he sells his ballot for cash, he doesn’t smother the general cause that smolders within him; he just dodges it. The error he commits is in changing the premise of the question and answering something other than what was asked. Thus, instead of declaring with his vote: ‘This proposal is beneficial to the State,’ he utters: ‘It is beneficial for this or that person or this or that party that such-and-such proposal be ratified.’ Thus the rule of public order in assemblies is not so much to maintain the general will, but to arrange things such that it always be consulted and it always reply.” Book IV, Chapter 1

 

PeaceWorld can no longer be considered an ideological exercise to be contemplated without end – given a cozy status quo that will endure forever – whether or not world peace takes root. We must act now, while we still retain the resources to make World Peace happen now.

If we had been true children of the Enlightenment, we could have carried this out during the 1950’s when cheap energy was so abundant it could have cushioned any errors we committed during our transition from weapons to peace. But we are mere killer primates, and must humbly beg Loving God for absolution and reparation for our unforgivable stupidity.

In any case, if we wait for non-renewable resources to disappear before we act, we will have to endure inconceivable sacrifices with no corresponding celebration. The inescapable consolidation of WeaponWorld will become a question of firepower, wreckage and casualties, instead of PeaceWorld’s cooperation, creativity and peaceful intent. Nothing good will come of it, only trouble.

“Trouble”: such an easy term to ponder and dismiss. Read terror, casualties and anguish surpassing everything humanity has endured in the past. Let us see reason, beware and repent. There is so much work to be done in so little time!

 

“The opinions of a people are born from its constitution. Even though the law does not regulate mores, legislation gives birth to them. When legislation weakens, values decay. But at that point, the rule of censors won’t achieve what the full force of the law has failed to achieve.

“It follows from this, then, that censure may be useful to safeguard mores but never to restore them. Establish censors while the law retains its vigor. Once that has been lost, all is despair; nothing legitimate retains any power once the laws have none left.” Book IV, Chapter 7

 

"A censor may maintain, he can never restore, the morals of a state. It is impossible for such a magistrate to exert his authority with benefit, or even with effect, unless he is supported by a quick sense of honor and virtue in the minds of the people, by a decent reverence for the public opinion, and by a train of useful prejudices combating on the side of national manners. In a period when these principles are annihilated, the censorial jurisdiction must either sink into empty pageantry, or be converted into a partial instrument of vexatious oppression." Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin Press, London, 1997, Chapter X, “Decius revives the office of censor in the person of Valerian…The design impracticable, and without effect.” p. 263.

 

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