Monday, January 12, 2009

The Social Contract



"Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains."

15 comments:

Mr. Plainview said...

Rousseau presents many concepts in his work. I seem to have trouble with this one: "Slaves, in their bondage, lose everything, even their desire to be free." How can anyone lose their desire to be free? Consider this for a moment--a baby and milk. I can understand how a baby may not feel some longing for milk if he's never had milk before. He doesn't know what milk is like, and he has survived without it. Freedom is a completely different matter from milk. I believe we all have some instinctive attachment to freedom. The absence of freedom dominates your every breath. The absence of milk can only make you thirsty.

puddlewonderful said...

Have you ever met a slave? Okay, I've not either, but I can see where Rousseau's coming from. Some things just break your spirit. After years of back-breaking servitude, some people just adapt and quit dreaming. I think that's what Rousseau refers to-- the loss of a conscious desire for freedom. I'm sure said slaves wouldn't be opposed to freedom, but they've ceased to think about it. It's too painful and futile, and the mental torture of servitude can result in such complacency.

Mr. Plainview said...
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Mr. Plainview said...
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Mr. Plainview said...
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Mr. Plainview said...

I understand what you’re saying, and I think you raise a good point. Yes, I imagine slaves would get disheartened and perhaps cease to dream. Wouldn’t they feel some longing, though? It seems they would grow somewhat discontent with their lives—being reminded of their slavery each time they perform some act for their master. Perhaps it wouldn’t even be a conscious longing, but wouldn’t they feel some yearning for freedom?

Dean Elazab said...

With the orcs of warcraft 3(i wish mitch was here he would get this) some of them decided to break free of servitude and take tier own land, while others embraced their masters and said that at least they had a certain life in servitude and had no worries. I think that makes since to slaves as well. they decided that it was too risky to break free from the system and stay where they were comfortable with.

tmichals said...

Maybe they feel inadequate enough to even long for such a thing, since they know it is never a possibility. I am trying to come up with some stupid analogy to make but everything just sounds ridiculous (i.e. me longing to become queen of england... just wouldn't ever happen so i don't long for it or hope for it).

jp said...

I think maybe the slaves' "loss of desire for freedom" is a little more basic.

In general, I think, people are naturally risk-averse and resistant to change. There are a lot of reasons for this, which I guess I could go into if somebody asks for an explanation.

But it is a huge change and risk to go from living as a slave, and being told "if you do this, this and this, then we will feed you and give you shelter," to living with absolute freedom. Truly, I imagine such a radical change would be overwhelming, and even terrifying. What would you do? Where would you even start?

In short, I think slaves might lose their desire for freedom simply because being a slave seems "easier," and less scary, than being free. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.

Aaron Nussdorf said...

I thoroughly disagree with the statement that slaves lose their will for freedom --that concept actually makes me feel sick. Rather, I think that slaves, when they are removed from a stable support-system, have to relie on their "masters" for protection, food, shelter and clothing: "you-don't-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you" sort of mentaliy comes into play, even when the "master" is killing the prisoners. I believe that this lack of resistance stems out of general fear of retribution and fear of responcibility. Also, to debunk the idea of slaves/servants not desiring freedom, there were slave and indentured servant revolts in America [an indentured servant revolt in early Virgina (sorry, I cannot remember the name of the revolt off hand) and, primarily, Brown's Raid on the Harper's Ferry Arsonal].

El Paco said...

I get how ideally everything Rousseau says would work, but realistically, there's no way. I understand his point that, by doing what is best for others, one does what is best for oneself. But who is going to convince someone to think like that? In my opinion, people (as a whole, not individually) are stupid. Most people will vote for themselves, and only themselves. Ideally, I think the social contract could work - but realistically, I think there's no way

El Paco said...
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El Paco said...

Has anyone ever heard of Ayn Rand's objectivism? She states that man naturally pursues only his own happiness, and should do so politically. She believes that people should vote only out of self interest. While I don't necessarily agree with her "objectivism," I do think that it is a more realistic approach to achieving the "general will"

stephen said...

I agree with what was said earlier about people refusing to believe that what is better for the whole is better for themselves. Certainly it has been proven that was is better for the masses like democracy also has benefits on the individual level, however, it is in our human nature to act in the best interest of our individual self rather than the whole.

bballinsupasta said...

i agree with stephen in that human nature begs us to act to better ourselves rather than the whole, but i also feel that many people overcome those primal type urges when they know that many other people can benefit.