Sunday, January 18, 2009

"...taking men as they are and laws as they might be"

In his introduction to The Social Contract, Maurice Cranston discusses Rousseau's attempt to describe a form of government both ideal and realistic. Rousseau himself, in introducing his work, claims that "[his] purpose is to consider if, in political society, there can be any legitimate and sure principle of government, taking men as they are and laws as they might be" (49). To what extent, do you think, Rousseau works with those considerations? Which of his ideas could be realistically applied, and which are clearly formulated for an ideal society?

5 comments:

puddlewonderful said...

I like that Rousseau acknowledges that different forms of government work for different nations. While of course I think that monarchy is unacceptable for any peoples, I think it evident that a lot of factors go into the specifics of a government. For example, I think the federal form of government worked well for the U.S. when its vast distances, and small population, required it to be united for strength, but divided for ease of administration. A government over such a large space could not be centralized, and the colonies had developed their own identities anyway. Rousseau's understanding of national differences contrasts to me with Marx's generalized communist formula (as I understand from Doc, correct me if I'm wrong). Marx believed that governments had a natural progression, which Doc briefly described last Thursday, from feudalism to capitalism to communism/socialism. I felt that Marx's generalization was much too broad to be true, and did not account for the cultural and historical factors that allowed feudalism to flourish in Europe and be replaced by capitalism. Rousseau, to me, at least demonstrates and understanding of both the characteristics general to all populations and the specific territorial and cultural qualities which vary between nations.

El Paco said...

ditto what i said in the other social contract thread

stephen said...

It seems as though he asserts that a monarchy is best suited for a large government, while the U.S. is the largest democracy and is well governed. I understand his thinking but do not necessarily agree with it.

Dean Elazab said...

I agree with steven, the thinking of a monarchy as the best form of government is not my idea of ideal. One person or family controlling a vast amount of people makes it easy to get things done and keeps order, but one corrupt leader, and the nation cant help itself as it is destroyed.

ndepass said...

We tried to learn the values of Rousseau by doing the Moby Deck, however we did not follow the Social Contract how it should be and therefore we failed our challenge! All of us were arguing back and forward and did not pick a leader to guide us through the challenge.