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Title: The general will in Rousseau's social contract
Author: McAdam, James
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1958
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Sovereignty ought to remain perpetually in the will of the people. However, the contract to institute the sovereign state is illegitimate or unnecessary. There may be a practical necessity for a contract of union to bind the individuals to the common interest. The individual has, on this view, a common interest only as an associate. Likewise he has a general will for the common interest of the association. A detailed analysis of the main argument follows. Rousseau does not use "common interest" consistently. There is the permanent common interest, supposedly constant throughout the state's existence. The successive common interest, which is really comparable to a majority vote. Finally, there is the interest in the interests of all or the common good. This is, mainly, a moral sense. The Legislator provides artificially a moral education and creates a right tradition and social solidarity, instilling a regard for the common good. The general will represents the argument that there is a good for the state which the individuals do not know of. Rousseau advocates absolute sovereignty but, being a legislative function, it is limited by the nature of law. But a criterion of law is that the majority can make laws in accordance with their evaluation of the public utility. There are no individual rights, only sovereign rights, in this sense the general will is a moral sovereign. It is disinterested being the will for the good of all the citizens, not the sovereign will of the Kingdom of Ends. In contrast to Bosanquet it is an abstract universal; institutions, etc. are not objective embodiments of the general will. The general will is not one will, nor an analysis of a democratic state, but an ideal standard for popular sovereignty.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Philosophy