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The Sovereign may indeed say: ‘I now will actually what this man wills, or at least what he says he wills’; but it cannot say: ‘What he wills tomorrow, I too shall will’ because it is absurd for the will to bend itself to the future, nor is it incumbent on any will to consent to anything that is not good for the being who wills. If then the people promises simply to obey, by that very act it dissolves itself and loses what makes it a people; the moment a master exists, there is no longer a Sovereign, and from that moment the body politic has ceased to exist.

This does not mean that the commands of the rulers cannot pass for general wills, so long as the Sovereign, being free to oppose them, offers no opposition. In such a case, universal silence is taken to imply the consent of the people.

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J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract

This is so unbelievably important I may write an entire essay on simply this bit.

The power of “No”

In his work, The Social Contract, J.J. Rousseau explains government as a voluntary action. At that point, government would be a consensual agreement of the people and therefore not oppressive. 

But then he says that it is at the point that we impose that same form on our successive generations without their consent that it becomes an absolute state of slavery. Rule without choice. The current system and its mistakes of the past are thrust upon our future generations without their knowledge or consent. Every new generation of children is doomed to fix, live, and/or repeat those mistakes. 

Overcoming this obstacle has come to be called “Revolution”; a word given much more sanctity and magnitude than it probably deserves. Chapter 2 of his text, Change the World Without Taking Power, John Holloway talks about the nature of revolution. He tells his readers that the revolution is understood by people 2 ways:

On the one hand reform, on the other side revolution. Reform was a gradual transition to socialism, to be achieved by winning elections and introducing change by parliamentary means; revolution was a much more rapid transition, to be achieved by the taking of state power and the quick introduction of radical change by the new state. 

But then he goes on to state the misconception that either of these methods carry.

The intensity of the disagreements concealed a basic point of agreement: both approaches focus on the state as the vantage point from which society can be changed. Despite all their differences, both aim at the winning of state power. 

The implication here is astronomical. What if the revolution is not reformation of a system, but at the same time, not insurrection. What if, in order to win our liberation, we simply must walk away from the system altogether? What if all we have to do is say, “no”?

Gustav Landauer said,  ”The state is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another.”

This is the revolution. Not to change the state or take it over, but to simply stop participating. “The state is us,” Landauer goes on to say. It is only perpetuated by our constant participation and submission. 

I propose the solution to be to stop participating in the State and its actions. Stop contributing to the flawed system, thereby prolonging its inevitable collapse. Just say, “No.”

Response to Part 1 of Rousseau’s “Social Contract”

Call it a response or a summary or whatever. I felt compelled by the writing to put something in my own words. This is the beginning to a response to part one of “The Social Contract” by Rousseau. Please give me some feedback!

Can you legitimize authority? Is there a logical rationale behind giving up your life, liberty, and natural freedoms to another even if it may be potentially beneficial to you?

Since all men are born independent and perfectly equal in their right to life, liberty, and well-being, there is no logical rationale for authority. No man would, in his right mind, give up his natural freedoms (including his thoughts, actions, and possessions) to another human being. This means that any time there is authority of one (or few) over many (or another) it is solely taken by force.

All forms of government are based on the submission of the citizens to the authority with the general assumption that it is for their own protection and care. It is said to be a consensual relationship; though, really, it is about as consensual as it would be for you to give up all your belongings to a street thug. You choose to submit to the will of a street thug. It is certainly possible to deny his authority, but there will be consequences.

This is no different than the citizens’ submission to the “protection” of an authority. Man surrenders his natural freedoms to the laws and restrictions of a government with the knowledge that if he does not, there will be consequences. In order for government to do its job, people must forfeit their natural born rights and freedom to law. This authority is taken by force in some way or another as I just said.

However, even if the submission to a government could be legitimized (based on a constitution of its fairness or whatnot), it is still in contradiction to the above thesis that all men are born independent and equal. That is to say, even if a government were to be agreed upon, it was agreed upon by a particular group of individuals, and no one else. We understand it as their personal choice to submit to this authority.

That means that every single new individual that is born is not subject to this authority because it did not make the personal consensual decision to submit to this standing authority. This would mean that in order for a government to remain legitimate, it would have to change for the new generation of individuals, which we know to be impossible. This logic, based on J.J. Rousseau’s The Social Contract, renders the entire concept of government as a large authoritative and infallible law to be illegitimate.