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J.-J. Rousseau on State (Polity) - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 270
State/Rousseau/Höffe: (...) although himself a vagabond loner, [Rousseau] defends society in its forcibly reinforced form, as a state order.
Höffe I 272
The natural state qua primordial state does not recognise privileges that some people enjoy to the detriment of others; there are neither privileges nor discrimination. The two basic evils that destroy this ideal state are private property and the state (which protects it), "civil society". In French it says "société civile", not "société bourgoise".
Rousseau's bourgeois society here, as with other authors of modern times, is not an economic bourgeois society as opposed to a civic society, but the community with the power of coercion, the state, itself.
Property: Instead of helping people to achieve the decisive achievement of being with themselves, the two interwoven basic evils, private property and the state, create a threefold inequality among people and, as a result, a threefold alienation: If property - someone fences in a piece of land and declares it his own - surrounds itself with law and justice, it creates rich and poor, if an authority is added, additionally rulers and ruled, and in case of arbitrariness and tyranny, masters and slaves as well. >Civilization/Rousseau.
Höffe I 273
In the text [of the second treatise(1)] (...) the establishment of a state appears as a primal sin, with which Rousseau rejects Aristotle's political anthropology (the "inherently political" nature of man) even more sharply than Hobbes. Here the state is not only considered artificial, as it was for Hobbes, but even unnatural. Paradoxically, however, in the end it proves to be necessary.
Höffe I 275
Origin/Justification: Because the state takes its origin in an act of freedom, it has legitimacy, which however comes into being exclusively by the means of a free consent, i.e. the >Social Contract. No power, no matter how superior, can create any right. Only an all-sided consensus, an agreement that is not contradicted by any of the parties concerned, empowers to rule lawfully. >Justification.
État civil: With the conclusion of the social contract, people leave the state of nature and enter into the (civic) civil state (état civil). In this transition they undergo a change which, because of its radical nature, can be described as a revolution, admittedly a non-violent one. From now on their behaviour is no longer determined by a physical instinct, but by a "voice of duty"(2) or justice, where the right takes the place of the request.
Höffe I 278
Separation of powers: Rousseau rejects the idea of separation of powers just as radically as the idea of representation. However, he wisely considers the democracy he propagates to be an ideal that can never be achieved. >Parliamentarism/Rousseau: RousseauVsPolitical Representation.


1. Rousseau, Discours sur l'inégalité parmi les hommes, 1755
2. Rousseau, The Social Contract (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique, 1762, I, 8.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Rousseau I
J. J. Rousseau
Les Confessions, 1765-1770, publ. 1782-1789
German Edition:
The Confessions 1953

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016


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