Rousseau’s General Will
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wanted to find a form a political association in which naturally free individuals can join with each other as a member of the sovereign, and makes laws that apply equally to all. Rousseau uses the concept of General Will as a means by which a group of people enter into this social contract. The General Will is constructed by the people who in turn obey it as citizens. The separate wills, rights and desires of each member of a society brought together as a single unit is the General Will.
The idea of the general will is at the heart of Rousseau's philosophy. The general will is not the will of the majority. Rather, it is the will of the political organism that he sees as an entity with a life of its own. “Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” (p. 50) The general will is, by some means, endowed with goodness and wisdom surpassing the wisdom of any person. Society is coordinated and unified by the general will.
All people are born free, but the natural freedom is not achieved until these people enter into a social contract. According to Rousseau, natural freedom is acquired by allowing the General Will to be the ruling factor of a government. In order to enter into Rousseau's social contract, personal freedom must be given up. By disregarding the state of nature, the powers of each individual is directed towards a common interest. Rousseau notes that social freedom is superior to a state of nature, and that in a state of nature people are not completely free because they are ruled by their desires instead of by
reason. The General Will is rational and should then be the ruling body.
"The general will is always right," claimed Rousseau. The general will is not something that transcends the state, but is the will of the citizens as citizens in their capacity as members of the...