general will

What Problem Is Rousseau Trying to Solve?

A core problem in political philosophy is the relation between the individual and the society in which he is a member. How does the political order, in the form of the state, legitimize itself and how are its impositions upon the individual, in apparent opposition to his freedom, justified? Jean-Jacques Rousseau attempted to solve this problem in his famous essay The Social Contract. To quote Rousseau from The Social Contract, his project is “…to find a form of association that will defend and protect the person and goods of each associate with the full and common force, and by means of which each uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as he was [in the state of nature]…”.