Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

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Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby freedomlover » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:00 pm

I personally loved it, y'alls thoughts?
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby between4walls » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:27 pm

Read this for class a while ago but haven't reread yet, will post when I do.

Since you're starting off, freedomlover, why don't you post a passage you liked or disliked or found confusing, so we can have something specific to start with?
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:56 pm

I'm so happy there's finally a thread about this book :D
Well I have some passages marked (translated from spanish):
One of which I found more interesting is:
Precisely because the force of things tends always to destroy equality is therefore the force of legislation should always keep trying to mantein equality

Second Book Chapter XI.
I found that interesting because many people believe that laws are there to take freedom away from us, when actually they should give us more. Life in society could be crazy without anything to make people comfortable with others. Another issue is when laws do not mantein equality and destroy it; they're actually not good laws because they do the contrary that they should do. I think the thought about laws as things that help life in society has been lost because of so many laws that contradicted it.
I have so many more quotes, but one by one (and I don't have much time right now haha).
Another thing I found incredibly interesting is the amount of times that Rousseau says that something is impossible to happen because is too perfect, and it has actually happened. Lik: "Democracy would be only for Gods because is too perfect for humans". That makes me thing, which things we see impossible now that will be in th efuture? Because Rousseau was truly a believer in Humanity, but even he couldn't see some things like Democracy were going to actually happen... That makes me so hopeful and happy :D
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby between4walls » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:07 pm

LauraLeZunzu wrote:Another issue is when laws do not mantein equality and destroy it; they're actually not good laws because they do the contrary that they should do. I think the thought about laws as things that help life in society has been lost because of so many laws that contradicted it.


That reminds me of Martin Luther King's argument against the Jim Crow laws: "To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust." Though that was not specifically about equality.

Another thing I found incredibly interesting is the amount of times that Rousseau says that something is impossible to happen because is too perfect, and it has actually happened. Lik: "Democracy would be only for Gods because is too perfect for humans".


I will comment more when I have actually finished the book (lol) but just wanted to put some stuff on the political situation of Geneva, where Rousseau was from, out there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Geneva#18th_century
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby Morgan » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:22 am

LauraLeZunzu wrote:Another thing I found incredibly interesting is the amount of times that Rousseau says that something is impossible to happen because is too perfect, and it has actually happened. Lik: "Democracy would be only for Gods because is too perfect for humans". That makes me thing, which things we see impossible now that will be in th efuture? Because Rousseau was truly a believer in Humanity, but even he couldn't see some things like Democracy were going to actually happen... That makes me so hopeful and happy :D


Not to rain on your parade, Laura, but I'm a bit dubious about that.

A few paragraphs before that line, we get:

If we take the term in the strict sense, there never has been a real democracy, and there never will be. It is against the natural order for the many to govern and the few to be governed. It is unimaginable that the people should remain continually assembled to devote their time to public affairs, and it is clear that they cannot set up commissions for that purpose without the form of administration being changed.


The bar he's setting for a "real democracy" - and that, I think, is what he's saying is the society of gods and not of men - is pretty high, and seems to be closer to direct democracy than a modern representative democracy. We vote, but the majority of the people do not "remain continuously assembled", and we vote in a "few" to do most of the work of governing the "many".
That is to say, we "set up commissions for that purpose", and I suspect he'd argue that therefore the form of administration is changed.

Direct democracy, where a significant number of decisions are made by actual majority vote of the entire citizen body, or at least, as many as want to participate, requires, as Rousseau mentions, a very small state. The closest system there's been to that was probably in ancient Athens (and "there never has been a real democracy": Athens also doesn't qualify for Rousseau's definition), and their Assembly was only possible because the Athenian city-state was
a very small State, where the people can readily be got together and where each citizen can with ease know all the rest;

and within that, the number of people actually eligible to be involved was even smaller (apart from anything else, male-only, which cuts out half the population at a stroke).

In somewhere the size of a modern nation state, direct democracy is probably impossible, and if not impossible certainly implausible, and most definitely not what we have today. Representative democracy doesn't really fulfil Rousseau's criteria:
the Sovereign may commit the charge of the government to the whole people or to the majority of the people, so that more citizens are magistrates than are mere private individuals. This form of government is called democracy.

but it's the only form of democracy that's really plausible in a large country, or really anything larger than a single town. Local regions or organizations can potentially run that way, but at large sizes it does get difficult to manage.

I've helped organize decision-making sessions with participation open to any and all members of a 17,000-strong group. Peak, that resulted in a gathered meeting of 1,600 people - that's manageable (though it's a once-a-year gathering for a reason). But 17,000 people isn't actually a huge number. Take a large city - given where we are here, I'll say Paris. Population of (central) Paris is approximately 2 million. At the 10% participation rate, you'd then have to potentially manage an assembly of 200,000 people. That is not possible, and that's only one city. Expand to a whole country, and the numbers become insane.

So if you want to operate in units the size of a nation, you can't have a situation where "more citizens are magistrates than are mere private individuals" - if the majority of citizens have active power, there have to be systems through which they can exercise that power directly, and that's not feasible in a population of millions. Hence, representative democracy: we elect a small number of legislators who act on our behalf. But we only possess the power to vote, once every few years; we don't get to make decisions directly, we commit that actual work of government to a minority, and the vast majority of the time most of us are "private individuals". And a government in which governance is the responsibility of a minority is an aristocracy by Rousseau's basic definition.
That everyone has the power to vote, and the potential right to run for government, means it's not an aristocracy in the conventional sense. But I think that by Rousseau's definitions it's not a pure democracy.
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:41 pm

Morgan wrote:I've helped organize decision-making sessions with participation open to any and all members of a 17,000-strong group. Peak, that resulted in a gathered meeting of 1,600 people - that's manageable (though it's a once-a-year gathering for a reason). But 17,000 people isn't actually a huge number. Take a large city - given where we are here, I'll say Paris. Population of (central) Paris is approximately 2 million. At the 10% participation rate, you'd then have to potentially manage an assembly of 200,000 people. That is not possible, and that's only one city. Expand to a whole country, and the numbers become insane.


Yup I know. I admit I was a little exaggerated hahaha

It is just that I tend to "addapt" what autors say, depending on how many years separate them from us. And I think our representative democracy is better that the one "perfect" who Rousseau say; if we voted every time, we couldn't do other thinks for the country and, most important, things like death penalty and those will mght be approved. Think about a kid raped or killed; if there was an instant votation, maybe death penalty would be aproved. That's why I think representative democracy is better, because (sorry Rousseau) I think masses too large don't actue like reasonable people... But, for actual important decisions, there are referendum, and I find it great (because it is not about recent facts that covuld affect people's minds or emotions, like the killing). Actually, the "perfect democracy" Rousseau explains is now wanted to be applicated by the selfcalled "liquid democracy", that want to do it byt he Internet. I find it bad because the reason I said before (State has to be over fleeting emotions sometimes) but, most of all, because old people and others not that old aren't able to use the Internet. Shall we take away their right to vote? I found that terrible :| I took this assumpt because it was related to Rousseau's point of view.

Another doubt I had related to this when I read Rousseau is the "elective aristocracy". As you said, our representative democracy would get near the aristocracy of Rousseau. But it would be "elected aristocracy"? I didn't get to know if everyone could vote or not...

I'll add some quotes more, I just have a chapter left to read :wink:
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby Morgan » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:12 pm

Yeah; I'm not intending to make a value judgement there - "perfect democracy" isn't necessarily the ideal system. It's 'perfect' in the sense that it's absolute, not that it's good - representative democracy is a compromise. But compromise/moderation isn't automatically a bad thing.
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby freedomlover » Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:02 pm

Sorry I disappeared!

I really loved this quote the best;
"To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. " - The Social Contract

Liberty is part of our being as humans, we strive and life for it.
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:30 pm

freedomlover wrote:"To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. " - The Social Contract

Yeah, it has all the reason, I loved that too!

Well I finally finished it :D So here come the amount of quotes I bet you to comment...

You would live quietly in the dungeons, is this enough to be good in them?

Guess Em would love that wuote too hahaha. Referred to the quote you posted, I love the way he describes how freedom is not always easy or quite, but that it is worth.

You could add to all the acquired by the civil state the moral freedom, the only which makes man truly the master of himself, because the impulse of appetite is slavery exclusive, and obedience to the law which has been required is freedom.

Can we see an influence of Plato?
Well, we come back to the issue that, if laws were all perfect and fair, following them will allow all of us to live in liberty. I like this idea, as many people are always saying how laws oppressed us, and living more free would mean living with less laws... I don't think the issue is there, but in fixing the actual laws.

Chapter IX Book First "The Real Dominus".
It is less respected in this right what is from another man than what it is not from yourself.

I found difficult to understand this idea, but I think it comes to the respect to society? The idea what is all about in the book, actually.

What would you say about a doctor who promise miracles and whose art is to encourage his ill pacient to patience?

Loved how he wrote it. I like metaphores haha. Well, and I like the view he has about writers; his mission is to show the ideas and trying to give something useful, maybe responses. He isn't a politician but he can help to change things.

Despotism makes them Misérables to govern them

This one is obvious but necessary. As democratic governments want their people to improve, monarchies and dictatorships (not in the Rousseau way) need to make their people miserable so they can rule over them.

Despotism is right for warm countries; the barbarie, for cold countries; and perfect civil life, for intermmediate countries.

I found interesting the way he talks about the differences of peoples and states depending on their geographic situation. I find clear that there are differences depending on that (Mediterranean countries and, por examplpe, Sweden, the character is not usually the same. I don't agree with his conclusions, but found interesting the reflection.

When someone says about State's issues "I don't care!", State is lost.

This is what is actually happen in the modern world.
Of course I don't agree with his view of delegates, but I found some points interesting.

Election should fill the places that need an own capacity; luck should fill those who only need good sense, justice, integrity.

I found this specially interesting. In our country instead of a Head of State we have a king (I don't even know what other countries shall think about this, it must seem that we all are crazy hahaha a king nowadays in a modern country!). Well having a king is not fair at all, eventhough the king has no power at all (even less than a normal Head of State)He only represent the country out of the state. We have the king because he saved the country from the dictatorship and he brought Democracy, and I must say I agree with him as a king right now because he is so old and I find it terrible to want to put him down taking in count what he did and that he is passed 80 years old. But when he die we obviously will have a Republic, and there will be the issue of Head of State.

How do you see that? Studying the continues Republics of World History but, most deeply, Spanish History, I find clear that th Head of State must be someone like "over" the state, he shouldn't being too much of one only party. Do you understand? I mean, the Heads of State we had in our republics didn't defended rights or lefts, and when they did, they always failed and made the State failed with them. I think the representative charge should be only that, representative, and shouldn't be from any party so he could be impartial. (Here the king can't even vote). So how do you think he/she should be elected?

Oh, and all the Religious chapter. Can we see a little precedent of Nietzsche at some points? And I like the explanation he made with the example of Henry IV.

Well having finished it, my conclusion: it was very interesting and I'm glad I read it, but when I have finished it I realised I knew many things Rousseau said. When my father read the book when he was young, he had been educated til 14 years old under a dictatorship and found this very iluminating. But I think, if you have been raised and educated in a democratic system, many things Rousseau said are just part of your mind, they... fill the air, it is "general culture".

I risked a lot saying that I don't hate the king. I hope you don't throw me away of the amis de l'abaisse... :mrgreen: :lol:
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby Morgan » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:36 am

LauraLeZunzu wrote:Well, we come back to the issue that, if laws were all perfect and fair, following them will allow all of us to live in liberty. I like this idea, as many people are always saying how laws oppressed us, and living more free would mean living with less laws... I don't think the issue is there, but in fixing the actual laws.


Yeah, pretty much.

You have to protect everybody's freedom/rights; and good laws would help do that - e.g. you can't be free to kill people, because the person you want to kill should be free to live. You need some laws to stop people taking each other's liberty away, for all of us to be able to live together.
Laws ought to mark out the areas you can act freely in without impinging on someone else's freedom, and no more.

I found this specially interesting. In our country instead of a Head of State we have a king (I don't even know what other countries shall think about this, it must seem that we all are crazy hahaha a king nowadays in a modern country!).


In our country we have a queen, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones :wink:
(And her dying won't get us a Republic, even :( )
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:31 pm

Morgan wrote:
I found this specially interesting. In our country instead of a Head of State we have a king (I don't even know what other countries shall think about this, it must seem that we all are crazy hahaha a king nowadays in a modern country!).


In our country we have a queen, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones :wink:
(And her dying won't get us a Republic, even :( )

Haha I didn't want to offend anyone, I didn't say that was what I think, I just tried to put myself in the place of someone in a country that has no monarchy, and I understand thay find it weird, because actually it isn't reasonable at alll to have a monarchy. Blood rights? :| Sorry if you felt offended D: as my country has a monarchy, I thought I couldn't offend anyone talking about that haha sorry!
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby Morgan » Sun Jun 30, 2013 3:44 pm

LauraLeZunzu wrote:
Morgan wrote:
I found this specially interesting. In our country instead of a Head of State we have a king (I don't even know what other countries shall think about this, it must seem that we all are crazy hahaha a king nowadays in a modern country!).


In our country we have a queen, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones :wink:
(And her dying won't get us a Republic, even :( )

Haha I didn't want to offend anyone, I didn't say that was what I think, I just tried to put myself in the place of someone in a country that has no monarchy, and I understand thay find it weird, because actually it isn't reasonable at alll to have a monarchy. Blood rights? :| Sorry if you felt offended D: as my country has a monarchy, I thought I couldn't offend anyone talking about that haha sorry!


Haha no, I'm not offended, anything but :) Just saying I can't call your country crazy since my country's worse :P
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Re: Social Contract: Abaisse Summer Reading #2

Postby chal oye » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:02 am

Life in society could be crazy without anything to make people comfortable with others. Another issue is when laws do not mantein equality and destroy it; they're actually not good laws because they do the contrary that they should do. I think the thought about laws as things that help life in society has been lost because of so many laws that contradicted it.
I have so many more quotes, but one by one (and I don't have much time right now haha).
Another thing I found incredibly interesting is the amount of times that Rousseau says that something is impossible to happen because is too perfect, and it has actually happened. Lik: "Democracy would be only for Gods because is too perfect for humans". That makes me thing, which things we see impossible now that will be in th efuture? Because Rousseau was truly a believer in Humanity, but even he couldn't see some things like Democracy were going to actually happen... That makes me so hopeful and happy :D


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