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MMW midterm: Social Contract Theory

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what liberalism stands for (politically, economically, socially)
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politically: liberalism stands for individual rights of all people AND right to self-determination for nation-states. Also representative gov who serves public’s interests. Adherence to rule of law (all citizens subject to the law). economically: liberalism favors a laissez-faire approach; free and open markets w/ little gov. intervention. No taxation without representation. socially: rights to private property, freedom of worship & religious tolerance, freedom of expression, right to self-determination, right to privacy (esp. from gov), right to education. These ideas were shaped by the Enlightenment in objection to absolutism
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The Enlightenment
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cultural movement in 17th & 18th centuries (began in europe) supported science & skepticism, opposed superstition & intolerance & abuses of church & state writings of enlightenment affected political & social developments established the foundation of liberalism: shift away from absolutist rule, individual=foundation of society
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Louis XIV and absolutism
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absolutism: monarch’s decisions cannot be challenged. louis XIV: (aka sun king/louis the great) Catholic monarch of the House of Bourbon and King of France when france was a leading european power. Considered one of france’s most powerful monarchs, succeeded in establishing era of absolutism in france that lasted until the french revolution edict of nantes: had guaranteed protestants freedom of worship. He revoked this in 1685. This led to tons of Hugeuenot (ppl who’d been protestants in france) exiles or forced into conversion to Catholicisim.
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Glorious Revolution 1689
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the overthrow of King James II of England by collaboration of English Parliamentarians & Dutch William of Orange. Arose because King James II tried to exert more absolutist rule by appointing only Catholics to the kingdom’s most prominent posts — suggesting discrimination against protestants. James II overthrown & replaced by William of orange who would only rule under PROVISION OF PARLIAMENT! this led to the creation of the English Bill of Rights, which was the FIRST LIBERAL CONSTITUTION IN THE WORLD! gave parliament oversight of king, also guaranteed such things as religious tolerance, right to trial by jury and freedom of speech.
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thomas hobbes
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one of the key Enlightenment authors who shaped liberalism author of Leviathan theory of human nature: people are self-interested and innately equal, which is bad. lives of people in state of nature are \”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short\” social contract theory: chaos/war can only be averted with a POWERFUL SOVEREIGN (A LEVIATHAN). People must WILLINGLY give up their liberties to the Leviathan so that peace can be restored, but once this social contract is made it can’t be broken — social contract is irrevocable. This is a liberal idea b/c Hobbes is saying you can’t force sovereignty on anyone — they have to voluntarily agree to the social contract.
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Leviathan 1651
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Hobbes’ book. focuses on societal structure & legitimate government, exemplified social contract theory. chaos/war/all other bad things associated with state of nature can only be averted with strong central authority. People’s evil state of nature (war) must be combatted with rule by an ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGN.
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Hobbes: role of self-interest
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all people are driven by self-interest.
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Hobbes: state of nature
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state of nature = state of war. We’re all endowed with the same mental & physical capacity — all innately equal — but equality isn’t a good thing; it’s actually the cause of war b/c we all have equal capacities for harming each other. And in state of nature, we won’t hesitate to harm each other b/c we’re all driven by self-interest and self-preservation. The result of EQUALITY is a CONSTANT STATE OF WAR. only assured each a life that is \”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short\”
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Hobbes: sovereignty in \”common power to fear\”
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having a common power to fear keeps us from reverting to our state of nature (which leads to war & chaos) and thus keeps society in check. we need an absolute, supreme ruler that individuals will fear enough to keep from indulging themselves in natural state of self-interest.
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john locke: state of nature
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more benign than hobbes’ (slightly influenced by christian belief). in the state of nature, we’re governed by INNATE REASON which is endowed by god. This reason — along the lines of \”eye-for-an-eye logic\” keeps us in check b/c we realize that our actions have consequences.
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Locke: inconvenient presence of self-interest
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because of natural self-interest and indulgences in human passions and partiality, our own protection & safety can never be guaranteed.
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Locke: sovereignty in common-wealth
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Locke believed in representative gov over a leviathan b/c the leviathan, too, is subject to his own flawed selfishness. At least in state of nature people are able to secure their own protection. Commonwealth is the only dependable sovereign — commonwealth being some legislative entity that protects the well-being of society. Must be disinterested & impartial, elected body of legislators and judges. Liberal idea of representative gov.
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Locke: interests of the propertied class
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representative gov (the commonwealth) should represent the propertied class!
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Rousseau: state of nature
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\”man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.\” The and implies that this calls for no action; it’s descriptive, not prescriptive. That freedom can never be recaptured, this is just the way it is. Hobbes’s view was challenged in the eighteenth century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who claimed that Hobbes was taking socialized people and simply imagining them living outside of the society in which they were raised. He affirmed instead that people were neither good nor bad. In Rousseau’s state of nature, people did not know each other enough, and they did have normal values. The modern society is blamed for blemishing the pure people.
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Rousseau: critique of absolutist monarchy
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the logic of paterfamilias (logic of a loving father) can’t be applied to a state because no ruler is naturally devoted to/invested in the wellbeing of his citizens the way a father is his children’s. Father motivated by love of his children, ruler motivated by love of power. PLUS people who submit to an absolute sovereign only do so out of necessity, not out of self-will. There’s nothing legitimate about that. LIBERAL EMPHASIS ON SUBMISSION TO POWER AS A RATIONAL CHOICE
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Rousseau: on social contract
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people who submit to an absolute sovereign only do so out of necessity, not out of self-will. There’s nothing legitimate about that. LIBERAL EMPHASIS ON SUBMISSION TO POWER AS A RATIONAL CHOICE
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Rousseau: sovereignty of the general will
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Rousseau advocated for DIRECT DEMOCRACY in which power was put with the general will rather than with a leviathan or with a government.
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Rousseau: view on private property
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Rousseau did not believe in the private property. He believes that it is safer for the collective to own the properties because private possessions always become the subject of violation.
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Rousseau: view on slavery
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slavery is a perversion of nature. One party gets all the benefits while the other gets nothing in return. Reflects liberal idea of every individual’s right to self-determination