Political Theories




Rousseaunot only believes in democracy, he insists that for it to beeffective it should be direct democracy, like a New England townmeeting but on a broader scale. On the other hand, he insists thatascertaining the general will is not in essence a matter of countingthe votes, which in itself produces only the will of all. How doesRousseau resolve this apparent contradiction?

Accordingto Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), democracy can only be attainedwhen the governed persons are involved in creating laws, as well asexpressing how they would like to be ruled. He proposed thatgovernments should be based on the “general will of the governed”,which implied that the citizens should participate in making the lawsgoverning the state (Rousseau, &amp Cress, 1987). The philosopherclaimed that citizens could contribute in the process of making theregulations governing them through election. He gave an example tothe election system that was used in England. The people chose theirgovernment representative through casting votes for variouscandidates, but the person with the most votes would be declared thepreferred representative of the people (Heywood, 2004).

Rousseauasserts that humans are born free, but they soon their liberty tocivil society suppressions. To him, legitimate authority can onlycome from a government that has entered into a social contract withthe citizens. The people consent the regulations that theadministration will implement for the benefit of everyone. Hedescribes a collection of people who voluntarily signs a contractdetailing their preferred administration process as a “sovereign”(Rousseau, &amp Cress, 1987).

Onthe other hand, he insists that ascertaining the general will is notin essence a matter of counting the votes, which in itself producesonly the will of all.

Incase personal interests that exceed the collective good that governsa community control a leader, the society gets into constantconflict. This mainly happens because only the desires of themost-powerful persons are implemented. Rousseau claims that leadersthat involve the society in making policies used in maintaining lawand order recognize the collective good of the people. The laws usedare universally acceptable and friendly (Rousseau, &amp Cress,1987). The policies may go against the personal desires of somepeople thus, the reason he emphasizes that the collective goodcannot be passed through counting individual votes. It is logicallyimpossible for every society member to accept a general ideologywithout going his or her personal interests. The Kantian ethics,which requires a policy to be universally acceptable, helps inchoosing sensitive policies that benefit the entire society (Van,1988).

Howdoes Rousseau resolve this apparent contradiction?

However,Rousseau contradicts his philosophy by asserting that “the will ofall” does not have to be attained through counting individualvotes, which are the premise of common good for everyone (Rousseau, &ampCress, 1987). Nevertheless, he overcomes the controversy throughrecommending that every state should have a ‘tribunate’ thatwould function as a court. The function of the tribunate would thenbe acting as a neutral arbitrator between the government and thesovereign or differences among the individuals that makeup asovereign (Heywood, 2004).

Doyou agree or disagree with his approach? Why?

Iaccept Rousseau’s assertion that implementing “the general willof the people” does not depend on counting votes. He argues thatthe government will occasionally act against the common good of thesovereign, an occasion that will put the two subjects into conflict.However, the sovereign can avoid the friction through meetingoccasionally to evaluate the general will. During the sovereignconferences, individuals vote in disregard to their personalbenefits, but in respect to the ideology of the community benefit ofthe sovereign members at that instant. In every healthy state, theassembly requires achieving unanimity since everyone will proposerecommendations that would suit his or her personal interests.Rousseau emphasizes that individuals must attend the assemblies fordetermining the common good because they lose their sovereignty whenthey elect other people to attend the conferences and make decisionson their behalf (Heywood, 2004). On the same note, Rousseau’srecommendation for attaining ‘the common good of the sovereign’is practical because it offers the option of a ‘court justice’ or‘tribunate’ if the sovereign and the government cannot arrive ata unanimous decision. The tribunate acts as a neutral arbitrator asit helps to break dilemmas that could spoil the relationship of thestate with that of the individuals.

Whatdoes Marx mean by the dictatorship of the proletariat, and why is itnot a dictatorship in the conventional sense of the term?

Theterm “dictatorship of the proletariat” in Marxism refers to atemporary period immediately after abolishing capitalism, and itwould be characterized by competition for attaining a moneyless,stateless, and classless society. The dictatorship is not ‘logic’as per the modern meaning since it is a revolution that is supportedby majority of the people or the “proletariat”. On the otherhand, a single person who wields power over everyone in a statecontrols a modern ‘dictatorship rule’. The working class or the‘proletariat’ has no does not contribute in making policies incontemporary democracies, thus making ‘proletariat dictatorship’varied from the primary meaning of the term (Marx, Engels, &ampJones, 2002).

WouldMarx characterize American society as democratic? Why or why not?

KarlMarx would characterize the American society as a democracy. Hedescribed ‘democracy’ as the oppression of the property owningclass that is directed towards people with no property. He alsoperceived democracy as the oppression the majority subjects on theminority. Besides, he also described democracy as a form of dictatorsince the majority faction stipulates the government laws andpolicies to the minority. The whites (Caucasians) dominate in theAmerican society (Marx, Engels, &amp Jones, 2002). This gives themthe power to develop laws and regulations that oppress the minorityraces such as the African Americans, Latinos, and the Asians. ACaucasian political candidate has a higher potential for winning inan election than another candidate from a minority race becausepeople tend to give priority to candidates whom they share a similarbackground. For a long time, the Caucasians dominate the UnitedStates political offices because colored candidates (minority races)cannot acquire adequate votes to defeat the white (majority)associated candidates.

Withrespect to Marx’s idea of a classless society in which the statewould ‘wither away’, do you think such a society would bedesirable and/or feasible? Why or why not?

Ithink a classless society such as the one Karl Marx proposes would beundesirable and unfeasible. Theoretically, the philosophy proposesthat everyone in the society should be equal such that a doctorshould live ad earn equal salary with a janitor. Human beings havedifferent capabilities, preferences, and goals in life. A doctorrequires investing huge capital, time, and effort to acquireprofessional skills (Marx, Engels, &amp Jones, 2002). On the otherhand, a janitor can be an uneducated person, as long as he isphysically fit to do the cleaning. The meaning of education and otherexpensive endeavors the elites in the society invest in order tooutshine any other person would lose meaning in the society. Manypeople in a real communism would be lazy since they would benefit ongaining from the effort of the hardworking (Heywood, 2004). Acommunity that has class challenges people to compete against eachother, thereby increasing productivity and development required tosustain an active society.

Howwould Marx be likely to characterize the views of Hobbes and Locke?Explain.

Marxwould classify Hobbes views as capitalistic. Hobbes asserts that aman is naturally selfish and individualistic hence, he is alwayscompeting with other men to emerge the best. For that reason, thesovereign power based on a social contract is required for protectingone’s property (Hobbes &amp Gaskin, 1998).

Onthe other hand, Marx would classify Locke’s views as liberal. Lockeadvocates that the initial state of nature, when man lived bytolerance and reason, is desirable. There is no government or anysovereign body required to control there is no any other human with aright to harm another person’s possessions, life, liberty, orhealth (Locke &amp Laslett, 1988).


Van,. L. H. (1988). Kantianethics and socialism.Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.

Hobbes,T., &amp Gaskin, J. C. A. (1998). Leviathan.Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press.

Locke,J., &amp Laslett, P. (1988). Twotreatises of government.Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press.

Rousseau,J.-J., &amp Cress, D. A. (1987). Basicpolitical writings.Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.

Marx,K., Engels, F., &amp Jones, G. S. (2002). Thecommunist manifesto.London: Penguin.

Heywood,A. (2004). Politicaltheory: An introduction.Basingstoke: Palgrave.