Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in 1712. He had an unusual childhood with no formal education. From these very simple beginnings be became one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment.

His classic book on political theory was called The Social Contract (published in 1762). The beginning, 'Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains' is very famous. This work looks at how man should behave with society. "The Social Contract" is what Rousseau calls the agreement among men and government that explains what responsibilities are required in the partnership. The social contract he explores in the book involves people recognizing a collective 'general will'. This general will is supposed to represent the common good or public interest. One of the primary principles of Rousseau's political philosophy is that politics and morality should not be separated. When a state stops acting in a moral fashion, it no longer has the right to control, make decisions, and exert authority over the individual. The second important principle is freedom, which the state is created to preserve.

Rousseau believed that all citizens should participate in government or the contract - and should be committed to the general good - even if it means acting against their private or personal interests.

 

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