This article is about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 treatise. For “social contract” as a political and philosophical concept, see Social contract. For other meanings, see Social Contract (disambiguation).
Of The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right
Title page of the first octavo editionAuthor(s)Jean-Jacques RousseauOriginal titleDu contrat social ou Principes du droit politiqueCountryKingdom of FranceLanguageFrenchPublication date1762
Of The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique) (1762) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is the book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1754).
Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.
The Sovereign, having no force other than the legislative power, acts only by means of the laws; and the laws being solely the authentic acts of the general will, the Sovereign cannot act save when the people is assembled.
Every law the people have not ratified in person is null and void — is, in fact, not a law.
The legislative power belongs to the people, and can belong to it alone.
The Social Contract was a progressive work that helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate; as Rousseau asserts, only the people, in the form of the sovereign, have that all powerful right.
The heart of the idea of the social contract may be stated simply: Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole…