Rousseau as Totalitarian?

ROUSSEAU AS TOTALITARIAN? Rousseau, known as “Father of Modern Democratic Theory”, was being accused by other people as a “Father of Totalitarianism”. This is one of the contentious issues which attack Rousseau’s social contract; he is seen to be advocating totalitarian solution rather democratic. Others may have only misunderstood the concept of totalitarianism but I tell you there is no clear evidence showing he is in favor of totalitarian. Why, then, some considered Rousseau as a totalitarian? Maybe it goes with his controversial concept of general will.

The general will can be perceived as an objective truth to which every citizen must conform. Therefore everybody was under the control of the general will. Since totalitarianism is defined as a political system where the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary; this means that the general will can be use as a totalitarian device. But the methods suggested for discovering the general will were basically democratic.

This concept was introduced to prevent exploitation and this will only take effect if it is willed by the citizens. In this case, we can see that Rousseau was proposing that the best way for a community to make decisions was really to use democratic procedures. Hence, we cannot condemn him being a totalitarian advocate just because general will reigns. After all, even if it controls every citizen, it still comes from all and it tends always to the preservation and welfare of the whole and every associate.

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They maybe considered as one political group who reigns over the community. This cannot be a valid reason for saying that Rousseau was after a totalitarian government. Remember Rousseau has insisted that the sovereign is the people and not a particular group only. And at the start of the compact, before they have voted for what they think is general will; the people should give their consent to all the laws that will be passed even in their opposition.

Despite that the decision of the majority wins, the people still has participated in determining that certain law. Rousseau was merely proposing measures aimed at creating community cohesion and preserving democracy. We can now say that his proposal was really an authentic attempt of finding a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before.

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