Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Sovereign & The People

From the social pact, we shall find in each of us contributes to the group his person and the powers which he wields as a person under the supreme direction if the general will and we receive into the body politics each individual as forming an indivisible part of the whole.

As soon as the act of association becomes a reality, it substitutes for the person of each of the contracting parties a moral and collective body made up of as many members of the constituting assembly has votes, which body receives from this very act of constitution its unity, it dispersed self, and its will. The public person thus formed by the union of individuals was known as the Republic or Body Politic. This, when it fulfills a passive role is known as by its members as The State, when in active role, as The Sovereign People, and, in contrast to other similar bodies, as a Power. In respect of the constituent associates, it enjoys the collective name of The People, the individuals who compose it being known as Citizens in so far as they share in the sovereign authority, as Subjects in so far as they owe obedience to the laws of the State.

The act of association implies a mutual undertaking between the body politic and its constituent members. Each individual comprising the former contracts with himself and has a twofold function. As a member of the sovereign people he owes a duty to each of his neighbours and as a citizen to the sovereign people as a whole.

However, no man can be held to an undertaking entered into with himself, because there is a great difference between a man's duty to himself and to a whole of which he forms a part.

It shoudl be pointed out that a public decision which can enjoin obedience on all subjects to the Sovereign, by reason of the double aspect under which each is seen, cannot, on the contrary, bind the Sovereign in his dealings with himself. Consequently, it is against the nature of the body politic that the Sovereign should impose upon himself a law which he cannot infringe. For since he can regard himself under one aspect only, he is in the position of an individual entering into a contract with himself. Whence it follows that there is not, nor can be, any fundamental law which is obligatory for the whole body of the People, not even the social contract itself.

The Sovereign solely from the sanctity of the said Social Contract, can never bind itself, even in its relation with a foreign power, by any decision which might derogate from the validity of the original act. It may not, for instance, alienate any portion of itself, nor make submission to any other sovereign. To violate the act by reason of which it exists would be tantamount to destroying itself, and that which is nothing can produce nothing.

As soon as a mob has become united into a body politic, any attack upon one of its members is an attack upon itself. Still more important is the fact that, should any offence be committed against the body politic as a whole, the effect must be felt by each of its members. Both duty and interest, therefore, oblige the two contracting parties to render one another mutual assistance. The same individuals should seek to unite under this double aspect all the advantages which flow from it.

In order, then, that the social compact may not be but a vain formula, it must contain the single undertaking which can alone give force to the whole, namely, that whoever shall refuse to obey the general will must be constrained by the whole body of his fellow citizens to do so: which is no more than to say what it may be necessary to compel a man to be free - freedom being that condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, guarantees him from all personal dependence and is the foundation upon which the whole political machine rests, and supplies the power which works it.

Only the recognition by the individual of the rights of the community can give legal force to undertakings entered into between citizens, which, otherwise, would become absurd, tyrannical, and exposed to vast abuses.

Source: J.J. Rousseau; The Social Contract - Of the social fact & Of the sovereign

1 comment:

Elmina Kenley said...

I gain lot of knowledge, from this post.
Law Essay