Rousseau’s Social Contract

Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and Rousseau’s Social Contract.

Please write a thoughtful, coherent, well-argued, and well-presented 4-5 page essay on one of the following topics. Each question asks you to address Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and Rousseau’s Social Contract.

  1. What if anything makes a state legitimate? In other words, what if anything entitles a state to the support and obedience of its people? Please write an essay comparing how Locke and Rousseau answer the question of political legitimacy. What reasoning do they use and what conclusions do they reach? Whose account is more persuasive and why? (Feel free to argue that neither account is persuasive.)
  2. In a representative democracy, laws are made by the people’s representatives, while in a direct democracy, laws are made by the people themselves. Locke may be considered an advocate of representative democracy and Rousseau an advocate of direct democracy, although neither theorist uses these terms. Why do Locke and Rousseau support contrasting models of popular rule? Whose position is more persuasive and why? In your answer, please pay careful attention to the reasoning used by each theorist in defense of his political vision.
  3. In order to defend institutions of popular rule, both Locke and Rousseau must show that the people can be motivated to act in accordance with justice. What is justice, and on what basis can we expect that the people will be motivated to follow it? Which theorist offers a better answer to this question and why? (You may also argue that neither theorist offers a good answer.)
  4. In the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws that limited marriage to a man and a woman. Invoking the right to liberty and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, the Court ruled that same-sex couples must also have the right to marry. Some have viewed the Court’s action as contrary to, others as consistent with, the basic principles of democracy.

Please write an essay discussing how the legitimacy of the court’s action appears from the perspective of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, on the one hand, and Rousseau’s Social Contract, on the other. Your analysis should be based on the conception of political legitimacy developed in each work. Please also state which theoretical perspective (that of Locke or Rousseau) is superior, and why. If you think neither perspective is satisfactory, please state why and please articulate your preferred alternative.

5. Both Locke and Rousseau declare their commitment to human equality, and both make respect for equality a criterion of state legitimacy. However, they appear to disagree about the economic, social, and political implications of equality. Please write an essay comparing and evaluating these two thinkers’ accounts of equality. Which theorist offers a better account, and why? You may also argue that neither theorist offers a compelling account.

Here are some guidelines if you need.

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