Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Free Essay in Political Science

Published: 2022-04-07
Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Free Essay in Political Science
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Political science Karl Marx
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1942 words
17 min read

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx are political philosophers who shared some similarities and differences in their political theories. The main focus of their theories was centered on what constitutes human freedom. The two philosophers are in agreement that human liberty is adversely affected in the modern society denying humankind fundamental freedom as free creatures. The main difference between the two philosophers lies in their explanation of why humans are not free creatures in the modern world as previously observed. While Rousseau bases his explanation on the development of societal and genealogical factors that have eliminated human freedom, Marx thinks that humans are denied freedom in the modern world due to the development economic aspects specifically capitalism that subsequently affects the human race in various negative ways denying them fundamental freedom.

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View of a Nation

The view of a nation is a crucial portion of any political theory. The differences and the main pronounced aspects of Rousseau's proposition are found in his argument that tends to disapprove the inception of a nation and law by merely basing the argument on violence theory as described in Chapter 1 of book 1 on the social contract and on his views on the discourse on the origin of inequality. In Chapter 1 of book 1 on slavery, Rousseau explains that the existence of slavery is based on the need for each other and the relationship developed afterwards between the slave and the enslaver. The relationship is mutual, and the two subsequently require the relationship for better survival in the society. The theory of social contract views slavery as a requirement to fulfill the demands of some special social relations in a society. Under normal circumstances as dictated by nature, all human beings are distinct free creatures who are equal in the society; however, the establishment of private ownership has replaced the equality of human nature with the value of the property where ownership of property determines the balance. Rousseau states that, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains" (Rousseau 141). Inequality based on ownership of property is key aspects that have led to a huge gap between the poor and the rich. Law and country were developed to address the variations between the poor and the rich. Contrary to the supposed aim of the law and the country, their development has resulted in more inequality and denial of freedom to the poor while rewarding the rich with more properties and powers. Rousseau explains that, "people are interested more in filling their purses than their heads" (Rousseau 100). The urge to accumulate more money led to a wide gap between poor and rich. According to Rousseau, the law can protect private properties as well as protect unequal rights. He further explains his idea on the origin of state from the perspective of social economy and material things in life. Rousseau explains that the law favors the rich by offering more protection at the expense of the poor. In essence, the law and the country are the origin inequality giving one class powers to oppress and control the others.

Similar to Rousseau, Marx explains the notion of state using social-economic aspects as well as human's lifestyles; however, he discusses the origin of a nation on the basis of differences between and civil society and state as described in Chapter IV of his book. He perceives civil society and the state as distinct aspects of human existence. According to Marx, civil society is the building block and economic base of human life while the state is the political aspect of human existence as dictated by the civil society. He states that both state and the civil society are the outcomes of developments brought by private ownership as well as the emergence of different classes in the society. During the late primitive society development, the aspects of production and development emerged leading to the occurrence of private ownership classes of people in the society and eventually the general interests and private interests split assuming opposite sides. The split led to the need for harmonization by developing public organizations to represent the interests of the entire society without bias or inequality. The public organization is what is called the state. Marx notes that from external observation, the state can be seen as an avenue where all human beings in the society are represented, but inner look identifies the existence of conflicts represented in classes and stratums in the society. The result is an aspect that creates inequality and denial of freedom based on the class or stratum which someone belongs. Rousseau focus is only on the supposition on the origin of the state founded on the philosophical theory of social contract. On the other hand, Marx's explanation focuses more on scientific evidence to explain the origin of state with his explanation firmly anchored on archaeological, scientific and historical facts.

State Functions

Rousseau theory gives a clear differentiation between a state and a government. The two entities are represented as distinct factors that play varying roles. According to Rousseau's Book 1, the state is the body that represents citizen's will while the government reconciles the citizens and rulers with the duty of enacting and enforcing laws. The government also has the role to maintain social order as well as all forms of political liberties. The state represents itself while the government represents the rulers who have powers to govern; however, the powers are given by the state. He further explains that the role of the government is to utilize the power provided by the people to represent them for their benefits. A government doing the contrary is termed as illegal. At the same time, the government should be independent and flexible with some fundamental aspects distinct from the state and should urge people to work together towards achieving the government's goals. Rousseau stated that, a" citizen should render to the state all the services he can as soon as the sovereign demands them" (Rousseau 157). Marx expressed the same view when he stated that the government and the state are parallel; however, the government is a false state. In his views described in Chapter II on the German Ideology, he expresses the belief that the government is a formal state that forms a body that results in a conflict between state and private interests.

In his views on the social contract described in book I and II, Rousseau criticizes inequality, oppression and enslaving of human beings brought by the distance between the society representing the members and the state. He suggests the development of democratic republic state established based on true contract theories. The state should use the powers given by the people to serve the society. The people should be given the power to reduce powers or recall the rulers in a similar way they appoint them. One problem identified in this notion is that Rousseau fails to give a radical differentiation between the civil society and the state. He sees the civil society as a political state opposing natural standards. Contrary to Rousseau assumptions on the roles of the state, Marx has described the state as a function that has two classes; the ruling and the oppression. He mentions that the state represents the interest of the ruling class which has special interests. The route taken by the development of state was based on the influence of different classes and stratums that were demanding protection of their affairs by the state leading to state's role in solidifying social stratification in addition to oppression. In his conclusion, Marx explains that a state has two roles; to be used as a tool of the class ruler and class oppressed and to be used as coordinating tool for various needs and at the same time avoid disenchantment of a country.

Theory of Democracy

Democracy refers to the power of the majority to make a free will on how to be governed. Democracy is the main crucial aspect of Rousseau's political theory as described in Chapter IV of Book III on democracy. Democracy proposition of the proletariat and scientific socialism proposed by Marx has some similarities as well as some differences with political theory of Rousseau. In his political philosophy, Rousseau advocates for public sovereignty with the revolution to allow human liberty, free will, and equality. He believed that the state and individuals have sovereignty that is inseparable and the sovereignty of a particular society is reflected in the sovereignty of individual humans in that society. Rousseau goes further to state that sovereignty cannot be transferred but only power is transferable. He said that "Power can perfectly well be transmitted, but not the will" (Rousseau 153). Rousseau states that sovereignty should have a characteristic of indivisibility. He is against the theory of separation of powers between the three arms of the government. Rousseau prepositions are against un-represent of the sovereigns meaning Rousseau does not support representatives such as the senators having a legislative role on behalf of the public. He believes that the public will should be used to build the sovereignty and the public will should be used to create or abolish laws.

Marx made few amendments to the political theory proposed by Rousseau and frequently employs his historical materialism perspective as described in his Chapter II on the materialist conception of history. He goes against Rousseau preposition of public will and states that it is not possible to exercise the free will of every person in the entire society and the public will proposed by Rousseau can only be used to represent the will of the capitalists. Marx who was a critic of capitalism came up with another form of democracy called proletarian democracy. He states that capitalist democracy is never a true democracy since the rights given to distinct classes such as the peasant class and working class are intended to serve a specific limited purpose that result in exploitation through capitalism.

According to Rousseau suggestion, the will of the sovereign is the will of the public and all public matters requiring the will of the sovereign should guide a decision for their implementation. He made a differentiation between the people's will and the public's will. People's will is concerned with the wish of the private entities while the public will is concerned with the will of the people. He explains that public will is the only aspect that can ensure liberty and equality in a society and therefore, conforming to public will is conforming to own will. Marx gave a new form of servant commune as described in Chapter III of his book. He explains that commune represents the government of proletariat and was born out of the struggle between the occupant and producer. He states that the commune is a type of democratic country with a role of representing and protecting concerns of the laboring class while the country, as well as office members, are the servants of the peoples.

State Development

Unlike ordinary politicians, Rousseau does not view the government as the primary thought but instead sees the government as the link between the sovereign and individual entities as described in Chapter I of Book III. His idea of the government is similar to the notion of the modern state. He states that a government with few roles will correspond with gaining of a better life by individuals translating to more democracy. The social aspects will also exercise better control of the state resulting into an ideal representation of the people by the state, and the state will not pursue its own benefit. He states that, "legislative power is the heart of the state and once the heart dies the whole animal dies" (Rousse...

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