What Kind of State Should Be Republic According to Rousseau?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) contemplated a republic in which a community of people gave up individual rights to promote the good of the community, rather than to a monarch or elected representatives, as stated by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. As a result, voting became the means of expressing the general will of "all the people" and to establish community statues and laws. This type of representation was called "direct democracy."

Rousseau envisioned a "civil state" where each individual enjoyed "security, justice, liberty" and protected property. He imagined a gathering of individuals who voted by consensus to determine applicable community laws. Rousseau's concept was embodied in the U.S. Constitution by the words "We the people ...".

Rousseau detested authority and as a result, his vision strove to restore "respect and creativity" to individuals. The Britannica states that Rousseau believed that the "one for all" approach was basically cooperation between individuals to secure life's necessities. He felt that a united effort resulted in time for leisure, which in turn led to "the production of agriculture and industry."

Rousseau did recognize, however, the limitations that this type of society might impose. He realized that the "general will" of the people is often lost when special interests take precedence over individual concerns. In his view, a civil society as an ideal republic depended wholly upon the character of its people, and that its success was easily measured how well the population flourished.