Geneva-born thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau's famous work of political philosophy from 1762 is based on a give-and-take theory of the relation between individual freedom and social order: the social contract that gives the work its name. Rousseau thinks about the issue by starting with what is known as the state of nature, a lawless condition where people are free to do what they like, governed only by their own instinctive sense of justice. People are free, but they are also vulnerable to chaos and violence. To avoid this, they agree to give up some of their freedom to benefit from the protection of social and political organization. But this deal is only just if societies are led by the collective needs and wants of the people, and are able to control the private interests of individuals. The people's collective power upholds individual freedom as a general principle, if not in each specific case. Rousseau's thinking - that the only legitimate form of government is rule by the people - was certainly radical for the time. But it has gone on to influence almost every major school of political thought over the last two and a half centuries.
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