Rousseau believed that it was insane for individuals to give up their inherent freedom for a state in which they had no freedom. People are "in chains" when they are part of society. Society imposes a slew of restrictions on their freedom. For example, people are not free to act as they please; instead, they must act in accordance with the rules of society.
People are not free when living under the law. They are only free while doing what is necessary to survive. After all, why waste your time thinking about something that isn't going to help you achieve your goals? When living under the law, people are forced to think about everything they do and say. Even if they would like to be free from responsibility, they cannot do so because it is wrong. Under the rule of law, everyone is treated equally.
People are not free when living in civil society. It is when you make peace with other people's choices that you can truly be free. In order for society to function properly, some limits need to be put on freedom. For example, people should not be allowed to go around killing others or causing general mayhem. In order for us to live together, we need laws to keep us accountable for our actions.
People are not free when living under democracy. Under democracy, the majority rules.
In this quotation, Rousseau is suggesting that individuals deserve to be free but are bound by the society in which they live. In this work, he attempts to examine when it is appropriate for a society to place its citizens in "chains."
Rousseau's view on freedom is based on his understanding of human nature. Humans are social animals who need other people with whom to share their lives. However, humans also have needs that only other humans can satisfy. For example, someone cannot make you feel loved or appreciated. These are feelings that only others can give you. Because of this fact, humans must sometimes rely on others to meet their basic needs.
However, this does not mean that everyone inside of any given society is forced to participate in the actions of that society. Individuals are capable of making choices about what role they want to play within society. Some people may find themselves unable to escape from society because they are prisoners in another country, but this is not what Rousseau has in mind when he uses the term "chain" here. Rather, he is referring to those people who are bound by their own desires or fears to act against their will.
In addition to being bound by their needs, humans are also bound by their passions. These are strong emotions that can lead people to do things they would never normally do.
Rousseau opens The Social Contract with his most famous words: "Men are born free, yet they are chained everywhere." From this intriguing start, Rousseau goes on to detail the numerous ways in which civil society's "chains" hinder man's fundamental entitlement to bodily freedom. Among other things, he argues that the existence of property rights and inheritance laws is necessary to ensure cooperation between people, that taxes are inherently unfair because they take preference over effort and talent, and that religion is used by powerful people to control the masses.
To prove his point, Rousseau describes several actual societies where men have no government to rule over them. In all of these cases, he says, people lose their ability to think for themselves and fall into a state of perpetual violence. They end up living as slaves under someone else's authority—their former friends or relatives—and are no longer free.
So, men are born free, but they exist in civil societies which contain chains all around them. These chains can be seen in institutions such as property rights, inheritance laws, taxation, bureaucracy, and the church. With these examples before him, Rousseau concludes that men will never be free until they have formed a society based on perfect equality of condition. Men then would have equal access to the means of self-preservation and could decide for themselves how they want to order their lives.
Summary Rousseau says in his famous line, "man is born free, but everywhere he is chained," that contemporary nations oppress the physical freedom that is our inheritance while doing little to protect the civic freedom for which we enroll. Nations trap their citizens in an intellectual slavery by convincing them that they are not free and coercing them into acting as if this were true.
Rousseau believes that only a few individuals are capable of being truly free and that most people are doomed to be slaves because they are tainted by their natural instincts toward evil. He also thinks that society itself is responsible for making us what we are today so that it can enslave us tomorrow. Thus, nations contribute to the oppression of their citizens by creating customs that promote selfishness and vanity among them.
In addition to being a philosopher, poet, and musician, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was also a political thinker who had great influence on French politics and democracy. He is known for his ideas about the social contract, natural liberty, general will, and democratic government.
According to Rousseau, natural liberty requires that humans be allowed to live their lives according to their own desires without interference from others.
Rousseau contends in his famous line, "man is born free, but he is everywhere in shackles," that contemporary nations oppress the physical freedom that is our inheritance while doing little to protect the civil freedom for which we enter civil society. Nations instead protect their own interests by limiting what individuals can do with themselves or their property as well as how they think. Thus, man is born free, but is everywhere in chains because society has taken away even his ability to move himself.
In addition to being confined by society, man is constrained by other people's opinions and prejudices, both of which prevent him from living up to his full potential. For example, others may hinder a musician by not hiringing him rather than learning an instrument themselves. Also, if another person feels threatened by your efforts to live according to your own beliefs, they may try to stop you by any means available including violence.
Finally, man is limited by his own nature. He cannot change it so he must make do with what he was given. For example, if a philosopher tells you that you were meant to be happy, but you are not, you cannot argue with his opinion. You have no right to feel offended by it nor should you try to convince him otherwise. Instead, you should find ways to satisfy your needs and desires that do not cause you pain or discomfort.