Rousseau's Views on Property as Presented in The Social Contract

In order to clearly present Rousseau's views on property in the Social Contract, we must first define what he means by property. Property according to Rousseau is that which is obtained legally thereby purporting legitimate claim to ones holdings. Now we must consider what gives an individual the right to openly claim ownership.

Rousseau points out that right does not equal might. In other words, ave a right can never derive from force. A right must be given legitimately which means it is attached to moral and legal code. This makes it contractual whereby the rights of one are applied to the rights of all. Once a right is established, it is beneficial and necessary for the individual to apply this right effectively for his best interests and those of the whole. This motivation is directed at the formation of community thereby creating a social contract between individuals which come together to act as a group.

Now a combination of rights is formed whereby each individual is protected by the whole group which stands together as a community. The concept is that man standing alone is more vulnerable than many men united each in defense of the other. This condition makes it impossible for one to hurt an individual without hurting the whole group or for one to hurt the group without affecting each individual.

There is now a social contract where individual rights are combined. In this case, it is in the best interest of the individual to give over his rights to the group since he has a more powerful protective base than standing alone. Even though individual rights are eliminated, a strong advantage is created since one now stands in better defense against all forces.

Now that one's rights are combined with others, an obligation of commitment is created where one acts in the best interests of the whole. Civil action comes into play on the part of each individual so there is more moral structure. Men act more moral when legal rights are given then when acting in concert with nature where nature provides for all and no one has the right to make claims on property.

A right to claim property in our now civil society involves the code o f "right of first occupant." To establish this state of occupancy three essential strictures must be in place. There can be no prior inhabitation, ownership must be based on need not greed whereby no individual takes more land than they can work, and the individual must actually work the land they claim.

The individual rights of property are combined with the whole to creat e a public community or territory. Thereby each individual property is protected by the govern of the whole. Created now is a state by which each occupant depends on the other with an obligation to work toward the best interests of each other and the community.