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Role of the Individual in Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, and Thomas Paine's Common Sense - Essay Example

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Student's Name and Course Number: Professor's Name: The Role of the Individual (in Politics, Government and Society) 23 August 2012 (estimated word count = 1,304) Introduction Modern society requires some semblance of law and order; this is achieved by the so-called social contract in which citizens give up some of their rights in favor of government in exchange for protection…
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Role of the Individual in Henry David Thoreaus Civil Disobedience, and Thomas Paines Common Sense
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Role of the Individual in Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, and Thomas Paine's Common Sense

Download file to see previous pages... A free society is hard to achieve because of the competing demands of the individual and that of the state, where individual rights and collective rights often come into conflict. This paper tries to explore two views on the role of the individual in both society and politics. Discussion Man is by nature a social animal and therefore it is but inevitable that some forms of organization exist in any society, even in primitive society. No man can live alone by himself, and when this happens, some compromise has to be found between an individual's rights and that of the society to which he belongs. The usual cause of friction or conflicts in such kind of arrangement is determining the limits of the rights of an individual and that of society. This is an implicit agreement between individuals and society, the very essence of the social contract. This is a philosophical construct wherein free individuals agree to give up their natural rights in favor of being governed by a social or political system for their own common protection or overall welfare, to live harmoniously with others and pursue their goals in life in peace. Along this line, the essay by Thomas Paine entitled “Common Sense” makes a lot of sense in terms of imposing order because Man finds it easier to live together than be apart but as the population increases and society grows larger and larger, the people find it necessary to craft some regulations to govern themselves and later on pass new laws to be enforced. This is the point where a formal government structure becomes a necessity and also the point where it becomes a dangerous instrument when the powers of government fall into the wrong hands. In retrospect, all present societies have this rather curious mix of government and society but in some instances, there is a disconnect between the goals and aims between these two. Taking into account the period of history when “Common Sense” was written, it is a seminal piece of political thought because it argued forcefully for independence from Great Britain at the time when the English government was viewed as extremely oppressive by the American colonies. There were many who were yet undecided on the proper course of action to take, and some thought fighting for independence was a bit extreme to redress matters. The political essay by Thomas Paine convinced those who doubted to change their minds about it, and go for broke by severing ties with the mother country. The colonial government run by the British in America no longer served its original purpose but became instead an instrument for oppression and exploitation, a government run by men and not by laws. It was not in a true sense a representative government but rather one run by a monarchy and aristocracy. The way things were before the American Revolution was a political situation where the social contract had been a failure, either by design or by default. The people clamor for the right to be heard and represented in government. They gave up their natural rights expecting something in return from their government but got shortchanged instead. This contradicts the theory of natural rights to life, liberty and property by philosopher John Locke (Parry 12). Thomas Paine influenced public opinion that the people should re-assert their rights, and the best course of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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