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Sovereignty - Essay Example

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This specific extract of the Essex result of 1778, deals with the concept of sovereignty as a power held by the entire population. As a hole, the entire population creates a unique entity in control of itself. This idea is immediately described in the first sentence of this extract…
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Sovereignty Essay
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Download file to see previous pages... Therefore, each individual has the control of its inalienable rights and the supreme power cannot interfere. The text explains that the only occasion when the supreme power can take control of the inalienable rights is "only when the good of the whole requires it". If the supreme power is acting only for some individual's personal interests by taking control of the inalienable rights of each individual, then the supreme power is usurping the power.
Each individual should receive a counterpart when surrendering his/hers inalienable rights for the supreme power to be fair. In other cases the supreme power is a usurper and if is acts in such a way that the individuals do not have political liberty, then the power is illegal and the individuals are not bound to obey.
This extract is directly linked to the concept of popular sovereignty as presented by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and jean-Jacques Rousseau through the school of the social contract. The main concept of popular sovereignty is that the consent of the governed gives legitimacy to the rule of law i.e. the population who forms a society, a politic body or a state are the true source of legitimacy to the supreme power through their consent and it is not the supreme power which holds its own legitimacy through the power it has been awarded by the population. This concept is central in many democracies and it is therefore no surprise that we shall encounter it in the critical report on the draft constitution for Massachusetts.
Furthermore, the concept of popular sovereignty also tackles the idea that each individual enters a social contract with the supreme power where he may surrender some of its inalienable rights receiving in return protection from the dangers and hazards of the state of nature.

In which ways does it reflect or reject Enlightenment thinking and/or values of the enlightened individual as rational, autonomous, and free

If we consider this extract to be in direct connection with the ideas of the social contract and the popular sovereignty as stated by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau; we cannot dissociate this extract from the values of the Enlightenment as these philosophers are the founders of this movement. However, it would be rhetorically poor to draw this conclusion with such a simple analogy.
One of the central ideas of the Age of Enlightenment is progress. This idea of progress is divided into three main themes: a) developing knowledge of the natural world and the ability to manipulate the world through technology; b) overcoming ignorance bred of superstitions and religions; c) overcoming human cruelty and violence through social improvements and government structures. (Hooker, 1996)
This extract clearly points out the notion of progress in the way of overcoming cruelty of violence through government structure. Each individual should enter a social contract with the state enabling the supreme power to protect him against nature. The individuals may have to surrender some of their inalienable rights but only for the greater good, for the entire structure to overcome the troubles of their time and reach a better status.
One may raise an objection regarding other aspects of the Age of Enlightenment such as autonomy or freedom when confronted to this extract. One would be wrong. Rousseau wrote in the Social Contract (1762): "Man is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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