POLSC201 Study Guide

Unit 3: Liberal Democracy and Its Critics

3a. Describe the difference between Rousseau's notion of "the state of nature" with that of Hobbes and Locke

  • Explain how pity plays a role in Rousseau's state of nature.
  • According to Rousseau, why do men cooperate in the state of nature?
  • Consider the role reason plays in Rousseau's state of nature.

As you recall, Hobbes characterized the state of nature with violence and insecurity, stemming from man's innate aggressiveness. Locke, on the other hand, envisions the state of nature as a condition that exists when all property exists in common. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), the Swiss philosopher, had a different conceptualized of the state of nature. As you review how Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau's described the state of nature, consider their commonalities, including the themes of equality and freedom.

Review Rousseau's notion of the state of nature in The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially Chapters IV-VI. Also review Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I.


3b. Explain Rousseau's thoughts about the origins of societal inequality and the relationship between freedom and equality

  • Why does Rousseau think man is totally free in the state of nature?
  • What are the chains placed on man outside of the state of nature?
  • Compare moral and natural inequality.
  • Explain why Rousseau believes inequality breeds dependence.
  • What is the general will, and why does Rousseau think people are free when they obey it?
  • How has society created inequalities that do not exist in the state of nature?
  • What is the only "true" inequality that exists, according to Rousseau?

Rousseau's famous quote on freedom, "All men are born free, and everywhere he is in chains", appears in Book I, Chapter I of The Social Contract and Discourses. For Rousseau, man is free when he is able to obey the laws he gives himself.

Next, consider why Rousseau believes equality is an important part of man's freedom. To Rousseau, inequality breeds dependence, and a man who is dependent is not totally free. Thus, the goal of a political community should be to seek moral equality by following the general will.

Review this material in Rousseau's The Social Contract and Discourses and in Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I.


3c. Compare and contrast the need for and design of a social contract as explained in the writings of Rousseau and Locke

  • As you review the Second Treatise, consider the significance of Locke's doctrine of consent.
  • How is private property a significant part of Locke's views of a social contract?
  • Explain the role of the lawmaker in Rousseau's conceptualization of the social contract.
  • Why is religion important in the social contract according to Rousseau?
  • Why do Locke and Rousseau believe men are willing to give up some of their freedoms to enter into a social contract?
  • Consider the different ways Locke and Rousseau define freedom.
  • Locke and Rousseau felt certain conditions justify the dissolution of a social contract by citizens. What are these conditions?

Locke explored his ideas of a social contract extensively in his Second Treatise of Government. Contrast it with Rousseau's view. Review Rousseau's ideas about the social contract in Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I. Review Locke's views in Chapter III of Second Treatise of Government and Book I, Chapter IV of Rousseau's The Social Contract and Discourses.


3d. Explain the role Tocqueville believed religion played in American society

  • What role does religion play in American society?
  • Consider the relationship between religion and the ability of citizens to resist tendencies toward materialism and self-interest.
  • How does religion provide Americans with a purpose? Why does Tocqueville think religion is a necessary component for human action?

In his work Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), a French diplomat, discusses the role of religion in American society: he believes religion plays a stronger role in the United States than it does in Europe due to the separation of church and state.

Consider the role of religion in American government and the separation of church and state. Why does Tocqueville consider religion to be another check on the tyranny of the majority in the United States? Why does he think religion is critical for freedom and democracy?

Review this material in Book II, Chapter 9 and Book I, Chapter XVII of Democracy in America. Review the role of religion in Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America II.


3e. Describe Tocqueville's thoughts on the notion of equality in America and France

  • Compare and contrast Tocqueville's ideas about the French and American forms of democracy.
  • What did Tocqueville think the future held for French and American forms of democracy?
  • Explain what Tocqueville meant by equality of social conditions and why it is important to democracy in both France and America.
  • Why does Tocqueville think history progresses toward a gradual equalization of social conditions?
  • Consider the future of equality in France, according to Tocqueville.

In Democracy in America, Tocqueville is interested in the question of how a system of inequality (a monarchy) is replaced by a system in which men are considered equal (a democracy). He spends a great deal of time comparing the form democracy took in the United States with the form democracy took in France. According to Tocqueville, the United States offered the best example of equality achieved through democracy.

Review the future of equality in France and Tocqueville's "equality of social conditions" in Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America I. Review Tocqueville's discussions on equality in France and America in Book II, Section IV, Chapter 1 and in Book I, Chapter VI of Democracy in America.


3f. Explain Marx's thoughts on the relationship between Christianity, the secular state, and capitalism

  • Why does Marx believe religion is part of the superstructure in society?
  • How does the bourgeoisie use religion to exploit the proletariat?
  • Explain how religion creates a false consciousness, according to Marx.
  • Consider Marx's famous quote, "religion is the opiate of the masses". According to Marx, how does the proletariat use religion to cope with alienation? What does Marx mean by alienation?

According to Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German philosopher and economist, capitalist society is characterized by a conflict between the bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (the working class). The bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat for their own gains.

Review this material in Marx and the Enlightenment and the role of religion in perpetuating capitalist exploitation in Karl Marx (1818-1883).


3g. Describe Marx's theory of history, and how his economic worldview relates to political structure

  • Explain what characterizes each of Marx's stages of history.
  • Why did Marx believe that socialism comes after capitalism?
  • Describe why Marx believed the primary driver of history is class struggle, and why the exploitation of the proletariat is important to Marx's worldview.
  • Why can we characterize Marx's view of history as a materialist view of history?
  • Explain how the term dialectic relates to Marx's theory of history.
  • How is wealth created under capitalism, according to Marx?
  • Consider how these terms relate to Marx's view of economic relations: means of production, division of labor, and alienation.
  • Compare and contrast Marx's concepts of use-value and exchange-value (price).

Marx divides history into five basic stages: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and socialism. Marx's foundation in evolution, technology, and social change are discussed in Karl Marx (1818-1883). as are Marx's thoughts on the transition from capitalism to socialism, which Marx discusses in his Critique of the Gotha Program.

According to Marx, society's superstructure (or relations of production) is explained by economic structures. Review exploitation and Marx's dialectical method and thoughts on materialism in Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice

Review Part I: The Commodity from Marx's Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. For a general overview of Marx's theory of history and his beliefs about the relationship between politics and economics, review Analytical Marxism: Self-Ownership and Distributive Justice.


Unit 3 Vocabulary

  • Alienation
  • Bourgeoisie
  • Capitalism
  • Class struggle
  • Communal
  • Communism
  • Democracy
  • Dialectic
  • Division of labor
  • Doctrine of consent
  • Equality of social conditions
  • Exchange value
  • False consciousness
  • Feudalism
  • Freedom
  • Doctrine of consent
  • General will
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Materialism
  • Means of production
  • Pity
  • Proletariat
  • Religion
  • Separation of church and state
  • Social contract
  • Socialism
  • State of nature
  • Superstructure
  • Tyranny of the majority
  • Use value
  • Wealth