Unit 3 Study Guide and Review: Liberal Democracy and Its Critics

3a: Describe the difference among Rousseau's notion of "the state of nature” with Hobbes and Locke.

1. 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.

    • 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 review how Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau’s described the state of nature, consider their commonalities, including the themes of equality and freedom.

Review the state of nature according to Hobbes and Locke in Learning Outcome 2c in Unit 2 of this Study Guide.

Review Rousseau’s notion of the state of nature in The Social Contract & Discourses, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (especially Chapters IV-VI), and Steven Smith’s lecture Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse, Part I (time stamp 18:00).


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

1. 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 & Discourses. For Rousseau, man is free when he is able to obey the laws he gives himself.

    • 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?

Review Rousseau’s ideas about freedom and equality in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse, Part I.

2. 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.

    • Compare moral and natural inequality.

Review this material in Rousseau’s The Social Contract & Discourses.

3. 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?

Review this material in Rousseau’s The Social Contract & Discourses, and in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse, Part I.


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

1. Locke explored his ideas of a social contract extensively in his Second Treatise of Government.

    • As you review the Second Treatise, consider the significance of Locke’s doctrine of consent.

Review Learning Outcome 2d in Unit 2 of this Study Guide for more information about the doctrine of consent.

2. How is private property a significant part of Locke’s views of a social contract?

Review this material in Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, paying close attention to Chapter III and Chapter V.

3. Now that you have reviewed Locke’s view of the social contract, contrast it with Rousseau’s view.

    • 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?

Review Rousseau’s ideas about the social contract in detail in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse, Part I.

4. 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?

Review Locke’s views in Chapter III of Second Treatise of Government, and Book I, Chapter IV of Rousseu’s The Social Contract & Discourses.


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

1. 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.

    • 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.

Review this material in Book II, Chapter 9 of Democracy in America.

2. How does religion provide Americans with a purpose? Why does Tocqueville think religion is a necessary component for human action?

3. 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 the role of religion in America in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Part II (time stamp 11:00 to 25:00), and in Book I, Chapter XVII of Democracy in America.


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

1. 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.

    • 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?

Review this material in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Part I (time stamp 19:00).

2. According to Tocqueville, the United States offered the best example of equality achieved through 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.

Review the future of equality in France (time stamp 35:00) and Tocqueville’s “equality of social conditions” (time stamp 20:00) in Steven Smith’s lecture, Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Part 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 among Christianity, the secular state, and capitalism.

1. 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.

    • 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?

Review this material in Ian Shapiro's lecture, Marx and the Enlightenment (time stamp 3:00), and in Alan MacFarlane’s discussion of Marx’s beliefs about the role of religion in perpetuating capitalist exploitation, Karl Marx (1818-1883).


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

1. Marx divides history into five basic stages: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and socialism.

    • Explain what characterizes each of these stages.
    • Discuss why Marx believed the stage socialism comes after capitalism and why?

Alan MacFarlane’s discusses Marx’s foundation in evolution, technology and social change in his lecture, Karl Marx (1818-1883) (time stamp 8:40 to 14:00, and 16:45 to 18:00). MacFarlane also discusses Marx’s thoughts on the transition from capitalism to socialism in Karl Marx (1818-1883) (time stamp 38:17), which Marx discusses in his Critique of the Gotha Program.

2. 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.

Review exploitation according to Marx in Ian Shapiro's lecture, Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice.

3. 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.

Review Marx’s dialectical method and thoughts on materialism in Alan MacFarlane’s lecture, Karl Marx (1818-1883) (time stamp 15:00) and in Ian Shapiro's lecture, Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice (time stamp 14:00).

4. According to Marx, society’s superstructure (or relations of production) is explained by economic structures. Consider the following questions as you review Marx’s economic worldview.

    • How is wealth created under capitalism, according to Marx?

Review this material in Ian Shapiro's lecture, Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice (from the beginning).

    • 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).

Review Part I: The Commodity from Marx’s, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

5. For a general overview of Marx’s theory of history and his beliefs about the relationship between politics and economics, review the article, 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
Last modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2019, 3:02 PM