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Rousseau defines the concept of the general will and its insoluble relationship with private interest in Book I. By developing his theory in Book II, Rousseau demonstrates a very negative approach to their harmonious cooperation: the author envisaged the opposition between the particular will and the general will. In Book II, Chapter I, he re-examines the notion of private interest in the context of the theory of sovereignty (in other words, the exercise of the general will). The aim of the general will is that of common interest, that is not equivalent to particular interest. Hence the paradox: the opposition of private interests made the establishment of societies necessary, the agreement of these same interests made societies possible, the general will being the expression of these implied interests. Thus it is not simply about modifying the nature of particular interest: these two quotations demonstrate the conflict: 1 “the agreement of these same interests which made the establishment of societies possible”; 2 “What these different interests have in common is what forms the social bond”. At this point Rousseau makes the essential differentiation between the ‘motor’ and the ‘brakes’ in the instance of proposition and control within a political body: the agreement of particular interests allows, common well-being forms the social bond, making a logical difference between the power and the action. Rousseau hereby displays three layers of political thought that are built upon each other: 1 the opposition of particular interests causes the necessity for the social bond, 2 their agreement makes it possible, 3 the realisation through the general will of the common interest forms the bond. In relation to sovereignty, Rousseau completely inverses the meaning of ‘inalienable sovereignty’ by giving the people the sovereignty, rather than it being only exercised upon them. Therefore the inalienability of the general will is but a particular case of the inalienability of all wills (Book I, Chapter IV).

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