JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU’S THEORY OF LAW AND CIVIL STATE AND ITS RELEVANCE TO NIGERIAN DEMOCRACY.
Rousseau’s ideas of law and civil state are his efforts to improve the government processes in France during the 18th century enlightenment era. The situation of France at this time was not palatable as there were social injustices and inequalities which characterized the state of nature on ground. Among the three social classes that existed in France at that time, it was the third estate comprising the third class citizens with less land that paid the highest taxes. The first and second estates consisting of the first and second class citizens were exempted from it. This boils down to the state of nature idea of the strong getting stronger and the weak getting weaker. This gave rise to all the evils that people perpetrated on one another in this state. Although Rousseau formulated his theory after reading and analyzing those of Hobbes and Locke, the scope of his project was not significantly different from theirs’. He understood society to be an invention, and he attempted to explain the nature of human beings by stripping them of all of the accidental qualities brought about by socialization. Thus, understanding human nature amounts to understanding what humans are like in a pure state of nature, unlike Aristotle’s classical view which claimed that the state of civil society was the natural human state. Furthermore, Rousseau acknowledged that self-preservation was one principle of motivation for human actions, but not the only principle unlike Hobbes. He concludes that self-preservation or generally self-interest, is only one of the two principles of the human soul. The second principle is pity; it is an innate repugnance to see his fellow suffer. Unlike other creatures Rousseau believes that human beings have reason, although such is not yet developed in the state of nature. It is this faculty that makes the long transition from the state of nature to the civil society possible. In the same vein, a proper application of this Rousseau’s theory of law and civil state can also serve as a conceptual tool for improving on Nigerian democracy.
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