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general will


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(French volonté générale)

Term used by Rousseau to denote the will of society as manifested through its political institutions, as opposed to the ‘will of all’, which is the preference of members on this or that occasion. The distinction applies when a constitution to which all have contracted enacts legislation to which not all consent (see democracy, paradox of). The citizen is ‘forced to be free’ by being constrained to follow the general will.

Subjects: Social Sciences — Philosophy.


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