The most important element of Rousseau’s political philosophy is the principle of ‘General Will’. During the origin of the state, the people abdicate their powers to the community by the contract, and by this, his personal Will’ is replaced by a ‘General will’. With the help of his theory, Rousseau has presented solution of freedom, answerability of the governance, individualism and completeness, etc. The general will paves the way for public sovereignty and democracy.
Rousseau has described two wills of a person:
- Practical will
- Ideal will.
Practical will is such a ‘will’ when an individual acts in personal interests and with the spirit of selfishness. Ideal will is such a will which per forms welfare of the entire society. In the ideal will, an individual regards his interests as part of social interests.
According to Rousseau, whenever a question or issue arises before the people, every person thinks as per his way of logic and interacts with other. By way of the exchange of thoughts, the people get over their selfish will and mindset and hence ‘General Will’ is formed.
Rousseau’s General Will’ theory can be criticized through the following points:
Rousseau’s thought of ‘General Will’ is impractical and unclear. Rousseau thinks truth as the general will, but he does not explain who is to decide the truth. How ‘General Will’ is to be decided is also not clear.
- Difference of practical will and ideal will imaginary:
In an individual, both the tendencies of self interest and public interest are found. These cannot be segregated. It is very difficult to conclude as to which ‘will’ is practical and which one is ideal.
- Explanation of General interest difficult:
In General Will theory, it is difficult to find as to which act is of general interest or otherwise.
- Direct democracy not appropriate:
‘General Will’ establishes direct democracy, which is not suitable for big countries.
This principle seems more imaginary and less practical. The concept of Rousseau that the ‘General Will’ is originated thought exchange of thoughts, seems farcical.
- Saviour of autocracy of the state:
Rousseau’s ‘General Will’ will be decided by the administrator. The administration will try to impose its will under the garb of general will and then resort to oppression.
- Opponent of personal freedom:
Rousseau’s General Will’ cannot be objected to. In this state of affairs, none can oppose it. This will result in curtailment of personal freedom.