John Locke in his Second Treatise says that in the state of nature men share all the earth in common. He then says men own their own bodies. As such, they own the fruits of their labour. The fruit of their labour thus becomes their property. So that that portion of the commons that is the fruit of labour becomes the property of the labourer and, so, no longer part of the commons. Voila the institution of property.
The earth left by God to all men as the commons is to be cultivated, says Locke.
Therefore, labour and industry and acquisition—features of the natural right to property—are to be encouraged and, so, a cardinal obligation of the state, when men are deemed to agree to form a civil society, is to secure and protect that natural right to property. A virtue of labour, industry and acquisition in civil society is that all at least indirectly benefit from them. And, so, unlimited acquisition is to be encouraged.
In the state of nature, there is no overriding authority to settle disputes, quarrels and warring among men, which spring from individuals’ competing visions of what their self preservation and right to property entail and apply to. Each man in the state of nature is a law unto himself, his own judge, jury and enforcer. Which leads finally to a Hobbesian state of all against all.
So men are deemed to contract with each other to forgo a small portion of their liberty and submit to the limited but overriding authority of the state to secure and protect their natural rights, life, liberty and property. But unlike Hobbes’ sovereign, which is secularly absolute, Locke’s sovereign is constitutionally limited to that essential role. And if it breaches that role materially and consistently, citizens have the right, and even the duty, to revolt. No where in Hobbes does that right-become-duty exist, so almighty is his sovereign.
Sounds correct to me, Rousseau will have something to say about all that.
From what I learned on a different 2:47 am, Rousseau says men were benign in the state of nature, filled with amour soi, not amour propre. They were compassionate, gentle, sympathetic, sensitive and in tune with nature. And men at least kept some of that benignity in small rural communities that prefigured civil society. But in civil society natural man became corrupted by amour propre, as men lived closely by each other and competed with each other for glory, dominance and high regard in the gaze of others.
Compassion was lost as men gloried in winning and strove ceaselessly to win. Therefore, “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains," Rousseau argues. Moreover, the state represses the physical freedom that is man’s birthright and does nothing to secure the civil freedom for the sake of which he entered civil society.
Rousseau’s answer, given that men will never either go back to the state of nature or even to the pre state small agrarian communities, is men achieving high freedom by agreeing to live in small communities, like perhaps his birth place, Geneva, and directly participating in their democratic governance, Rousseua’s version of the ideal social contract.
For then, they contribute to the general will, which is the sum of their aggregate wills. And in obeying the general will, which turns aggregate wills into a sovereign collective will, which is a form of secular absolutism, which can be likened to Hobbes’ sovereign’s secular absolutism, man—and this foreshadows Kant—achieves the height of civic freedom in obeying a law he has prescribed unto himself. For Rousseau, this can only happen in small states and can’t happen with representative government because in that regime men delegate the individual participation necessary to the general will to others. The general will requires participatory democracy.
My only original thought in all of this is that the general will may be the answer to those who say Rousseau overall is inconsistent as between his lauding man in nature and his idea of the general will. For, as noted, with going back to nature or small agrarian states out of the practical question, men will only reclaim their freedom by means of the general will.
I have to confess never having read Emile. So maybe it stands against my one original thought.