Legitimacy con. Inequality arose as “whoever was the

is “the justification (or rightfulness) of a state’s authority.” For Rousseau, alongside
philosophers Hobbes and Locke, “the legitimacy of political power is explained
by its origin in the articles of social contract.” (Roberts & Sutch, 2012,
pg.122) The Social Contract itself “is the view that persons’
moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement
among them to form the society in which they live.” (Friend, n.d.)

          Rousseau claimed that “man is born
free, and he is everywhere in chains.” (Rousseau, 1761, pg.12) The idea that ‘man
is born free’ refers to the State of Nature which suggests a life without or
before government, law and enforcement. Unlike previously mentioned
philosophers Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau argues retrospectively, in other words,
that the basis of a State of Nature is not the problem, the problem developed through
society and the state. The idea of human development in the
State of Nature is best described as the process of socialisation. Rousseau
argued that “humans lived originally in small groups, and this allowed them to
help each other. Eventually, the advantages of distributed labour became
obvious; wealth begins to grow and the desire for more grows as well.
Inequality arises. With growing inequality private property becomes more and
more important, and an artificial status hierarchy gets established within
society.” (Jurgen Braungardt, n.d.) This accentuates the idea of Rousseau that
the state was not legitimate, it was in fact a con. Inequality arose as “whoever
was the handsomest, the strongest, the most dexterous, or the most eloquent,
came to be of most consideration.” (Rousseau, 1761, pg.186) Through this comes
the idea of private interest and the entry into a ‘false’ social contract that cheated
man out of the freedom he was believed to be born with. This argument
highlights that the state was not legitimate, according to Rousseau, so in
order to do better for society was through the Social Contract and the idea of
general will. With this, the idea of individual liberty and demanding our own
private interests must be removed, instead to favour political equality, that
we take an equal share and have equal say in how a society is ruled. Rousseau
accepted that state and society is inevitable and that in order for it to
thrive and boast legitimacy we must focus on the enlightened interest; that of
the common good.

          David Hume held a view similar to
Rousseau’s in the sense that “few ever give genuine and voluntary consent to
their governments” (Hume vs. The Social Contract Theory. N.d.) and that this
consent comes from the necessity to hold faith in the state in order for it to
work, both also hold favour to the idea of the State of Nature. However, unlike
Rousseau, Hume “maintained that expressions of consent are valid only if those
giving them have a genuine option to refuse their consent.” (Green, 2015) This
argument opposes Rousseau’s through which there appeared to be a select few individuals
that dominated the hierarchy and those beneath simply followed out of respect.
Hume rejects that the government was founded by such consent and that there is
a social contract, instead a state’s legitimacy comes from the utility of a
government and its longevity with past precedence and empirical evidence to
support its authority.

          Through these arguments it is clear
that the term ‘state legitimacy’ can be defined as the acceptance of a
governing body or authority, however the problem appears to lie in how authority
is accepted by the people and how there is a fair way for individuals to give
or deny their consent.