Political Theory: Montesquieu and Rousseau (The Philosophes: Thinkers of the Enlightenment)

Political Theory: Montesquieu and Rousseau (The Philosophes: Thinkers of the Enlightenment)

welcome back everyone and I'm coming from Southside Christian school in Greenville South Carolina lecturing on the enlightenment and in this segment I'm gonna focus on political theory namely the political theories of Montesquieu and Rousseau and explain how these political theories fit into the Enlightenment so Montesquieu wrote a book called the spirit of the laws and in the spirit of the laws he is thinking about what is the best way to organize government where is you know how can we organize government on enlightenment principles and of course you hear about Montesquieu today in government our government has been very heavily influenced the governor of the United States by Montesquieu's thinking and that's no accident because our Constitution was written during the age of the Enlightenment so Montesquieu now keep in mind he doesn't really like just come up with this idea of separation of powers Montesquieu like other Enlightenment Phyllis Oakes had researched the Romans quite a bit you know he's looking to the Romans for guidance on how to set up a republic and he's writing about how the Romans they had the legislative authority the executive authority the judicial authority all separated and this is very important and we'll look at this again we get to Adam Smith is that he's thinking about human nature that it's not good for one person to have all kinds of power now he disagrees with some people on this people like Voltaire you know for a lot of Voltaire's career of course he goes sour on Frederick the Great later sorry Frederick but or is it sorry for it where are you there's Frederick sorry Frederick alright so as far as that goes that Voltaire believed the best way to bring about the Enlightenment was to have a sort of philosopher King somebody who can bring about enlightenment from the top down because enlightenment certainly not going to come from the bottom up but Montesquieu thought we can't have one person in power because when you look at the history of the world remember empiricism is a big deal in the Enlightenment so when you observe history when one person gets power it typically does a lot more harm than good so let's take the powers and separate them the legislative branch which makes laws the executive branch which enforces laws the judicial branch which judge judges disputes so for example the legislative branch sets the speed limit the executive branch is the police officer who pulls you over that police officer didn't set the speed limit but that police officer is enforcing the laws the judicial branch you know the police officer will tell you of course all of you are going to be great drivers who never get a ticket right but as far as that goes now if you go into the teaching profession make sure if you get pulled over you tell the police officer your teacher it works about 60% of the time it works every time all right so as far as that as far as that goes you can go to the judge though you're told that you can go to traffic court so the police officer who writes the ticket didn't make the law didn't set the speed limit and ultimately you can appeal that ticket to a judge now this model is based on jealousy okay so the thing is what Montesquieu is counting on here is for human nature to work in favor of this okay because when we think about jealousy and we think about things like greed and jealousy and we're watching Sesame Street as little kids we're told those things are bad right the Enlightenment the Phyllis Oaks would say these things aren't good or bad they're natural it depends on how you use them so jealousy can be a good thing okay when it when it comes down to it that that makes us you know very suspicious of other people and so not only did Montesquieu say that we should have separation of powers and a legislative executive judicial but we should also have checks and balances that each branch should have some type of oversight over the other branches and ways to check their power so when people say our government never can get anything done the framers of our Constitution would say that's a good thing that's why they design things like the Vito Congress in our government does not have absolute authority to make laws the president can veto things now in our government it can be overridden but a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress is kind of difficult to get and so the veto the executive it's the legislative and of course the exact the executive can be impeached by the legislative the judicial branch can strike down laws and executive actions so this is a government designed with enlightenment principles in mind a government designed in the context of empiricism okay that we go by what we have observed up socialist thought when you look at like Karl Marx and other you know socialist thinkers they're thinking like you know now of course they start with that tableau also which goes back to John Locke that maybe there is no human nature that humans can be retrained to be cooperative the Enlightenment is really more like hey we look throughout human history and we see that selfishness is what guides people jealousy is what guides people so let's put it into let's make it work for the people and that's what he's designed now this is from US history the South Carolina Exposition in 1828 when they were nullifying the tariff of 1828 the South Carolina Exposition John C Calhoun at the time and honest anonymously wrote universal experience in all ages and countries however teaches that power can only be restrained by power and not by reason and justice now wouldn't it be great if we could fount frame a government founded on reason and justice and we're not thinking about power having to restrain other powers but it wouldn't be empirical it wouldn't be aligned with human nature it wouldn't work and that's why they call these things utopian dreams you know when people come up with these ideas wouldn't it be great if everybody just shared stuff and everybody just went and beat their swords into plowshares and you know lived in a van down by the river or whatever and not so much it's not going to happen because human beings are naturally jealous and Montesquieu using these empirical methods studying history and figuring out how can I use this study of history empirically to create a government and that's what we've got now on to Rousseau jean-jacques Rousseau wrote a book called the social contract now he wasn't the first philosopher to write about the social contract Hobbes and Locke have tackled the social contract before him this idea that government is created by the people to meet a certain end and so while Rousseau is not the first author to write about the social contract his social contract is a bit different than Locke's now his book peaked very early the most quoted line of his book is the first line man is born free but everywhere he is in Chains this is one of those things where you can read the first sentence of the book and you can make it sound like you actually read it few people have read the social contract in its entirety I certainly haven't but the thing is what he's saying here is like look we look through everything here and nobody's really free how can we fix this so what he's doing here is he's not framing a form of government he's not thinking about how can we set up a government but he's really tackling here what makes a government legitimate how can we say that we're creating a government that acts in the interest of the people and so a legitimate government according to Rousseau is a government excuse me that reflects the general will now remember this is different from Locke social contract because lot social contract is designed to protect natural rights life liberty and property but and this is of individualistic walks is very individualistic whereas Rousseau is what I refer to as a proto socialist he's really thinking about the whole rather than individuals and so the government needs to reflect the general will and in doing so he asks what is freedom and when we think about freedom freedom in America is what life liberty pursuit of happiness my ability to do what I want as an individual but to Rousseau freedom is submission to the general will that when somebody says ok I'm fine with that now the thing is if you think about it I mean it's one way to look at it a lot of times when we're unhappy it's when we didn't get our way right so if we were to think hey if everybody takes a vote and the people on the losing side just say ok then there's freedom in that because you're not you know struggling against something you can't do anything about so submission to the general will was you know basically Russo's idea of freedom and this is why Rousseau typically does not come up in American government discussions because this is a type of freedom that is not a type of freedom that we really see as dominant in the United States but we do see this during the reign of terror in the French Revolution now Rousseau also wrote Emil are on education and feminists tend to hate Rousseau because Rousseau accepted gender roles all right somebody's looking at somebody else think we might have arrested feminists in the room all right so the thing is that Rousseau was an advocate of traditional gender roles now of course when you look at it empirically through the lens of the Enlightenment you know enlightenment Phyllis Oates were racist they were sexist I've you know there are physical differences between men and women there are physical differences between races and they tended to look at the world like that so when it came to men and women Rousseau said that he wrote that Sophie should be a woman as a meal is a man so Sophie should get you know educated to be a woman Sophie should not enter the public sphere or anything like that so the Enlightenment now of course feminism sorts starts to materialize during the Enlightenment but the Enlightenment by and large was not a feminist movement so to speak certainly not from Russo's perspective so with that note Montesquieu the spirit of the laws three branches of government legislative executive judicial separation of powers checks and balances and Rousseau the social contract the general will and also his advocacy of traditional gender roles in a meal and after that we'll go on to wrap this up with Conte and Adam Smith hope you'll join us see you in a bit yeah I'll take that yeah I'm all right you slip wallet Wow thank you so much I'm glad you thought so

40 thoughts on “Political Theory: Montesquieu and Rousseau (The Philosophes: Thinkers of the Enlightenment)

  1. Montesquieu said that you cannot maintain a republic and an empire simultaneously. We have so lost our constitution, we live in a police state, and our country is being hollowed out as our taxes mainly go to unnecessary endless wars (rotten empire building).

  2. This is really telling of the US political system. It seems you've all got your information from secemy street.

  3. These philosophers who produced liberalism (Hobbs, Locke, Rousseau etc.) have based their system on a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature, as they seem not to realize that human beings are essentially social and that is first realized in the natural institution of the family, and since the family is not able to provide mankind with all that is needed for its flourishing and governance, the political community is also required by nature, or by God's providential plan. That is why they had to invent the false "social contract", which for all the empiricism they claim to have, based their system on, is anything but empirical. When and where was this social contract made? Then they propose a negative freedom which goes as far as it does not clash with someone else's freedom.

  4. hey @tomrichey it would be extremely helpful if you would be able to make a video on the War of Austrian Succession (War of the Pragmatic Sanction), or the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, and the AP Euro side of the Seven Year's War (I already know you have a video for that for APUSH). Hopefully you can, by the way your videos are great and very helpful for studying!

  5. Rousseau's Discourse on the Nutritional Value of Bananas was OK, but this was his crowning achievement: https://youtu.be/mB08gwA8oYc

  6. Very concise and very coursive presentation,I understood it and really enjoyed it,I am studying Political Science in Romania 😀

  7. This guy's personal ideology seeps wayyy to much into his teaching. Constantly calling people/ideas "communist" and saying there are differences between races (um?).

  8. Thanks to special interests groups, bribes, and the two party system, the whole separation of powers thing barely exists anymore.

  9. 07:08 "Few people have read The Social Contract in its entirety. I certainly haven't."
    Killin' me. 😂😂

    Looked up The Social Contract — 72 pages. 😂

  10. Hi Tom, would you consider making a video on the colonial political conglomerates? Like Colonel William Randolph and how his descendants ended up becoming what is seen to be the most prominent people in the US. ex. Randolph was a very successful man who was speaker of house of burgesses, owner of 20,000 acres and multiple plantations, and even more. He was the breeding ground for America's most prominent family it seems politically. Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Edmund Randolph, John Marshall, Benjamin Harrison, and many more are descendants of Colonel William Randolph. The Randolphs are just one example, I would love to see a video on the most powerful and politically influential families in the colonies and maybe how it relates to today.

  11. Tom Richey is literally the only reason I am passing ap euro. This video came out in perfect time because this is what we are learning

  12. We have crept back into yet another gilded age. Be the official purpose of the separation of powers as it may, each branch actually functions as an agent, not of the people or even the government as such but rather the lords of finance and captains of industry. In reality America has, yet again, become a product of unbridled capitalism and political corruption; a winner-take-all kleptocracy at the expense of the people, yet still posing as a representative democracy for the sake of political cover. I needn't have brought this to your attention Tom because in your heart, you already know it's true.

    Tell me: do you think Trump has kept his promise in regards to draining the swamp? With or without him we are still standing in very deep shit. Your response, though it would be valued, isn't expected. What I actually expect is for you to read and delete this comment. So long as you wish no well-intentioned group any ill, I wish you and yours well.

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