General Will

Discipline: Political Science

Theory propounded initially by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).

There is a general will of society as a whole which is distinct from the particular wills of individuals. The general will is both the truest interest of individuals, and the justification for government; although, paradoxically, individuals may consent to a government that thereafter limits their choices.

Source:
David Miller et al., eds, The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford, 1987)

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