Rousseau definitely a “half glass empty” thinker
With the November elections finished. It seems like a perfect time to examine the difference, or lack thereof, of the “general will” and the “will of all”. Rousseau would argue that these two principles are unrelated; he argues that only in an ideal society, can these two be identical. Rousseau believes we live in an era where self-interest is the driving force for human action. Although he may be correct that self-interest motivates everyone to some degree, there are, nonetheless, real-world examples of where “general will” and the “will of all” are intertwined, even identical.
The “general will” is defined as whatever actions are in the best interest of the whole community. On the other hand, the “will of all” is the collective interests of all individuals in the society.
Ideally, the goal of a government is to cater to the needs and wants of its citizens. This would be a better explanation of the general will in a utopia. Therefore the combined interests of the citizens (the will of all) should accumulate to express the needs of the population as a whole. Thusly, Rousseau’s theories of general will and will of all actually relate to each other. The differences between the two emerge in reality once the interests of the individual begin to differ from that of the society. Tuesday, voters turned out to voice their opinion on who should be our representatives. In the action of voting, citizens are most likely electing officials who will hold their personal interests at heart. I highly doubt that voters turn in their ballot only considering what is best for the nation. At some level, every voter is biased because, everyone is affected by self-interest.
In my opinion, there can be situations where the two wills are indistinguishable. When an individual believes that his interest is in accordance with the interest of the society as a whole, the will of all and the general will are the same. Although Rousseau argued that human greed and selfishness has made this situation impossible. However, for one example, the shareholders of a corporation will support actions in the interest of the corporation as a whole. To some degree, Rousseau is still correct because this situation is only possible because the individual benefits from the success of the company. But nonetheless, the principle remains the same, there are real-world situations where the general will and the will of all can be the same.