How is freedom interpreted and used today?

Political education

Christiane Bender

To person

Dr. rer. pole. habil., Dr. phil., Dipl.-Soz .; Professor at the Helmut Schmidt University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg, Holstenhofweg 85, 22043 Hamburg. [email protected]

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. With these words, Jean-Jacques Rousseau opens the first chapter of his famous legal philosophical work "On the Social Contract" For centuries this sentence, which contains so much republican pride and indignation at the involuntarily imposed chains, has irritated people and contributed to an understanding of their fate. But do we start with this pathos today? Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose birthday is in June 2012 was the 300th anniversary of anything else to say?

Urge for freedom

Not long ago, the revolt of the people in the GDR against their incapacitators led to peaceful protest, the fall of the Berlin Wall and finally to the reunification of Germany. [2] With strong support from the population, the Federal Assembly elected Joachim Gauck as Federal President in the summer of 2012, transferring the highest German state office to a man who represents the desire for freedom of the East German population like no other. In speeches and lectures, Gauck repeatedly lets Germans participate in the enthusiasm he felt when he was allowed to vote freely for the first time. [3] His enthusiasm for this freedom did not fade when he became aware of the many conflicts that modern democracies have to struggle with and whose solution requires continuous commitment from citizens. [4] Freedom and responsibility, in the spirit of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, are for Gauck the central values ​​of a functioning democracy.

At present, a serious crisis weighs on the project of a politically united, free Europe. Hopes are clouded and a general insecurity can be felt deep in personal living conditions. The governments in European countries have so far failed to meet the challenge of networking the interests of the nation states and their citizens with one another beyond the preservation of peace. Europe appears as a project of political and economic elites who do not take the citizens with them, especially since "democratic participation was not a genuine component in the system of European integration and remained rather marginal". [5] In addition, politics in the European nation-states have lost a lot of their ability to shape. It was not without the involvement of politics and politicians that the markets, especially the financial markets, succeeded in expanding their social influence and plunging many states into economic, social and political emergencies. Heiner Geißler speaks of an "authoritarian policy" that has lost sight of the citizens because they bow to the "absolutism of the markets". [6] Citizens are incapacitated and incapacitated. In Greece, where democracy was born, the failure of political oligarchies has brought the country to the brink of economic and social collapse. Anti-European extremist forces on the left and right are given a boost.

The chains of a policy that is decreed from above and does not take the citizens away are being shaken in Germany: by protest voters and protest parties, by angry and courageous citizens with their actions, by citizens' initiatives that demand more direct democracy. Rebellion as a school of democracy? [7] In the major European cities, in which a market-oriented, non-citizen-remote transformation of city districts has been going on for a long time, residents are demanding their "right to a city". At the same time, the Pirate Party managed to mobilize many young voters in a short time. The demands for transparency and citizen participation are articulated on the Internet in ever new, not yet bequeathed counter-publics and with them liquid democracy tried to implement. But can the ominous alliance of bureaucracy and independent elite politics that can be observed in Germany be combated with "clickocracy"? According to Max Weber, politics in modern societies requires "strong, slow drilling from hard boards with passion and a sense of proportion". [8] “Outraged!” [9] - this attitude alone is not enough.

One of the current demands on a democratic culture, even in a difficult situation, is to recapture the competence of politics and to update an understanding of liberal politics, the center of which is the will of the citizen. In doing so, Rousseau's idea of ​​the social contract can be linked, in which freedom and responsibility, rights and duties of the citizens are inseparable. He signs his work with "Citoyen de Genève" and makes it clear right from the start that political education and political interest are the basis of a free society: "I was born as a citizen of a free state and a member of the sovereign, and so is my influence Vote on public affairs - my right to vote is sufficient to impose on me the duty to instruct myself. Whenever I think about governments - how fortunate that in these inquiries I always find new reasons to love the government of my country! "[ 10]

Central republican values ​​in Rousseau's social contract

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva on June 28, 1712. He spends many years of his life on the move and works in various professions. In addition, he is self-taught, develops musical notation, composes, writes plays and philosophical works. His discourse on the sciences and the arts was awarded a prize by the Djion Academy in 1750. [11] Shortly before his 50th birthday, the two main works, "From the social contract" and the educational pamphlet "Emile", which are immediately banned. To avoid arrest, Rousseau flees Paris. Without a steady income, living in precarious circumstances, he cannot calm down. He died on July 2, 1778 near Paris. Six years later he is buried in the Pantheon next to Voltaire in the French capital.

Rousseau's works and his life striving for independence were interpreted as a break with the concept of order of the old world, even as an invitation to revolution. However, neither his works contain a revolutionary program, nor was the French Revolution directly guided by Rousseau. But the 1789 Declaration of Human and Civil Rights also received inspiration from him. Napoleon Bonaparte, for example, said that it would have been better if Rousseau hadn't lived.

In the course of his life, the "Helvetic French" studied and compared the functioning of the political systems of his time. He got to know republican Swiss cities and rural communities defending their independence, the independent Republic of Venice, the absolutist regimes of Savoy, France and Prussia, and the parliamentary monarchy of Great Britain. He concluded that it is possible for people to be free, even if the price they pay for it is high. [12] What is Rousseau's basic idea?

In the 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, it was common sense among intellectuals to no longer regard nature or God as the author of the state, but rather people themselves. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and John Locke (1632– 1704) had regarded the state as the result of treaties and as necessary for the existence of individuals, but associated it with a greater (according to Hobbes) or less (according to Locke) loss of freedom. In contrast to this, Rousseau recognizes the principle of the rule of law in people's will for freedom. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) therefore appreciate him. For Rousseau, a political order is only legitimate if it is based on the will of the people freely expressed. If people had no chance to express their will or - as in Thomas Hobbes' model - they forego freedom for security reasons, the order would be unjust and could not claim legitimacy or even obedience on the part of the citizens.

This insight works like a bang: Rousseau denies legitimacy to all systems based on one-sided power relations. People who are subject to them have the right, even the duty, to refuse to obey. Nobody can and should renounce his freedom, because it is the inalienable good of man: "To renounce his freedom means to renounce his quality as a person, his human rights, even his duties. Those who renounce everything are no compensation Such a renunciation is incompatible with the nature of man; to deprive his will of all freedom means to deprive his actions of all morality. Finally, it is a void and contradicting contract to agree on the one hand unlimited power and on the other hand unlimited obedience. "[13] A lawful one Order comes about through the social contract that all citizens conclude with one another and thereby become the people of the state. Rousseau demands that people bring their entire material and ideal existence into the contract. They are not allowed to leave anything outside of the treaty, including their religion. Because that would mean recognizing a higher authority standing above the contract. It could mean, for example, granting religious commandments a higher right above the will of the citizen and thus destroying the social contract, for example through religious wars. Rousseau imagines that in the process of contracting people negate their natural differences and recognize themselves as legally and morally equal citizens. As such, they are both authors and subjects of the community created by the treaty, are sovereign and subject at the same time.The conclusion of the contract grants them a form of existence equipped with rights and obligations as citizens, as citizens.