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Society vs. Individual

Ever since man first created societies there has been a dilemma between the social order of the state and the liberty of the individual. In nature man is completely free, acting without fear of legal or moral consequence in acquiring whatever he so desires. In societies such behavior would lead to chaos as individuals warred against one another, with the consequence of the stronger benefiting at the expense of the weaker regardless of concepts of fairness or justice. Laws are enacted and enforced by the state to ensure that no individual’s desires impose upon the liberties of another. The nature of man is to desire absolute liberty but societies must impose order to keep such desires from robbing other individuals of their right to liberty. Thus, a social contract is engaged in where a certain measure of liberty is sacrificed for a certain measure of protection of other liberties. For this reason, it is impossible for man to have absolute liberty in society where social order rules. This results in an ongoing conflict between individual liberty and social order (i.e., the state).

The first societies resembling modern Western cultures would be those of Ancient Greece, particularly Athens which was considered the highest form of democracy among the loosely-aligned city-states. The Ancient Greeks experimented with various forms of social order. Aristotle’s view of liberty was a concept that encompassed both the ability to rule and the willingness to be ruled. Liberty to Aristotle meant equality for all individuals, such that each should have access to the opportunity to rule. As he states in Rhetoric, he imagines a government in which those “who are not rich and have no personal merit” can occupy the highest offices of state (114). Liberty was considered living as one so chooses, but within this harmony with the social order. Yet, conflict


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Society vs. Individual. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:01, September 27, 2020, from