This is the heroes of democracy, our weekly short stories about the real influencers who shaped our society.

First up is Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), a Frenchman who had a profound influence on the French revolution and to the birth of governance by the people. He believed in humans and suggested that everyone is good by nature, but were corrupted by the historical events that had an effect on present day society.

He formed a theory of “social contract” by imagining people in the “state of nature”, in a state where no law or morality exist. The people must then form “a social contract” by abandoning their natural rights and by cooperating to remain free and safe.

The contract would mean that the people follow the general will, or in other words, the will of the majority, and most importantly, the people would be part of the decision-making. Bear in mind, that during Rousseau’s time the people often followed the will of the few and his ideas were troublesome to the ruling class. His book “The Social Contract” was banned instantly as it came out by the Paris authorities, and Rousseau was forced to leave France.

Rousseau thought that people should govern themselves and set the laws of society. He was also a proponent of direct democracy, which is different to our representative democracies today. In direct democracy, the people directly decide laws and initiatives by themselves, and without representatives in the government.

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This model sounds pretty awesome, but running a country and representing numerous groups as well as opinions is a complex job. Therefore we need people specialized in doing just that, and those people are the representatives of our government.

Nevertheless, direct democracy is still being practiced all around the world, mostly in smaller groups and organisations. In situations where there are fewer people and fewer rules to govern direct democracy can be easier, more beneficial and lead to better decisions. Let’s say there could be a direct democracy initiative in your apartment building, the street you live in or in your neighbourhood that is done digitally using Democratize. Organisations where you belong to like a university, school, sports club, NGO or workplace can already listen to your voice and do direct democracy initiatives through our app. Now you can participate in decisions affecting your life and get ????from Rousseau.

To wrap it up, if you want to remember one thing about Rousseau, you should remember that he made us more free by influencing on our ability to participate in today’s society and in the decision-making.

Well done Jean-Jacques!

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Niklas Tuomola