[FOUNTAIN]Time for a new social contract

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[FOUNTAIN]Time for a new social contract

Jean Jacques Rousseau's "The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right" was published in 1762. In the slim volume referred to as his little treatise on the social contract, Rousseau characterized a nation as formed through mutual contracts entered into by the people of their free will. As much as he stressed the importance of the social contract, Rousseau said the last and the highest standard for remedy in the event the contract was broken was to be found in the prevalent will of the people who had transferred part of their individual freedom and right to equality to the government.

The principle of sovereignty inherent in the people and democracy that stressed the importance of the contract with the people in the political and governing processes went on to defeat monarchism in many places. Communism, with its new spin on the social contract, put up an ambitious challenge at one point, but there have been no challengers since the fall of the Soviet Union. But in the Third World or in the newer democracies, where democracy was more of a political system than a way of life, the abuses of the principle of majority vote and the bad effects of populism gave rise to conflicts of their own and doubts about the social contract.

Korea after its liberation in 1945 began democracy through a new social contract, which served as the basis for rapid industrialization and globalization. During the Kim Young-sam administration, however, there was a call for a new form of the social contract, and that came from the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. In his book, "From Third World to First," Mr. Lee, who worked for modernization of Confucian philosophy, was critical of Korea's legal treatment of two former presidents. Korea needed a new social contract, he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also said something similar.

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented rejection of two successive nominees for prime minister, the political community here is engaged in a no-holds-barred wrestling match, apparently having lost all sense of control. And cold sarcasm toward political authority is quickly spreading among the public. With that, there is an increasing number of people who say it is more important to quell public cynicism than to choose the next leader. Even if it had not been for Lee Kuan Yew's advice, there appears to be a need for a new social contract between the public and the political community in order to restore the integrity of the leadership and that of society and to appease the conflicts that mar our society.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Kim Seok-hwan

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