How does Rousseau account for the emergence of civil society?--what is the change, or more precisely, the transformation of material relations, that accounts for the founding of society in a robust sense (i.e., civil society)?
To Rousseau, human beings in the First Condition are like beasts. From his On The Origin And Foundation Of The Inequality Of Mankind:
While the earth was left to its natural fertility and covered with immense forests, whose trees were never mutilated by the axe,
it would present on every side both sustenance and shelter for every species of animal. Men, dispersed up and down among the rest, would observe and imitate their industry, and thus attain even to the Instinct of the Beasts, with the advantage that, whereas every species of Brutes was confined to one particular instinct, man, who perhaps has not any one peculiar to himself,
would appropriate them all, and live upon most of those different foods which other animals shared among themselves; and thus would find his subsistence much more easily than any of the rest.
Then, according to him, if human beings keep remaining in animal like conditions, naturally they will be divided into two species: Stronger and Weaker; he then calls upon the Passions.
Whatever moralists may hold, the
human understanding is greatly indebted to the Passions, which, it is universally allowed, are also much indebted to the Understanding. It is by the activity of the Passions that our Reason is improved; for we desire Knowledge only because we wish to enjoy;
and it is impossible to conceive any reason why a person who has neither fears nor desires should give himself the trouble of reasoning. The passions, again, originate in our wants, and their progress depends on that of our knowledge; for we cannot desire or fear anything, except from the idea we have of it, or from the simple impulse of nature. Now savage man, being destitute of every species of intelligence, can have no passions save those of the latter kind: his desires never go beyond his physical wants. The only goods he recognises in the universe are food, a female, and sleep: the only evils he fears are pain and hunger. I say pain, and not death: for no animal can know what it is to die; the knowledge of death and its terrors being one of the first acquisitions made by man in departing from an animal state.
It would be easy, were it necessary, to support this opinion by facts, and to show that, in all the nations of the world,
the progress of the understanding has been exactly proportionate to the wants which the peoples had received from nature, or been subjected to by circumstances, and in consequence to the passions that induced them to provide for those necessities.
I might instance the arts, rising up in Egypt and expanding with the inundation of the Nile. I might follow their progress into Greece, where they took root afresh, grew up and lowered to the skies, among the rocks and sands of Attica, without being able to germinate on the fertile banks of the Eurotas: I might observe that in general, the people of the North are more industrious than those of the South, because they cannot get on so well without being so: as if nature wanted to equalise matters by giving their understandings the fertility she had refused to their soil.
Then he calls upon the General Will in order for human beings to form the Association for the purpose of the Common Goods amongst human beings (in another words, for the stronger not to be sole remaining in Nature but to protect weaker through the Passions),
From his Social Contract
The social treaty has for its end the preservation of the contracting parties. He who wills the end wills the means also, and the means must involve some risks, and even some losses. He who wishes to preserve his life at others' expense should also, when it is necessary, be ready to give it up for their sake.
Furthermore, the citizen is no longer the judge of the dangers to which the law-desires him to expose himself; and when the prince says to him: "It is expedient for the State that you should die," he ought to die, because it is only on that condition that he has been living in security up to the present, and because his life is no longer a mere bounty of nature, but a gift made conditionally by the State
So that so, flying from the animal kind through the general will human beings will create laws=contracts, and thus Nations etc etc for the preservation of common good.
From his Social Contract
I have already said that there can be no general will directed to a particular object. Such an object must be either within or outside the State. If outside, a will which is alien to it cannot be, in relation to it, general; if within, it is part of the State, and in that case there arises a relation between whole and part which makes them two separate beings, of which the part is one, and the whole minus the part the other. But the whole minus a part cannot be the whole; and while this relation persists, there can be no whole, but only two unequal parts; and it follows that the will of one is no longer in any respect general in relation to the other.
But when the whole people decrees for the whole people, it is considering only itself; and if a relation is then formed, it is between two aspects of the entire object, without there being any division of the whole. In that case the matter about which the decree is made is, like the decreeing will, general. This act is what I call a law
And also from Social Contract
What then is government? An intermediate body set up between the subjects and the Sovereign,
to secure their mutual correspondence, charged with the execution of the laws and the maintenance of liberty, both civil and political.
The members of this body are called magistrates or kings, that is to say governors, and the whole body bears the name prince.
Thus those who hold that the act, by which a people puts itself under a prince, is not a contract, are certainly right. It is simply and solely a commission, an employment, in which the rulers, mere officials of the Sovereign, exercise in their own name the power
of which it makes them depositaries. This power it can limit, modify or recover at pleasure; for the alienation of such a right is incompatible with the nature of the social body, and contrary to the end of association.
Have a good day.