“Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains” is a famous quote from the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), specifically from his influential work “The Social Contract” (1762). This statement encapsulates Rousseau’s views on the tension between individual freedom and the constraints imposed by society, as well as his ideas about the nature of political authority and legitimacy. Rousseau believed that in a hypothetical “state of nature,” humans enjoyed complete freedom and independence. However, as people formed communities and societies, they entered into social contracts, agreements in which they gave up some of their personal freedom in exchange for the benefits of living in an organized, cooperative society. These benefits could include protection, security, and access to resources that would be difficult to secure individually. The “chains” Rousseau refers to in his quote represent the social, political, and legal constraints that come with living in a society. People become subject to the rules and norms of their communities, which can sometimes limit their natural freedoms and result in oppression and inequality. Rousseau’s ideas in “The Social Contract” were revolutionary for his time, as they challenged the traditional notion of absolute monarchy and divine right. He argued that political authority should be based on the consent of the governed, and that the purpose of government should be to protect and preserve the natural rights and freedoms of its citizens. If a government fails to fulfill this purpose, Rousseau believed that people had the right to dissolve the social contract and establish a new one. The quote “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains” is a powerful reminder of the complex relationship between individual freedom and societal constraints, as well as a call to reevaluate the sources and purposes of political authority.