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Oral History: Question Authority Figures

It’s important to question authority because if the government is doing something that only benefits a small group of people such as the very wealthy, you should try to change that because it is not helping anywhere near the majority of people. The poor people are the ones that need the government’s help the most but are the ones that aren’t receiving it. Most of the people who question authority have grown up under the beliefs of changing what’s not right in order to benefit you and the mass majority of others.

It’s important to question authority because they may not always make the best decisions and you need to pay attention to that so you can try to change it. Throughout the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Imperialism, there have been many people who have had their opinions on the way the government is doing something. Those people decided to do something and try to change that.

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Most of them succeeded but their success only lasted for a short period of time until a new ruler or government was brought into place.

During the Enlightenment, Jean-Jaques Rousseau challenged authority. He established the Social Contract because after laws were adopted many people became enslaved and needed to regain their freedom. Rousseau published his largest work in 1762 called The Social Contract which explained his perception on the Social Contract. This brought the entire society to agree to be governed by its general will. This forced the people to be free and not abiding by harsh, unnecessary rules.

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The Social Contract reinforced that people, rather than the king’s or queens, form the foundation of the government. Certain Enlightenment figures argued that the government was there to protect the citizens and their rights, not hurt them. Although this may be true, the government was doing things that only benefitted a very small group of people and not the mass majority and it was hurting the lives of the lower class citizens which made up most of the population. By the mid-eighteenth century, philosophers began to argue that everyone has the same rights under the law no matter your social ranking. Rousseau’s Social Contract was the start of freedom for citizens.

During the Industrial Revolution, James Watt challenged authority with his advancement in the Steam Engine. In 1785, he figured out how to use heat better with less fuel and by the early 1800’s the engines were being used in factories all over England. The Steam Engine helped power factories and mills instead of water and wind. This also allowed factories to be located anywhere because before, water and wind were unreliable and you had to be located near a source. They also started being used in trains and steamboats to improve transportation. Watt’s large advancement with the Steam Engine helped greatly with advancements all across the world.

During the Imperialism, Muhammad Ali challenged authority. In 1805, Muhammad, an officer of the Ottoman Army, created an independent Egyptian state by seizing power. He modernized the army, set up a public school system, and helped create small but successful jobs for more people such as boat building, refining sugar, and printing textiles. Muhammad Ali helped his new Egyptian state grow and advance in many ways. He knew what he wanted for his state and with his determination, he succeeded in all categories including more opportunities for employment. Throughout the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Imperialism, many people have defied what was considered normal and did what none thought could be done. Some gave equal rights to all and others created inventions that led to the advancements made today. Although when some people challenged the hierarchy, large fights broke out and people were guillotined for almost nothing, all of this brought us to the place our country is at today.

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Oral History: Question Authority Figures. (2021, Apr 13). Retrieved from

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