In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Discourses on the Origin of Inequality, he outlines his own history of the development of human society. He explains in general terms how the differences between social and economic classes arose alongside the formation of modern states. He also explores the means by which these inequalities were actually built into and perpetuated by the foundational notions of modern society and government.
Rather than endorse a return to the peaceful ways of pre-modern human beings, Rousseau addresses these inequalities in his seminal work, The Social Contract. Rousseau does not see government as an inherently corrupting influence, and he makes very clear and precise recommendations about how the state can and should protect the equality and character of its citizens.
The searing indictment of man-made inequality in all its many forms that Rousseau offers in Discourse on Inequality is a must-read for philosophy buffs and supporters of social justice. This artfully composed argument sets forth the core elements of Rousseau's philosophical views, including his unique take on Hobbes' concept of nature and natural law.
The landmark political treatise that refuted the so-called divine right of kings and established the principles of representative government
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”
With these stirring words, Jean-Jacques Rousseau begins The Social Contract—the first shot in a battle of ideas that would set the stage for the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. In the feverish days of the Enlightenment, Rousseau took aim squarely at the all-powerful French monarchy, proclaiming that no despot, no matter how powerful, had the right to terrorize his people. He laid out a plan for a new kind of government—an idea that was radical then, and remains so now.
The Social Contract is a landmark document from a fascinating period in world history and an invaluable guide to the foundations of modern democracy.
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