Sample Paper on A Discussion of Rousseau’s Thoughts on Inequality

Rousseau’s Thoughts on Inequality

Rousseau’s Discourse on inequality: On the origin and basis of inequality among men is a criticism of modernity. The author describes the modern ravages of human nature as well as civilization imbalance that Genevan Thinker explores (Kramnick, 1995). He also describes the nature and types of inequalities that are common among human beings. He mentions and describes natural inequalities as well as those that are not natural. To him, the latter is usually preventable. In the first section of the discourse, Rousseau describes the nature of humankind as animal-like, often driven by two key factors namely pity as well as self-preservation.  This essay summarizes Rousseau’s thoughts on the different forms of human inequality based on his discourse on inequality.

Rousseau traces humans’ journey from their inception (outside religion). He regards the states of nature as a way to better understand how humanity came to be the way they are today (Rousseau, 1910). Some of the sources of inequality mentioned are health, physical traits, as well as age. Rousseau explains the convention of men and uses a thought experiment to state such nature, not necessarily a historical truth.

The first section of the document describes humankind’s nature. The qualities that Rousseau describes are agility, strength, as well as small stature. He adds that the differentiating factor between human beings and other animals is that the former are more organized than the latter. Rousseau argues that the civilized humans would easily lose in a fight with the primitive ones because of the small size of the modern person. The reason for the civilized humans’ small stature is that they have fewer needs, which often manage to fulfill, compared to the ancient human. Essentially, the civilized persons’ passions are limited to sex, food, as well as rest. The sources of evil at present are an only pain as well as anger. Rousseau adds that the natural person tends to be dominated by the feelings of pity as well as self-preservation, which isolate him or her (Kramnick 1995). What stands out ultimately is that the human being is primarily an animal as evident in the physical appearance as well as moral and psychological aspects.

The book argues that people make the assumption of possession, which creates an illusion of the truth. The aftermath of such possessive tendencies is misery and violence in an attempt to secure what is not theirs (Kramnick, 1995). Rousseau highlights the very idea of ownership as inappropriate in different stages of civilization. He asserts that judging from age and generational patterns, humankind are dominated by the need for preservation; therefore, they claim ownership of natural resources. It is vital to note that he does not denounce the property itself, rather the inequality in the property ownership.

Rousseau outlines the major phases of technological change as with metallurgy as well as agriculture and their influence on the psychology of humanity. These traits breed tendencies such as conjugal love and the establishment of gender roles to define cooperation as major sources of human inequality. The aftermath of such roles, as Rousseau asserts, is that human roles become based on interest and not pity as the early man claimed. Interests in the case of gender roles have a direct connection to class conflicts between the rich and poor. In the final stages, Rousseau proposes a solution to this conflict through a contract from the rich ruling class to the poor class to begin the formation of political movements. From such political societies, the poor can experience freedom and safety to preserve their freedom. However, such a contract, as Rousseau concludes, is also a liability. His primary premise for such a statement is that humankind is free during birth but then later becomes chained in all areas of his life.


Kramnick, I. (1995). The portable Enlightenment reader. New York: Penguin Books. Retrieved from on 24th Oct 2018

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