The origin and critical function of human inequality

Context[ edit ] The text was written in in response to a prize competition of the Academy of Dijon answering the prompt:

The origin and critical function of human inequality

Part Two Analysis Part Two is a detailed investigation of inequality and the state.

Rousseau: On the Origin of Inequality: First Part

Rousseau has established the nature of man and of natural right, and can now explore their relationship to inequality. He also attempts to show how mankind arrives at a state of instituted inequality.

It is clear that this is not an inevitable development. Perfectibility is certainly important in human development, but it cannot entirely explain the rise of inequality. Other forces also contribute. The development that Rousseau describes happened entirely by chance, but nevertheless had several clear stages, or "revolutions.

Initially the state of nature was a static condition, but various environmental factors, described by Rousseau as "difficulties," led to change. This change includes both the spread of mankind throughout the world, and the development of various social and economic structures.

Man's difficult interaction with his natural environment explains much of his later development. The first revolution involved men beginning to use tools and build shelters. This development of technology led to changes in human psychology and behavior.

Conjugal love, co-operation and particularly the creation of gender roles that make women subservient to men represent the beginning of inequality. Leisure is the driving force of this stage of Rousseau's story.

When man is most like other animals, he only has enough time to search for food and sleep. This is no problem. However, the development of co-operation means that shared tasks take people less time, and man suddenly has leisure time to spare. Other activities are needed to fill this new gap, such as dancing and celebrations.

From the SparkNotes Blog

These activities become habitual behaviors, and then become needs. Something that was initially a novel pleasure is now necessary. This is the beginning of man's decline: What others think of you becomes important for the first time, and so you unhappily crave their opinion and company.

The fact that Rousseau chooses the village dance as an example of this type of comparison is unusual; such occasions are more normally associated with sociability and community spirit.

This only illustrates Rousseau's point. Even aspects of society that we find pleasurable are bad, because they all involve thinking about other people rather than ignoring or feeling pity towards them as the savage does. However, Rousseau is sincere when he argues that this stage was the best in mankind's history.

Although he criticizes many of its features, it essentially represents a point at which the self-preservation and pity of savage man are perfectly balanced with the amour propre of modern man.

This is good evidence against the view that Rousseau idolizes the state of nature, or that he feels that modern men would be better off living as savages.

Some aspects of reason and communal life are good, but they are still potentially destructive. In criticizing civility and concern for others as negative features of society, Rousseau goes against the general trend.

Good manners and civility are generally seen as restraining the savage features of man; Rousseau feels that there is nothing to restrain in natural man, and civility only makes men compare themselves to one another.

Natural catastrophes are important in the process of development that Rousseau describes.

Rousseau: On the Origin of Inequality: First Part

Humans began to spread throughout the planet, to use language, and to settle in different habitats because they were driven there by earthquakes and tidal waves. The importance of such random events must be recognized: Underlying this explanation is the idea that Nature shapes man's progress through natural disasters.

The divine will, which some argue Rousseau identified with a God that controls Nature, works through such methods to bring man out of his initial undeveloped state.Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality is one of the most powerful critiques of modernity ever written.

It attempts to trace the psychological and political effects of modern society on human nature, and to show how these effects were produced. Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau: The story of the mankind.

Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is one of the strongest critics of modernity ever written. Rousseau describes the ravages of modernity on human nature and civilization inequality are nested according to the Genevan thinker.

After the argument of the previous two sections, Rousseau's conclusions are not that surprising: that inequality has its origins in the rise of reason and enlightenment; that it is legitimated by laws and property; and that it is against natural law unless it is related to physical inequality.

As I have been arguing, the ideal in question for pragmatism and recent critical social theory inspired by pragmatism is a robust and deliberative form of self-rule—also a key aspect of Critical Theory's wider historical ideal of human emancipation and freedom from domination.

The Topics

Discourse on the Origin of Gender Roles and Inequality This is not your average length Medium post; I just want to let you know what you’re getting yourself into. However, it . Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau: The story of the mankind.

Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality is one of the strongest critics of modernity ever written. Rousseau describes the ravages of modernity on human nature and civilization inequality are nested according to the Genevan thinker.

The origin and critical function of human inequality
SparkNotes: Discourse on Inequality: Part Two, page 3