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on 14 June 2017
After reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Discourse on the origin of inequality’ I could only conclude that philosophy is truly an art of speculation. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book, since I have been intrigued by the subject of inequality for the last two decades due to unfortunate circumstances. Undoubtedly, had I read this book in my youth, I would have been in awe of it. But as it is today I find it more in dissension due to my empirical knowledge, and personal encounters with the world outside the realm of equality. Rousseau’s unsubstantial statements can be quite distasteful for someone who has been hurt by the practices and customs of the exponents of inequality. The first part of the discourse was somewhat euphoric; Rousseau was unduly ecstatic. However, it is hard for a reader to find logic without substantial evidence to support Rousseau’s statements. I admit that I have had pleasure in agreeing and disagreeing with Rousseau, as he truly possess the talent to provoke the mind and stimulate the reader intellectually. If you are more into science than into philosophy, however, you might this book quite nonsocial. Rousseau’s writing, particularly in the first few pages was quite digressive and illusive. I struggled to sort out the wheat from the chaff, and was just about to give up the book. Rousseau’s residues of narcissism can either amuse or vex the reader. I must admit here that I was both amused at parts and vexed at parts, thus I had to let the book rest for a while and read it in small portions. Relating to Rousseau’s background, he gained my sympathy, thus after overcoming the first hurdles and obstacles of the book, I began to slowly speculate over what he was really trying to say. Throughout the entire book Rousseau’s writing was condensed and repetitive, and yet inquisitive. Particularly in the first part I had to bear with him out of curiosity. Rousseau’s longing for equality is relevant to love and compassion as natural needs. Not to be harsh on Rousseau but I could see why some readers might find him delusional and pompous. Most of his arguments were presumptuous, premature pompous, euphoric, and refutable. Nevertheless Rousseau’s greatness is in making his arguments interesting to debate. The themes in this book were very intriguing. The question which led to this book by the academy of Dijon was somewhat rhetoric:

‘What is the origin of inequality among mankind?
And whether such inequality is authorized by the law of nature?’

Rousseau chose to write a discourse on an answer that deserves only one word. The answer is Vanity. However the second part of the question is quite tricky, because there is no clear definition of what ‘The law of nature’ constitutes. I found it a flaw where Rousseau and the academy of Dijon implied that the law of nature is an absolute law. The law of nature, just like the law of man is not an absolute law, therefore the second part of the question is immaterial. There are only two absolute laws that surround both man and beast in their bindings. The law of nature and the law of man are splitting between these two absolute laws, upon which I have elaborated in some of my own literature. These two laws are:

Absolute law 1: Perfect evil; Manifestation: Vanity, which is the mother of madness and inequality. The absolute law of perfect evil is also known as, ‘The jungle law’. Its goals are war, imbalance, chaos, destruction, power, dissolution, etc. Vanity is associated with the ‘Random theory’ as it serves meaninglessness and illusions

Absolute law 2: Perfect good; Manifestation: Salvation, which is the mother of fairness (reason) and equality. The absolute law of perfect good is also known as ‘Divine law’. Its goals are peace, equilibrium, order, creativity, justice, amendment etc. Salvation is associated with Karma law as it serves meaning in life, progress, reason and spiritual evolution

The two above absolute laws are not physical law, they are spiritual laws and metaphysical laws which paradoxically both counteract each other and interact with one another never-endingly. The above two absolute laws are also known as Yin and Yang energies with the Sha as a motionless zero point between them. Moreover, the absolute laws are real, whereas the laws of man and nature are illusions. (See Naïve realism: Russell: ‘An Inquiry into meaning and truth’)

A common mistake, which I believe occurred in the above book, is that the law of nature has been mistaken for being the same law known as the Jungle law.

But the Dijon’s academy question is not entirely irrelevant just because of a definition issue. The test of equality here is in fact a key factor in the determination of whether one pledges one’s heart to either of the two absolute laws of good and evil. Regardless of social class every human being stands naked in the light of that test. It is a matter of faith, not a matter of social rank. Either one is with equality or with inequality. No man can remain neutral regarding the test of equality! And that what makes Rousseau’s discourse very relevant. The reader is compelled to choose between the two absolute laws through either dissension or agreement with Rousseau’s postulations. In conclusion of such a test anyone who dreams the dream of the elite is a jungle law devotee and a follower of vanity. Rousseau is right in his general statement that many people choose to worship inequality over equality, but he never mentions the reason of it. I do not believe that people are evil by nature, but I believe that people become evil by the choice to follow vanity. No man is born evil. There is good and evil in all living creatures. Man fails to resist elitism because of vanities such as greed, selfishness, fortune and glory, popularity etc. Rousseau, however, degrades himself when he is in total praise of Man’s superiority over the animal. The paradox of Man is that despite all of his intelligence and advantages in ingenuity Man fails the most destroys the most and harm the most. Man has the choice to rebel against inequality and yet Man cultivates it instead. When Man chooses to follow inequality he paradoxically renders the animal superior because the animal has no free will so it seems. If the animal is truly too dumb comparing to Man and it has no free will, then how come it lives in perfect balance with nature, whereas Man fails? It is by the gift of free will that Man fails himself and falls short in front of nature. In the simple test of choosing between reason (fairness and equality) and madness (power and inequality) Man fails in its vast majority. The animal, so it seem, enjoys the benefit of being immune to such a test, as it is assumed that the animal is inferior; hence mad by nature. Man, whether primitive or civilized did not invent the social class. The animals have their own social class, different systems following with different species. The ants and the wolves have en Alpha leader whom to worship, but Man has a choice to live in equality, like many species of birds. Yet, Man, with all of his advantages and glory, choose elitism (power and inequality) because of worship of Mammon and because of vainglorious pride. The choice of Man is between vanity and salvation, yet very few choose Salvation; a fact which makes Rousseau right in some of his arguments. I cannot help thinking about Salinger here, the author of ‘The catcher in the rye’ who chose ascetic and recluse life over vain popularity. Many contemporary authors harvest on the fruits and crops of vanity, dreaming the Alfa dream which is the dream of the predator. But the same is the choice between love and hate, respect and disrespect, equality and inequality, etc. Hence it is an individual choice whether to fail or succeed in life. All the rest is vanity. It is true that there is no limit to the extent of Man’s wickedness and madness, but every single human being, like any other creature on earth, has the option to choose between the two absolute laws of good and evil. Back to Rousseau’s discourse, I have found it strange that Rousseau didn’t even mention it once that Man has a free will to choose between these two absolute laws. The animals, it is assumed, are divested from free will. But such an assumption is false, because it is only justified in comparison with the evolution of Man. The elephants apply compassion when they adopt an elephant calf when it becomes an orphan. The Alfa lion on the other hand choose to murder lion cubs that belong to another male lion. In both cases the two contrasting absolute laws that bind every living creature were applied. Hence the Law of nature constitutes both good and evil: hence both cruelty and compassion. Rousseau however, just like the academy of Dijon implies here that the law of nature is solely associated with inequality. The law of nature, just like the law of man is influenced and bound by the two absolute laws. Nature itself, unlike mankind, is at equilibrium. Thus, the earth has a superior faculty to balance itself and heal itself, whereas Man seemed to be often without balance and without remedy. Nature has made its choice to balance itself, but not Man. Man is nature’s perverse instantiation. Rousseau’s advocacy for the superiority of man over nature is preposterous. Rousseau establishes his advocacy for Man’s supremacy over the animal due to Man’s great potential to invent things and create things which no other species can fathom or master. Rousseau praises Man’s faculties and ingenuity and emphasizes Man’s ability to discover things and Man’s capability to implement his inventions. But what is the worth of Man when Man evolves in technology and adapts to life on earth while Man lacks the heart for nature? What is the worth of life without love? Love, as universal love and love for the planet, love for humanity, and love for life itself. Vanity within Man kills love. The balance with nature is constantly broken by Man’s insatiable appetite for destruction. The order of Man is the doom of Earth. The vices of Man outweigh Man’s virtues. Man loses all of his advantages because of lack of love. Rousseau suggests that Man is a genius whereas the animal and nature, like a savage man, are dumb and inferior. Owing to civilized Man’s creativity and sophistication, order, and manipulation of everything natural, that a civilized man becomes a burden upon the earth. Civilized Man fails where nature triumphs in its balance of peace and love. Subsistence is not a cult, but rather a simple mean of survival. Civilized man has destroyed it. Therefore I agree with Rousseau in his general statement that everyone would be better off if Man was to remain is a state of a savage. However, my agreement on the above statement is not without exceptions. The first part of the discourse was too profuse in the elaboration upon the superiority of Man over all other species on earth. Preponderating and genius, with faculties that could reach the sky and travel the great expanse of space, yet the glory of man is hampered by Man’s zealous adherence to the Jungle law. Rousseau mentions Sparta several times in order to illustrate that choice. Why would Man choose to follow his animal instincts and selfish ambitions while he is so gifted? Why would Man dig up his own grave? I wondered. ‘Only the strong survives’ which manifested Sparta and Rome is very much applied in most contemporary societies. We have the ability to become civilized and yet we choose to become beasts, wherefore? I wonder. When a Man cannot constrain his own nature he is no better than the animal.
Egoism (selfishness) is the enemy of Man, not his ally. Will a man rebel against his own selfishness? Rousseau claims that a man will not do it even though he can, because Man’s infatuation with power is stronger than Man’s desire to live in peace. I believe there are two kinds of selfishness: Natural selfishness and selfishness which is born out of a choice. A man is born selfish because of his physical needs but he becomes selfish because of his vain wants. Selfishness, like inequality, is a matter of personal choice. Whether a man is more or less lethal in a primitive state of mind than a civilized man, it is hard to tell. Well, if it comes down to the gravity of the destruction then I concur with Rousseau, that a primitive Man is the better man between the two. However, it doesn’t change the cardinal principle that wickedness, just as goodness, is inherited in all creatures, and that we all have to opt between the two laws on many occasions throughout our lifetime. Well if man is evil by nature, a man is equally good by nature. The inevitable struggle between the two polarities of Yin and Yang renders the discussion immaterial whether a man is in state of nature, hence a savage, or in a state of progress, hence civilized. Degrees of evolutions do not erase the spiritual struggle, as everyone is bound to choose between good and evil all the time. Rousseau compares commiseration to cruelty; virtues and vices that are within all living creatures and as I illustrated above with the elephants and the lions the animals are not without compassion and/or cruelty. Rousseau is terribly prejudiced of the animal and very unrealistic when it comes to Man. Rules of survivals justify the animals’ principle of ‘Live only to survive’ but a man has a choice to live by the benevolent divine guidance of to live ‘Not only by the bread alone’ But why would Man waver his own spiritual evolution and join the animal in the myopic ruthlessness of the jungle law? ‘The survival of the fittest’ is not imposed on Man. On the contrary, for as Rousseau stated many times, Man is a genius, Man is ‘sui generis’; a class of his own. Man can break the jungle law. Man can defeat inequality; all it requires is the will to do so. Mankind has the power to save the earth and restore fairness and equality. Mankind has the faculty to usurp vanity and replace it with Divine law (salvation). I agree with Rousseau that Man has a great potential. But what I do not understand is why Man would choose retardation over evolution! Rousseau attempts to answer the questions which he raises, but unlike Darwin, Rousseau is not a scientist. Darwin based his theories on facts and on empirical studies, whereas Rousseau bases his theories on assumptions, speculations and conjectures. Man in a state of nature versus a man in state of society, compare and contrast, I would say Rousseau’s arguments for the savage and against the civilized were not accurate. Civil societies’ source of illness can in fact be traced back to early Man. Savagery does not guarantee any balance in accordance with nature. Natural law is diverse. But the remedy, just like the malady, can also be found in Man, whether early or contemporary. True, a Man in a state of nature is less evolved, hence less destructive: I agree with that simple logic. But a Man has always been a hunter. There is no way of telling whether an Early Man did not hunt for sports or profit. We can assume that he was honest and that he only hunted for subsistence, whereas it is clear that modern Man going hunting in a civilized society is hunting for sport or for profit because we assume that he is well settled. Both assumptions are refutable, otherwise why would a starving African man poach elephants if not for survival? My point is that we haven’t changed as species, as the struggle of survival is still a reality in many places on earth. The settings may have changed, but Man has not changed, and it could be just as well as that a savage Man hunted animals for vainglory as a modern African man today hunt for survival. Rousseau’s comments on domestic animals vs. wild animals were interesting and relevant concerning the oppression of the multitudes in a human society. The domestication of Man to an elite society is a different matter. However, because Man is not easily subdued, hence the call for revolutions is justified. I believe Rousseau’s argument for this book is associated with decadence of the human spirit, as paradoxically the civilized is in fact the savage and vice versa. The illustration of such a paradox is evident and can be traced in the clashes of between civilized and savage societies, such as were the cases in the Americas and Australia, where indigenous were the victims of a wicked and brutal oppressors from Europe who deemed themselves ‘Civilized’. Therefore I feel that Rousseau’s argument is contradictory. But Rousseau went on praising Man as if Man was the perfect being. The more he praised the ingenuity of man the more I was about to vomit. Sufficient is the gross reminder of what Man has done to our planet. It is by that ingenuity of war that Man wages within itself and against the environment and wildlife. Man is the polluter and the destroyer of the earth, as a matter of fact, not as a matter of opinion. Rousseau’s bias pertaining the success of Man is an absurd. Unfortunately the discovery that atoms can split brought our species one step closer to the abyss. Nuclear energy could have been used for a better purpose than wars, intimidations, and self destruction, but Man has never evolved in morals. Man is more primitive than the animal because Man betrayed the sacred and delicate balance of the earth. Man betrayed peace, equilibrium and harmony. Yes, Man is a genius scientist, according to Rousseau, but Rousseau only sees one side of the coin. Well, at least in the first part of the book. Man, no matter how civilized deemed in his own eyes, is a primitive ape and a savage that is unworthy of all the gifts which he had received, because of the abuse and destruction that stems from these gifts. Man’s gifts gave birth to vices and virtues, but man acts on vices as a matter of social order. Rousseau’s criticism of the system reminded me of John Milton’s classic mistake, which many people fall victim to due to the lack of insight. It is not the system of monarchy which is at fault, but rather the function of the king. It is the corruption of the king which disgraces the system of monarchy, not vice versa. Thus, Rousseau’s criticism of a system is vague. The same can be illustrated with the police. There is a deep hatred towards the police in many contemporary societies. But is such hatred justified? Is it the police uniforms who disgraces the police, or is it the policeman, wearing the police uniforms who disgraces the police? Milton’s and Rousseau’s myopic criticism of the system is equal to the claim of the anarchists that the police deserve to be hated because it is the police, hence because it is as an executive body of authority. But the truth is that it is the policeman who disgraces the uniforms and the police when he betrays his authority and abuse a citizen, not the police itself. As an advocate for individualism and human rights I understand Rousseau’s argument, but I disagree with him on the principle that there shouldn’t be a social system. In my view, there should be a legislator, a judiciary, and an executive in order for society to function in order peace. However, I agree with both Milton and Rousseau that when a monarch or a legislator betrays society, they should be toppled down, usurped and replaced: I am too against despotism, just like any other sensible citizen, but the burden is not on the structure itself; the burden is on the living breathing servant in that structure of society. In this early Darwinism account, Rousseau calls for the restoration of natural rights, for it is true that the system of society is the murderer of such rights due to corruption. I am not sure whether a man is a tyrant or anarchist by nature, because people have a choice not to be tyrants or anarchists. We can rebel against our own ego, and become fair and just, but it demands a spiritual revolution. Personality, like many free souls, I am weary of the system of Man, because of its endless corruptions and abuse, and I do, too desire, just as Rousseau, to return to nature, to that old primitive state of mind, like the Eloi in Wells Time Machine’. I also long to find refuge from the madness of society, erase all worries and be One with nature. But who can guarantee that some day people who call themselves civilized will not intrude that space of nature where I have found refuge, capture me and sell me as a slave to a ‘Civilized’ master in the same society whence I fled more two and a half decades earlier? There are two options for freedom in the face of despotisms: escapism or rebellion. Rousseau advocates for escapism; for finding refuge in nature, in an old state mind. Milton advocates for a revolution: to topple down God, the supreme tyrant and replace the English monarch with a new system based on equality, where all have an equal say through an elected government. The third side of the coin, however, is not a liberating option: hence, to remain in a state of slavery. I agree with both Milton and Rousseau that man should regain his independence and find freedom. Both of them advocate for equality and so have I for the last twenty years, however, Rousseau and Milton both undermine their call for the restoration of equality. Milton adheres to a new political system, a fact which does not guarantee a government without corruption or inequality. Rousseau undermines his own desire for equality by reciting the jungle law as if all is without hope. Rousseau’s pessimism is an insinuation that the jungle law is invincible and that vanity is stronger than salvation. I decline and deplore such an insinuation. I also dismiss Milton’s argument by mentioning King Solomon as a fact that Monarchy can be a success. I dismiss Rousseau’s adherence to the jungle law by the fact that there is a hope for mankind. True, vanity multiplies exponentially with the needless and unnecessary things which Man so much desire, as Rousseau claims. Rousseau is right about stating the facts, and he is not blind to the destruction of man in his discourse.
The social class, however, is not something which the modern world has invented. It has existed in ancient times, only now that it has truly expended and became more corrupt and more destructive, just as it happens with technology. Power, social class, social hierarchy, popularity and image are all vanities. Vainglory over vainglory, where wants usurp needs. Even the struggle for survival has changed. It became more unjustified and corrupt, more ugly and gruesome. Once people murdered one another for a well of water in the desert, or for food supply in dire situations; Aye, for subsistence. But today people murder each other for the pettiest of things, for traffic disputes, for social class, for money, for power, for image, for religion, for politics, etc, i.e.: For vanity. Yes, Rousseau is right that is it better off for a man to remain in a primitive state where subsistence justifies Man’s deeds and misdeeds. It is more obvious, that in a modern society, image is everything. But what about the biblical story of Cain and Abel? Did Cain not murder his own brother for image? Did Cain not seek a better social class? Once more Rousseau’s argument is refutable. Today people commit crimes for the sake of material comfort and vainglorious pride, because it became trendier perhaps, but nothing really changed since the days of Cain. Sodom and Gomorrah has always been out there, even after the destruction of these cities. The corruption is within Man, not within the expansion of society. Today it is accepted to run after commodities and luxuries. Material comfort is a collective goal. Survival became irrelevant because Man has mastered the earth and its resources.I agree that the less a man remains himself, the more that he is prone to unfortunate future. Technology in its advancement, robots in particular, is an eerie future prospect. The more sophisticated that an artificial intelligence becomes, the more unnecessary that Man becomes; hence it is only a matter of time when a Man is disposed by the superior artificial intelligent. Perverse instantiation is inevitable, not because of the invention of the machine, but because of the creation of Man. Perverse instantiation has already begun since the discovery of fire by the Homo erectus. The jungle law can be easily replicated; it is a reality, not science fiction. The second part of Rousseau’s discourse was getting more interesting, and more to the point. I tend to agree with Rousseau on the advantage of order through the enforcement of territorial law, as it would be a total chaos if there was no order and no borders. Paradoxically, an utopist society without order would not survive. The establishment of nations was inevitable, yet necessary. Equilibrium is a matter of choice not a matter of circumstances. Rousseau quotes:

‘Miserrimam servitutem pacem appellant’

Which means roughly: The most miserable (the oppressed) calls slavery peace

What a tyrant thing to say. When a man is under duress, or under social pressure, or under the threats of death, has no free will and no freedom of expression. For such a man is bound by the ultimatum of either ‘Gadium’ or ‘Gladium’, i.e.: either by joy or the sword. When a man is divested of human rights and natural freedoms, such as freedom of consciousness and freedom of speech, surely anything he says is untrue. Only a really tyrant will assume that people are happy in slavery. Yes, maybe they are not aware of their slavery because they have never tasted freedom, but it doesn’t mean that they are happy in a state of slavery. Nevertheless, I agree with Rousseau that the sovereign should not be above the law. And I agree that the sovereign should be toppled down when he betrays justice. Rousseau does not mention the rule of law, but we share the same view here that the lawgiver should not be allowed to break the law or safeguard himself from the law in any improper/indecent way. Rousseau’s criticism of corruption within the sovereign is pretty much relevant to contemporary politicians since they promote their own private interests and selfish ambitions above the good of the public. Rousseau’s discourse is simply beating about the bush. Inequality needs to be confronted directly and subsequently usurped, toppled down, thereupon replaced by equality. Milton and Rousseau had both attempted to overcome inequality, each in his own way. They both failed for how can a disease be cured with the usurpation of another disease? Evil cannot be overcome with another evil. A disease can only be combated and subsequently vanquished with a proper cure. Evil’s only cure is goodness. The cure for madness and inequality is fairness and equality. Milton would have been abhorred by the corruptions of contemporary politicians had he lived today. Thus, he would have surely realized that it is neither democracy nor monarchy at fault here. The fault is inequality itself within Man. Rousseau’s utopia, or rather anarchistic escapism, and/or reliance on primitivism, does not solve the problem of inequality either, for whether a man is in a state of nature or in a state of civilization, it does not change the fact that Man chooses to live by the sword of inequality rather than by the flowers of equality. The only way to combat and subsequently defeat inequality is by the restoration of divine law. Man is cursed with the vices of power and inequality, but Man is also blessed with the virtues of fairness and equality. The revolution is an individual one, by essence: neither religious nor collective, neither political nor social. It is fairness and equality within Man that can spread like a cure in government and in society. Neither Rousseau nor Milton advocate for equality in their solutions. Their call is for a change that is as futile as beating about the bush. The solution; the cure is in deeds based on the virtues of fairness and equality, decency and universal love ‘Acta, non verba’. Sadly these days there are no political leaders who would care for the people and for the environment more than they would care for their own selfish ambitions. American senators sold their tongues and souls to oil companies; receiving each great amounts of money in return for denial that Man destroys the earth by the overuse of fossil oil. ‘Pollution is merely an illusion’ they claim. Honest politicians these days are as rare as extinct species, or in the better case, as rare as species whom are on the endangered list; hence on the brink of extinction. The decadence of the human spirit is the issue, not a political system and not a level of social evolution.

The following quote in Latin by Cicero could have strengthened Rousseau’s argument:

‘Omnia autem quae secundum naturam fiunt sunt habenda in bonis’

‘Whatever befalls in accordance with Nature should be accounted good’

Only that Man is the exception of it. Man, whether in a savage state or in a civilized stage is the ailment of the earth, unless by a divine individual intervention to live in accordance with the balance of nature. As it is now, Man is in defiance of nature, because of Man’s adherence to inequality. Rousseau is a great thinker but not much of a feeler; A philosopher no doubt, yet paradoxically he is an exponent of Vanity whom adheres to the jungle law subconsciously. Rousseau points out the disease of inequality, but he offers no cure for it. ‘There is no hope for a moral man’ is the best he can do, or ‘Returning to the wild’. All in all it was quite a philosophical challenge to read Rousseau despite all of the conjectures and speculations. Rousseau is a true philosopher in a sense of what Cicero once said:

‘Nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum’

‘There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher’
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on 3 April 2017
Good quality item. Interesting subject.
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on 28 May 2017
What I expected fine.
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on 25 June 2017
:)
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on 25 November 2014
Ace value.
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on 16 April 2008
Having read a vast amount of political literature during my politics degree there is only one book that really stands out from the rest. It is this book, 'discourse on the origin of inequality'. It is an intriguing read with some very thought provoking stuff. I think if you were to read any of Rousseau it should be this book. In response to the review where they say he states the obvious, he may well do but it is the way he writes that really gets you thinking. You must also remember the time he was writing, many of these things that we think are obvious were not in the 1700's!
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on 16 December 2006
Any suggestion that Rousseau is simply proffering a series of trite ideas is misplaced. Though largely ignored by comparison with The Social Contract, A Discourse on Inequality is in my opinion Rousseau's magnum opus. Rousseau's emphasis on the benefits of a culture based around philistinism - as seen in the less well-written Discourse on the Arts and Sciences - is clearly evident in his conception of 'savage' or 'natural' man (depending on edition) who sacrificed his asocial hunter-gatherer existence for life in society. The deleterious consequences of man's socialisation described by Rousseau are both polemical and compelling. Moreover, the effect, which the text had upon the ideas of both Marx and Engles, is perhaps ostensible in sentences such as: `The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying "This is mine" and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society'.
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on 11 February 2011
Part 1

Rousseau is already alluding to theories which Charles Darwin would later elaborate on; when discussing inequality he argues that the evolutionary changes that occurred in humans in pre-history, would not have occurred consistently across the population and that some would have benefited more than others. Much of what is said in part 1 pertains to Rousseau`s views on the nature of prehistoric man`s existence of which much will be speculation.

He is frequently cross referencing with other writers on the subject, sometimes agreeing and sometimes disagreeing with them. It is worth remembering that this was written in the mid 18th Century and would have exuded a freshness at this time. For the modern audience however there is unlikely to be any ground breaking material here. One attractive passage concerns the way in which Rousseau imagines the process by which man may have learnt to control fire; `How many times did they let their fires go out before they learnt how to rekindle them? And how many times did the knowledge of these secrets die with the one who had discovered it?`. In this build up to part 2, Rousseau suggests that at this time, man was `free` of the burdens of society and civilisation, which he will go on to site as the cause of inequality. He sees a man free from the strutting rivalry found in other animals and in a state of ignorant bliss. Personally, I find this unlikely. There would likely have been a hierarchy with dominant males as in a troop of silverback gorillas or in the group structure of male chimpanzees where a more or less linear order of dominance is observed.

Part 2

In my opinion, we now arrive at the real meat of this work. We begin with the oft-quoted `The true founder of civil society was the first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, thought of saying, `this is mine`, and came across people simple enough to believe him.` Personally I feel that in such a case, the claimant of the land in question would likely have been a dominant male with obvious implications. Rousseau also fails to make any reference to the fact that the first walls or barriers would probably have been as defences against night prowling wild animals, when citing their construction as an early portent of inequality. He goes on to suggest that as soon as man needs to combine forces and work together, that the differences in abilities between men will surface and the real inequalities be evident. Strength, talent, ambition and cunning become desirable. He later remarks on the way in which `men at the pinnacle of opulence and fortune, while the crowd below grovels in obscurity and wretchedness, it is because the former valued the things they enjoy only because others are deprived of them, and even without changing their condition, they would cease to rejoice if the people ceased to suffer.`

Rousseau refers to the rejection by some `savage` cultures of the civilised paraphernalia. `Nothing can overcome the savages` unconquerable revulsion at the prospect of embracing our morals and style of life`. and then `one reads in a thousand places that Frenchmen and other Europeans have voluntarily taken refuge among these people`. I feel this is still relevant today with regard to certain cultures facing domination from foreign `civilisers` who tend to exploit their resources.

In his `Remark about the notes`, Rousseau says `To this book I have appended some notes according to my lazy practice of working in fits and starts`. These notes are quite extensive and make up a significant part of the work. Despite the author`s casual remark that `there will be little ill done` if some chose not to read them, I personally found much of merit to be found here and would recommend their reading.
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on 10 January 2014
Being one of the philosopher and thinkers that influenced the modern way of thinking this discourse is probably his best. Rousseau analyses in depth and with great attention what he thinks is the origin of inequality and raises a lot questions, discussions and thinking on whether he is right or wrong.
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on 21 December 2014
Delivered early, very happy, degree student v happy
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