A Discourse on Inequality
‘How can we know the source of inequality among men if we do not first have knowledge of men themselves?’
In A Discourse on Inequality Rousseau sets out to demonstrate how the growth of civilization corrupts man’s natural happiness and freedom by creating artificial inequalities of wealth, power and social privilege. Contending that primitive man was equal to his fellows, Rousseau believed that as societies become more sophisticated, the strongest and most intelligent members of the community gain an unnatural advantage over their weaker brethren, and that constitutions set up to rectify these imbalances through peace and justice in fact do nothing but perpetuate them. Rousseau’s political and social arguments in the Discourse were a hugely influential denunciation of the social conditions of his time and one of the most revolutionary documents of the eighteenth-century.
In his introduction Maurice Cranston examines Rousseau’s social and political background, his career and influences, and elucidates the central ideas of his philosophy.
Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men