Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s discourse of inequality has been perceived as the most influential critique of modernity putdown on papers. The main focus of the discourse is to trace the political and psychological impacts of the contemporary society on the nature of humanity and to demonstrate how such impacts came into being.  In order to achieve this, Rousseau gives a clear demonstration of how the evolution of humankind and the subsequent inequality development have a close relationship. The outcome is two tailed in the sense that it tries to give a detailed, clear explanation of the creation of modern man and also a sharp criticism of the modern political institutions that are characterized by many aspects of inequality. According to Rousseau, these challenges can be attributed to modern political institutions. In the social contract, Rousseau tried to resolve some of the problems. According to studies, the discourse was first developed as an entry essay in a competition that was originally run by Dijon academy of Arts and Sciences back in the year 1974. During that time, the essay tried to answer the question as to the primary origin of inequality as well as determining as to whether the natural law authorizes inequality.

Inequality is a prevalent phenomenon in the society tracing its roots to the periods of capitalism. There has been no clear definition of the term ‘natural law’ implying that it is challenging to bring a common connection between the relationships of the terms ‘natural law’ and ‘inequality.’ Human inequality has been attributed to many aspects and does not solely rely on natural law.

Even in the modern society, inequality is a social concern that cannot be treated as a new phenomenon, but something that has been in existence over the years. It is in this regard that Rousseau tried to study and look into the genealogy of inequality as pertains to human kind. According to Rousseau, there are two types of inequalities that are found within the human species. The first inequality is established by nature and as such referred to as the physical or natural inequality. This consists of the difference aspects of bodily strength, health, age, and to some extent some aspects of the soul or the soul. The second is established through the consent of man and is much dependent on some aspects kind of convention and as such referred to as a political or the moral inequality. According to Rousseau, the latter form of inequality is characterized by aspects of different type of privileges enjoyed by a given social class at the prejudice of other members of the society. Such includes situations where the some people are considered as being richer than others, assuming honorable positions as compared to other members of the society.  This is the situation that makes Rousseau wish that if he had a say on the place of birth, then he would have chosen a birthplace in a society that had little or completely no human faculties (Rousseau 26).

It is the wish and desire of any humankind to be a sovereign and to have a say on what happens around his/her life. Everyone would love to live the best life, and no one would love to languish in the spending a hard life. However, because of the lack of such choices many people have been afflicted in spending lives that are full of hardships. The aspect of inequality brings about social imbalance leaving the poor and afflicted with wishes that of having a choice to spend a good life like that of their well to do counterparts in the society. This is well-revealed from the wishes that Rousseau had. According to him, it would have been his wish that no one in the society would have a say in regard to his life.

In addition, the law brings about some imbalances in the society. There have been evolutions of many political institutions that have come up bringing about some imbalances in the society. The well to do in the society have been treated as being ‘superior’ as compared to the less advantaged who have very little say in the society. In order to regulate and control the behaviors of humankind, there has been the formation of laws acting within different government systems. Leaders are the key drivers who steer how the leadership should be conducted within any organization. However, following the social rankings of different individuals in the society, some of the individuals ranking higher in the society are known to interfere with such political institutions. Such individuals make use of their financial strengths in order to influence the law formalities, something that the poor have not been happy about. For instance, Rousseau is much against the idea that anyone would be above the law as such a situation would make others serve under the discretion of the former (Rousseau 26).

The present discourse mainly focus on marking the chronological progress of things. According to research, the philosophers who have taken it up on themselves to look into the foundations of societies have long wished that they could go back to the state of nature.  Some of these philosophers have taken no hesitation in ascribing to man. Some have gone ahead in stating that every individual should keep in possession what belongs to them without necessarily explaining the meaning of ‘belongs.’ In addition, other philosophers go ahead in outlining what is meant by strong authority as opposed to the weak. Upon considering the above points, every philosopher is concerned with the definitions and meanings of what authority and government mean. They try to look into what pride, desires, and oppression means as well as trying to bring out the nature and state of how ideas are acquired within any given society.

A good understanding of the raised thesis statement can be reached at by first putting facts aside as the facts have no much effect on the thesis statement. In answering the question, then it is important to focus more on hypothetical and conditional reasoning rather than depending much on historical facts. Rather than ascertaining the actual origin of things, the approach will help in bringing out a good explanation and understanding of the nature of things. To some degrees, nature is believed to have some contributions and impacts on the nature of human life. In other words, nature ‘pre determines’ the destiny of different individuals whereby it is has been perceived as ‘favoring’ some certain individuals while at the same time ‘disfavoring’ other members of the society.

Basing the argument of this essay on the story of creation, it can be stated that every human would be blessed with different supernatural gifts doubled by additional artificial faculties that would be added in a long process. Fromm the hands of nature and following the story of creation, man can be considered as being a superior being having a well-organized system that any other creature. Right form the story of creation it can be asserted that man was the most advantageous as compared to the other creatures in the sense authority was bestowed up on him. God required man to take control over the creation and God provided human beings with all of his needs being provided. The earth was left in its natural nature with the immense forests covering the grounds in order ensure the maintenance of the natural fertility of the land. This was meant to maintain all the animals though the provision of shelter. In the ancient times, people lived under a communalistic system of livelihood where by all individuals combined their efforts to meet their needs.

However, Following natural evolution, men dispersed up and as a result man engaged into a capitalistic system of livelihood where benefits would be harnessed based on individual effort towards the support of hi/her life. This brought about stiff competitions among different individuals where everyone fought towards achieving the most benefits from the available resources. On the basis of individual efforts, some people became more successful as compared to others thereby bringing about the rise of social class status.

Human kind has been subject to many enemies and has continuously faced many issues of injustices within the social settings. He has been left with only little to do in order to guarantee his defensiveness. In other words, man has been faced by many atrocities and challenges in which case he has very little or nothing to do all. For instance, issues of melancholy, old age, and natural calamities and infirmities. It is such atrocities that have continuously contributed to the issues of in equality among members of the society. From the ancient times, the wells to do of the society have continually continued to provide their family members with the basic needs. With old age, the aged become weaker and as such find it difficult in meeting their necessities and as such only rely on the energetic of the society in the provision of the necessities whereby there has been issues of unequal treatment of such individuals based on their social backgrounds.

On the basis of natural law, the concept is an issue of contention especially in cases where there is very little known about ‘law’ and how it relates to nature. This thus brings about challenges in trying to connect natural law and issues of human inequality. There have been several definitions in different books in regard to natural law thereby rising a challenge while trying to arrive at a common definition. The lack of uniformity from all the definitions poses a major challenge of how men can conceive the concept of natural law as it relates to inequality. (Rousseau 35).

As earlier stated, taking into consideration the human society, and considering both the powerful and the weak of society from a disinterested and tranquil perspective, the latter has always faced the oppression of the former. The harshness of the former is directed towards the weakness of the latter in the sense that the powerful uses his/her influences towards the blindness of the weaker. Over the years, the wealthy have always acted to oppress the poor, something that has a strong contribution towards social in equality within the human society. However, according to Rousseau, everything evolving from nature proves to be true in the sense that nature does not lie (Rousseau 39).

From the discussion and on the basis of history, it can be asserted that inequality has its roots from the ancient past. In the olden days, people used to work under communal systems. In those ancient times, every member of the society was treated equally, and there was inexistence of issues of inequalities. However, following natural evolution and following radical changes in the way of human lives, man turned into capitalist systems where every member of the society reaped his benefits on the basis of individual efforts. This brought about competition within and without the societal boundaries and as such some people emerged to be successful that the others thereby bring about the issue of social class.

Over the years, there has been the development of political institutions where laws have been formulated to address some issues found within the society. However, according to the discussion, rather than bringing about cohesiveness, the institutions only facilitate the widening up of the gap between the well to do and the less advantaged of the society by accelerating the levels of inequality. The aspect of inequality among different societal members was accelerated by this system of capitalism. Under the evolution of mankind, inequality can thus be traced back to the capitalist system. However, there has been no clear definition of the term natural law and as such there has been no clear link between inequality and the concept of human inequality.

In conclusion, there are different causes of inequality. However, inequality has been a great concern to the world such that different people have tried to look for a solution to the problem. Many jurisdictions have prohibited discrimination of others based on their age, sex, race, social class color or creed. This is based on the premise that people should be treated equally in the society.

Works Cited

Rousseau, J. J. Basic Political Writings, Sec. ed. United States of America: Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporation. 2011. Print.