ROUSSEAU (1712 - 1778)
In his Dissertation on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality of Mankind.
Man in the State of Nature (before society)
1. "We see around
us hardly a creature in civil society, who does not lament his existence: we even see many deprive themselves of as much of
it as they can, and laws human and divine together can hardly put a stop to the disorder. I ask, if it was ever known that
a savage took it into his head, when at liberty, to complain of life or to make away with himself. Let us judge, with less
vanity, on which side the real misery is found."
2. "Man is weak when he is dependent, and is his own master before he comes to be strong."
3. "in spite of all their morality, men would have never been better than monsters, had not
nature bestowed on them a sense of compassion, to aid their reason:"
4. "It is then certain that compassion is a natural feeling, which by moderating the violence
of love of self in each individual, contributes to the preservation of the whole species."
5. "I hear it constantly repeated that, in such a state (state of nature), the strong would
oppress the weak; but what is here meant by oppression? Some, it is said, would violently domineer over others, who would
groan under a servile submission to their caprices. This indeed is exactly what I observe to be the case among us:"
6. "as the bonds of servitude are formed merely by the mutual dependence of men on one another
and the reciprocal needs that unite them, it is impossible to make any man a slave, unless he be first reduced to a situation
in which he cannot do without the help of others: and, since such a situation does not exist in a state of nature, every one
is there his own master, and the law of the strongest is of no effect."
7. "Taught by experience that the love of well-being is the sole motive of human actions,
he found himself in a position to distinguish the few cases, in which mutual interest might justify him in relying upon the
assistance of his fellows; and also the still fewer cases in which a conflict of interests might give cause to suspect them.
In the former case, he joined in the same herd with them, or at most in some loose association, that laid no restraint on
its members, and lasted no longer than the transitory occasion that formed it. In the latter case, everyone sought his own
private advantage, either by open force, if he thought himself strong enough, or by address and cunning, if he felt himself
8. "in a word, so long as they undertook only, what a single person could accomplish, and confined themselves
to such arts as did not require the joint labor of several hands, they lived free, healthy, honest and happy lives,....."
But from the moment one man began to stand in need of the help of another; from the moment it appeared advantageous to any
one man to have enough provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, work became indispensable, and vast
forests became smiling fields, which man had to water with the sweat of his brow, and where slavery and misery were soon seen
to germinate and grow up with the crops."
The Development of Society
1. "The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This
is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars
and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling
up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the
fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."
2. After the development of early community: "Men began now to take the difference between
objects into account, and to make comparisons; they acquired imperceptibly the ideas of beauty and merit, which soon gave
rise to feelings of preference... with love arose jealousy; discord triumphed, and human blood was sacrificed to the gentlest
of all passions."
3. "Each one began to consider the rest, and to wish to be considered in turn; and thus a
value came to be attached to public esteem. Whoever sang or danced , whoever was the handsomest, the strongest, the most dexterous,
or the most eloquent, came to be of most consideration; and this was the first step towards inequality, and at the same time
towards vice. From these first distinctions arose on the one side vanity and contempt and on the other shame and envy: and
the fermentation caused by these new leavens ended by producing combinations fatal to innocence and happiness."
4. "how very far they already are from the state of nature, that so many writers have hastily
concluded that man is naturally cruel, and requires civil institutions to make him more mild: whereas nothing is more gentle
than man in his primitive state, as he is placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes, and the fatal
ingenuity of civilised man."
5. "equality might have been sustained, had the talents of individuals been equal,"
6. In society: "It now became in the interest of men to appear what they really were not.
To be and to seem became two totally different things; and from this distinction sprang insolent pomp and cheating trickery,
with all the numerous vices that go in their train."
7. "Usurpation's by the rich, robbery by the poor, and unbridled passions of both, suppressed
the cries of natural compassion and the still feeble voice of justice, and filled men with avarice, ambition and vice."
CONSOLIDATION OF SOCIETY AND POLITICAL POWER
1. "numerous enemies united by the common hope of plunder, the rich man, thus urged by necessity,
conceived at length the profoundest plan that ever entered the mind of man...... "Let us join," said he "to guard the weak
from oppression, to restrain the ambitions, and secure to every man the possession of what belongs to him:..... Instead of
turning our forces against ourselves, collect them in a supreme power which may govern us by wise laws, protect and defend
all the members of the association, repulse their common enemies, and maintain eternal harmony among us...... too much ambition
and avarice to go long without masters, all ran headlong to their chains, in hopes of securing their liberty;"
2. "Such was, or may well have been, the origin of society and law, which bound new fetters
on the poor, and gave new powers to the rich; which irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, eternally fixed the law of property
and inequality, converted clever usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals,
subjected all mankind to perpetual labor, slavery and wretchedness."
3. "Experience only could show the weakness of such a constitution, and how easily it might
be infringed with impunity, from the difficulty of convicting men of faults, where the public alone was to be witness and
judge: the laws could not but be eluded in many ways; disorders and inconveniences could not but multiply continually, till
it became necessary to commit the dangerous trust of public authority to private persons, and the care of enforcing obedience
to the deliberations of the people to the magistrate."
4. "The different forms of government owe their origin to the differing degrees of inequality
which existed between individuals at the time of their institution."
DECLINE OF SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT
1. As time went on, "Ambitious chiefs profited by these circumstances to perpetuate their
offices in their own families: at the same time the people, already used to dependence and ease, and the conveniences of life,
and already incapable of breaking its fetters, agreed to an increase of its slavery, in order to secure its tranquility. Thus
magistrates, having become hereditary, contracted the habit of considering their offices as a family estate, and themselves
as proprietors of the communities of which they were at first only the officers, of regarding their fellow citizens as their
slaves, and numbering them, like cattle, among their belongings, and of calling themselves the equals of the gods and kings
2. "we shall find that the establishment of laws and of the right of property was its first
tern, the institution of magistracy the second, and the conversion of legitimate into arbitrary power the third and last;
so that the condition of rich and poor was authorised by the first period; that of powerful and weak by the second; and only
by the third that of master and slave, which is the last degree of inequality, and the tern at which all the rest remain,
when they have got so far, till the government is either entirely dissolved by new revolutions or brought back again to legitimacy."
3. "the flaws which make social institutions necessary are the same as make the abuse of them
4. "It is no easy matter to reduce to obedience a man who has no ambition to command; nor
would the most adroit politician find it possible to enslave a people whose only desire was to be independent."
5. "inequality of credit and authority became unavoidable among private persons, as soon as
their union in a single society made them compare themselves one with another, and take into account the differences which
they found out from the continual intercourse every man had to have with his neighbors."
6. "From great inequality of fortunes and conditions, from the vast variety of passions and
of talents, of useless and pernicious arts, of vain sciences, would arise a multitude of prejudices equally contrary to reason,
happiness and virtue. We should see the magistrates fomenting everything that might weaken men united in society, by promoting
dissension among them; everything that might sow in it the seeds of actual division, while it gave society an air of harmony;
everything that might inspire the different ranks of people with mutual hatred and distrust, by setting the rights and interests
of one against those of another, and so strengthen the power which comprehended them all.
7. " It is from the midst of this disorder and these revolutions, that despotism, gradually
raising up its hideous head and devouring everything that remained sound and untainted in any part of the state, would at
length trample on both the laws and the people, and establish itself on the ruins of the republic...... blind obedience is
the only virtue which slaves can still practice."
COMPARISON OF NATURAL STATE AND CIVILIZED STATE OF MAN
1. "The savage and the civilized man differ so much in the bottom of their hearts and in their
inclinations, that what constitutes the supreme happiness of one would reduce the other to despair. The former breathes only
peace and liberty; he desires only to live and be free from labor;..... Civilized man, on the other hand, is always moving,
sweating, toiling and racking his brains to find still more laborious occupations: he goes on in drudgery to his last moment,
and even seeks death to put himself in a position to live, or renounces life to acquire immortality. He pays his court to
men of power, whom he hates, and to the wealthy, whom he despises; he stops at nothing to have the honor of serving them;
he is not ashamed to value himself on his own meanness and their protection; and, proud of his slavery, he speaks with disdain
of those, who have not the honor of sharing it."
2. "the savage lives within himself, while social man lives constantly outside himself, and
only knows how to live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the consciousness of his own existence merely
from the judgment of others concerning him."
3. "we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honor
without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness....... this is not by any means the original state of
man, but that it is merely the spirit of society, and the inequality which society produces that thus transform and alter
all our natural inclinations."
4. "it is plainly contrary to the law of nature, however defined, that children should
command old men, fools wise men, and that the privileged few should gorge themselves with superfluities, while the starving
multitude are in want of the bare necessities of life."
A DISCOURSE ON POLITICAL ECONOMY
ON LEGISLATION AND THE LAW
1. When the citizens vote, "The body politic, therefore, is also a moral being possessed of a will; and this general
will, which tends always to the preservation and welfare of the whole and of every part, and is the source of the laws, constitutes
for all the members of the state, in their relations to one another and to it, the rule of what is just or unjust:"
2. Within society, "very often there is a secret division, a tacit confederacy, which, for
particular ends, causes the natural disposition of the assembly to be set at naught. In such a case, the body of the society
is really divided into other bodies, the members of which acquire a general will, which is good and just with respect to these
new bodies, but unjust and bad with regard to the whole, from which each is thus dismembered."
3. In this society, "each loses no part of his liberty but what might be hurtful to that of
another? These wonders are the work of law. It is to law alone that men owe justice and liberty."
4. Regarding the law, "there are two infallible rules for its good conduct on these occasions;
one is, that the spirit of the law ought to decide in every particular case that could not be foreseen; the other is that
the general will, the source and supplement of all laws, should be consulted whenever they fail."
5. "It is certain that all peoples become in the long run what the government makes them;
warriors, citizens, men, when it so pleases; or merely populous and rabble, when it chooses to make them so."
6. " nothing can take the place of morality in the maintenance of government."
7. "The more laws are multiplied, the more they are despised, and all new officials appointed
to supervise them are only so many more people to break them, and either to share in the plunder with their predecessors,
or to plunder apart on their own. The reward of virtue becomes robbery; the vilest of men rise to the greatest credit; the
greater they are the more despicable they become:"
8. "What is most necessary and most difficult, in government, is rigid integrity in doing
strict justice to all"
9. "There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no virtue
without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need; without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves,
from the rulers of the State downwards."
ON ECONOMICS OF THE STATE
1. "Now as every government constantly tends to become lax,
this is enough to show why no state can subsist unless its revenues constantly increase.
"The first sense of the necessity
of this increase is also the first sign of the internal disorder of the state;"
2. Good government must, "take more pains to guard against
needs than to increase revenues."
3. "While a remedy is being found for one evil, another
is beginning to make itself felt, and even in the remedies themselves produce new difficulties: so that at length the nation
is involved in debt and the people oppressed, while the government loses its influence and can do very little with a great
deal of money."
4. "Rulers may indeed hope to keep the peoples in stricter
dependence, by thus giving them with one hand what they take from them with the other;....... but this political sophistry
is the more fatal to the state, as the money never returns into the hands it went out of. Such principles only enrich the
idle at the expense of the industrious."
5. "the greater a state grows, the heavier and
more burdensome in proportion its expenses become;"
1. "the person who has ten times the property of another man ought to pay ten times as much
to the state. Secondly, the relation of the use made, that is to say, the distinction between necessaries and superfluities.
He who possesses only the common necessaries of life should pay nothing at all, while the tax on him who is in possession
of superfluities may justly be extended to everything he has over and above mere necessaries."
2. "to no man does the law prescribe magnificence; and propriety is no argument against right."
3. "nothing is so dangerous as a tax on corn paid by the purchaser: but...... see that it
is a hundred times worse when the duty is paid by the cultivator himself? Is not this an attack on the substance of the State
at its very source? ..... For the worst kind of scarcity a nation can suffer from is lack of inhabitants."
4. "All duties should be paid by the consumer of the commodity taxed than by him who sells
5. "Heavy taxes should be laid on servants in livery, on equipages, rich furniture, fine clothes,
on spacious courts and gardens, on public entertainments of all kinds, on useless professions, such as dancers, singers, players,
and in a word, on all that multiplicity of objects of luxury, amusement and idleness, which strike the eyes of all, and can
the less be hidden, as their whole purpose is to be seen, without which they would be useless."
6. "duties on the necessaries of life, as they directly trespass on the right of property,
and consequently on the true foundation of political society, are always liable to have dangerous results, if they are not
established with the express consent of the people or its representatives."