Authored by: Robin Douglass

The Rousseauian Mind

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138205314
eBook ISBN: 9780429020773
Adobe ISBN:


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Few thinkers in the history of Western thought have reflected as deeply on the problem of inequality as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This chapter focuses on Rousseau’s critique of inequality, drawing principally on his Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men, and outlines some of the strategies that he proposes in other works for avoiding the evils of inequality in developed political societies. The chapter discusses Rousseau’s general approach in the Discourse; provides a focused account of the development of inequality in the second part of the Discourse with attention to the close interplay between socio-economic and psychological considerations; and analyzes the relation between freedom and inequality in more detail to provide an example of how Rousseau’s own vision of a legitimate political society sought to forestall and mitigate the worst effects of inequality. Finally, it argues that if we want to understand Rousseau’s commitment to equality, we must also ask what is wrong with inequality.

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