Social Inequality: Rousseau and Marx

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Considering their lasting influence and pertinence to contemporary society, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx have both immensely contributed to the study of social and political theory. This paper aims to provide core analyses of two of their notable, corresponding works: Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. Notwithstanding. Having been written nearly a century apart, an interwoven study of the two works reveals a deeper insight into and comparison of the ideas set forth by both. Fundamentally, Rousseau and Marx refuted the theories of their predecessors; namely Hobbe’s insistence that man’s original state of nature was terrifying and disadvantageous to individuals and Locke’s championing of the protection of an individual’s right to private property. Rousseau precisely writes, “[A]ll the subsequent progress has been in appearance so many steps toward the perfection of the individual, and in fact toward the decay of the [human]species” (Rousseau 65). Both argued for what they considered to be best for the community of humanity, not the specific interests of a minority collective of wealthy individuals (Marx 168). Both find the establishment and exploitation of private property, as well as labor, to be the origins of social inequality (Marx 162-163) (Rousseau 65). In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Rousseau states that the origin of inequality was the foundation of a political system that gave “new forces to the rich,” and thus, “destroyed natural liberty, [and] established forever the law of property and of inequality” (Rousseau 70). According to Rousseau, the moment at which his ironically-termed “civil society” of inequality began to form was the moment his romanticized natural man claimed a plot of land for his exclusive use or possession (Rousseau 60). Consequently, civil man
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