Favorite Quotations from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality
Private Property Begets Evil
“What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared [if civil society had not been founded with the advent of private property] … You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!” (60).
The Family is the Origin of Evil
“Familial sentiment” is the “first yoke” of society (62).
The Weak Chained Themselves to Political Leaders so that They Would Not Have Masters
“[The weak] all ran to chain themselves, in the belief that they secured their liberty, for although they had enough sense to realize the advantages of a political establishment, they did not have enough experience to foresee its dangers. Those most capable of anticipating the abuses were precisely those who counted on profiting from them; and even the wise saw the need to be resolved to sacrifice one part of their liberty to preserve the other, just as a wounded man has his arm amputated to save the rest of his body (70).”
When a Man Is Not Born a Man, We Call Him “Slave”
“Thus, just as violence had to be done to nature in order to establish slavery, nature had to be changed in order to perpetuate this right. And the jurists, who have gravely pronounced that the child of a slave woman is born a slave, have decided, in other words, that a man is not born a man (74).”
Why Do Citizens Allow Themselves to be Oppressed? To Chain Others
“they consent to wear chains so that they will be able to give them to others” (77).
Citations are to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, in The Basic Political Writings, trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis/Cambridge, Hackett, 1987).