Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discours sur l'origine et le fondement de l'inégalite parmi les hommes [Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Mankind]

(2776 words)
  • Kevin Inston (University College London)

The Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality among Men (1755), also known as the second Discourse (Discourse henceforth), is Rousseau’s first major philosophical work. It analyses man’s transition from an imagined natural state of independence and peace to a state of willing subjugation and oppression. Like the first discourse (Discourse on the Arts and Sciences), it was submitted in 1754 to the Dijon Academy’s essay competition whose topic for discussion was “What is the source of inequality among men, and whether it is authorised by natural law”. Unlike the first, the second does not win the competition.

Rousseau modifies the question, omitting any reference to natural law, arguing …

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Inston, Kevin . "Discours sur l'origine et le fondement de l'inégalite parmi les hommes". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 11 August 2012
[, accessed 25 September 2016.]