Inequality is an inevitable truth of our society. We see inequality everywhere, whether it’s between rich or poor, powerful or suppressed, strong or weak. What bothers Rousseau is that how and why such inequalities evolved in our society. The very first question that strikes of ‘Jean Jacques Rousseau’ is his question about inequality in two terms those are natural and political. He asks in the very first part of his work of ‘dedication’ that, he states that how equality is natural, and inequality is man-made, something that is introduced by men. Further talking about equality, he talks about the state where knowing each other and helping each other would be a pleasant custom rather than showing love to the soil that is a materialistic desire. In addition to that, he says that, “A state, where all the human beings are well known to each other, neither the modesty of virtue nor the secret machinations of vice should be able to escape the notice and judgment of the public; and in which the pleasant custom of seeing and knowing that each individual should make the love for their country rather a love of the soil and their citizens.”
He strongly had a belief that, once a man stood on the soil and said “It’s my soil;” was the first spark of inequality that took place. Because once human beings got the idea of owning territory, that’s when they got the idea of conquering one for power to stay. Gradually, with time, men invented tools and got depended on these new inventions. Families grew and so the roles of the family members and new tribes were formed. With time haves and have-nots started taking place and societies were formed and gave birth to inequality as men became judgmental of each other with more complexity of language and living. Rousseau imagines of the time when there was no inequality. He believes that an inequality evolved with the evolution of men. The difference of one place from another and different climate and seasons of these places play a very vital role in shaping men’s behavior. Gradually, with time men of different places started to grow according to the needs of those places. As a result, with time, differences between men started to grow. For example, people who lived near seashore or rivers became fishermen while people of cold places used skin of animals to protect themselves from harsh weather. And thus Rousseau believes that these evolving differences brought difference even in the manner how people started viewing each other. He says in his text that, “The new intelligence which resulted from this development increased his superiority over other animals, by making him sensible of it.” And this sensibility is what brought the sense of pride in people.
And he also asserts that the wealthy and the powerful ones in authority brought up inequality in society, for they did not want to lose their status and also further lead the family to continue to do so. Sounds like how the caste system originated in India, right? Well, according to Rousseau, natural inequality like being strong and weak is not in our hands, but the political inequality which is also the moral inequality is man-made and depends on our consent. He brings up the issue that power and desire to have wealth is what has brought forward inequality. He thus justifies that with evolution need of different people in different fields increased and thus with that people started differentiating each other on the basis of the importance, and that’s where inequality took birth. With time property was introduced, and work became unavoidable and the forests became the breeding ground of crops for feeding men that further needed men to work with. These needs further created statuses in the new man-made society and soon slavery and misery took their places
Thus, Rousseau believes that property and need of owning a property play a major role in shaping up inequality in society. With the property comes the desire to have more property and have better stats as well as the desire to have more labours to keep the status intact. Inequality brought theft and violence in society which further led to wars, murders, and fights. And whenever disputes had to be solved, rich people always had the power and there where we see the inequality of the powerful ones and the weak ones. With time, the people who were rich personal influences had more power and became the sole magistrate further adding “monarchy” to the state and to the society. And with time these men did not even lack back in calling themselves the gods and king of kings further, making citizens as their slaves and treating human beings like cattle or objects. He gives examples to prove this point. He says that, “The Elders of the Hebrews, the Gerontes at Sparta, the Senate at Rome, and the very etymology of our word Seigneur, show how old age was once held in veneration.”He talks about how power grew with time and inequality took place, resulting in the people already in power become the ones to make laws that were certainly most of the time were in their own favour and how people with time gradually forgot their true nature and gave up freedom. He talks about the development of metallurgy, agriculture and division of labour. Rousseau asserts that society was masterminded by the rich, that the poor did not have much choice but to agree to join it and thus further strengthening the inequality. Thus, wealthy people worked not to save the poor in reality, but to save their own selves from losing all the wealth which further even increased the political power and how corruption grew and which is the ultimate foundation of civil society.
According to him, the establishment of laws and the right to have a property was the first term of the progression of inequality, the institution of magistracy been second one, and the conversion of a legitimate into arbitrary power the third and the last one.
Thus, the author here tries to make his reader aware of the fact that our true nature of living was when we did not have inequality. He describes ‘happiness’ and ‘freedom’ to be the perfect words suitable for the primitive lifestyle. We were true to nature, when inequality did not exist. But today’s modern society after so many revolutions, development of societies and industries made our lives life of misery and torment. He tries to define modernity as the stage where men have risen to a developmental stage, but have lost the psychological or moral being of mankind. We have forgotten what we really need in life, and it is nothing more than just survival. Even if we take Darwin’s theory of evolution, then we realize that we have evolved from animals. Thus, we see how he believes that primitive men enjoyed living as they lived on nature’s gift to survive for only bodily needs. Man was always self sufficient during his primitive time. Thus, he justifies in his essay that primitive men were profited with their ignorance of knowledge more than people of knowledge who works for virtue and formed today’s society. He even questions his readers whether they have ever seen a savage man talking about suicide. But in today’s generation the countries those are more developed has got a number of suicidal cases. These suicidal cases are the proofs that how desires take over peoples mind. And thus, he says that, “Let the judgment, therefore, be made with less pride on which side the real misery lies”. He wonders if we can go back to our primitive lives, but the solution is not there and we cannot go back to that stage of freedom and nature again. It is impossible to go back to that stage where earth was not a place to show off people’s property. The aim of this essay is to make people aware of the inequality, but not make them run back to that former stage to the forest and live with animals. Rousseau’s work shows how people have developed from the primitive stage but, unfortunately, we have chosen worse path, and our wrong decision is being reflected in the lifestyle of modern people.
Thus, as I have mentioned Rousseau’s idea of equality and inequality, so we have certainly come to this conclusion that a method his of equality certainly does not go with the two tiered tuition system where students of different subjects are expected pay differently based on their subjects. This is so because once students start paying based on their subjects; that's when people will start wondering why are students of certain subjects are charged more than students of other subjects. The idea of showing these expensive subjects will help the students of liberal arts to subsidize students of other subjects is lame. It can also annoy the students who want to pursue for liberal arts, but because of money issue might get frustrated. As a result, many might go for other subjects rather than going to liberal arts. Thus, making this idea of charging students based on their fields is a total flop one. This will also bring inequality as students of other fields might not just look up to students who are paying more for their subjects. I believe studying is about interest. When something is interesting for you, then, you will stand up for the subject. And not only that, I also believe we must treat all the students of all different subjects equally because knowledge is everything that helps us to know more and we all together can work with different ideas to grow and make this society a better one.
Now further talking of Edmund Burke’s famous essay “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, we come across a different way of thinking. It has been a further addition to the classical conservatism of the time. Conservatism came into being during the French revolution and reacted against the liberal ideas of late eighteenth century in Europe. Conservatism further talks of stability, concreteness, human fallibility and says that the circumstances in each country vary and so thus the problems related to society. It believes that liberalism can never be the perfect path to a stable society as it is the human nature to be ignorant and irrational. According to Burke the old French monarchy and aristocracy had their faults, but that does not mean it failed totally to run a society, and he believes it was not the right step to take against that system. According to him, the disputes would just add more stress to the upcoming kings. Though he believed the people were fighting against the monarchy, but they did not have enough knowledge to start from there and establish a stable society for the future. He believed that a representative democracy might not work well because the elected representative does not always represent the needs of the people and the society. He believed to stick to the traditional ways of society rather than following all new set of rules that might ultimately collapse. He believed equality to be a monstrous fiction. Any type of equality, whether social, political or economical it was always against the nature according to Edmund. He believed that the revolution was nothing but a sacrifice that costs lives, but does not give any good result. As to add to justify my sentence, I would quote what he said in his essay. He says that, " tribunals subverted; laws overturned; a state not relieved; industry without vigour; a church pillaged; commerce expiring; civil and military anarchy; national bankruptcy”, which rather resulted in giving terrible outcome, according to him, and he asserts that it’s a factious belief and is doing nothing but inspiring false ideas in men. Unlike Rousseau, Edmund believed in inherited property and transmission of privileges from forefathers. His view of rights was of that of traditional one. So for the Edmund traditional system of government was the right path to follow as it was more experienced and has been in service for ages.
Among his writings, ‘The Sketch of the Negro Code’ defines a lot about his thoughts related to slavery that is again related to both African-Slave trade, as well as West Indian trade of slavery. As Burke talks of different societies having their own system to work on, similarly he talks of the society of India. He says how India has its own system to follow and should be left on its own to work. He says about Indians that Indians should be governed own principles and maxims. He does not argue against colonialism, but he suggests that the local ethics should not be pushed aside. Burke’s statements on slavery were pretty ambiguous, and his talks related to the two slavery trades differed. He did not talk of black slaves, the way he talked about Indian slavery. Though Edmund did believe that slavery was unnatural and was inhuman, but blacks seemed to have no distinctive history apart from slavery in the eyes of Edmund. But in his essay ‘The Sketch of the Negro Code’, there is no talk of local tradition to reform slavery. In fact, Edmund tried to tell his readers about the means to get civilized. In his essay “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”, He says, “A perfect equality will indeed be produced; that is to say, equal beggary, equal wretchedness, equal wants, and on the part of the petitioner, a helpless, and woeful desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations.” Thus, it is quite clear Edmund believed equalization was certainly not the right choice to bring stability in society. He even believed that the role of the aristocracy plays a greater role in society as they are the ones who invest in society. He further talks of Labours, farmers and land owners and says that each one has their position fixed, and it is very much needed to be in order to run a society. According to him, labour is a commodity whose price increases or decreases according to the need of purchasers and labour will always rise and fall following the law of supply and demand. He says that, “The rate of wages in truth has no direct relation to that price. Labour is a commodity like every other and rises or falls according to the demand”. He believed the traditional laws to be the laws of god and thus the just ones to follow. His talks of labours to be well fed as that will make the labours work even better because it’s the work of the men and his production that helps him to earn. He even says how labour can help the farmer in the market to flourish. According to him, it is the task of the private charity to help the people in hard times and not the task of the state.
I do not believe that Burke’s proposal to be consistent because his idea of following ancestors just because it has been followed for years is not applicable to my thoughts. I think we should be open to try out new systems as well, but surely in a refined manner. But following his traits help us match to accept this proposal of two tiered tuition systems. As according to Burke aristocrats are more important so students paying premiums will gain more importance. According to him, aristocrats are the ones who invest in society. Thus, people with more money can only go to the subjects that are expensive as compared to the other subjects. Thus, further showing that, people who are wealthy are the ones who belong to the higher status of society. So people of lower status must look up to them. I don’t think this is applicable in today’s modern society. People have their own brains to use and do not follow aristocrats of people in over just because they have been doing so since their forefathers. These days, people believe in justice and following what is right for them and the country. So the idea of two tiered- system might be a fantasy of Burke but not of me.
Further talking of Mary Wollstone craft and her “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”, we come across the world where women had to fight for their rights. This work is particularly dedicated to Charles M. Talleyrand-Périgord who did not have much good idea related to women education according to Wollstonecraft. She says how women are treated as second citizen and always judges based on their attractiveness or elegance. She believes that negligence of girls’ education is what has produced the recent status of female adults. The girls’ community is so suppressed that they are trapped in the societal norms to follow them. From the very start of her essay, she talks of rationality and reason and effect of political powers and vices associated with riches and honors. He believes it is certainly logical that a girl being a human being has the capability to form her own reason. And education of a girl is not just a vital part of her own life, but also a necessity to be a good parent. She believed that there was an urgent need of how women behaved and how their way of behaviour has changed because of the traditional mindset was a concern for Wollstonecraft. She believed to bring revolution in female manners as that is the right direction towards bringing the lost female dignity. She believed that women should be independent and be able to participate in the activities of the society. According to her women should be financially independent, should be able to express their right responsibilities and duties and must participate in the activities of a public arena. She also stated about marriage, saying that a marriage was not just a deal based on beauty and money. Rather, she believed marriage had to bring a good friendship between the couples. In short, she wanted classical liberalism in marriage which included equality, freedom, choice, respect, and virtue. She also shows how disgusted she is known about women who are ready to be suppressed in such society and thus being weak and only giving importance to look and body, trying to attract men and so on. She wanted to convey to women that a woman is not a foolish, soft piece of meat. They are human beings and should be given importance in society. It was the middle class women who were Wollstonecraft’s main target as she believed that these were the women who had time to attract men should use their time to rather get an education and pursue for desired occupations.
Wollstonecraft’s ideas are more related to women’s education and equality. What I think is that, she would certainly want women to pursue for education and choose the subject she wants to go for her desired occupation to be independent. It is more about a woman’s development and awareness of their rights and wages. But her essay does not talk of equality in terms of class or race. Thus, in my opinion, any proposal accepted by the government would be acceptable till the time girls are given proper education.
I believe that Rousseau’s message of inequality is of great help to us to know the best way to live our lives. I believe freedom comes to equality. Once people stop looking at each other on the basis of status and consider each other equal, then, the attitude of people will change and so the exploitation would end. If I am being chained and then released just to call myself free then, I wonder how much the word ‘freedom’ is applicable for me psychologically and socially. Do we follow the rules of considering each one of us equal indiscriminative of caste, colour, sex, nationality and so on. Because once we start considering each other equal, then, the competitions would end, and people would not fight with each other on the basis of religion or nationality and that’s when equality will rule. Disparity in equality can never bring freedom. This proposal is advantageous if we are talking about morality and liberty and want to bring humanism. Burke’s statement, “When men act in bodies, is a power. Government, therefore, is not an impediment to freedom” is what I totally agree too. I believe students of all subjects should be treated equally and should be asked to pay an equal fee for every subject. This is so because equality would not differentiate between who is better or richer than the other. Similarly, students should respect the other students of other subjects and live with equality rather than showing off, who is better than the other or what the subject is better than the other. All the subjects have helped us to do research on certain fields and helped us to grow and have knowledge. But developing does not mean bringing inequality rather means to develop in terms of morality of mankind.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau – A Discourse on the origins of Inequality , 1754Edmund Burke – Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790Sketch of a Negro Code and Thoughts and Details on ScarcityMary Wollstonecraft – A Vindication of the Rights of Women , 1972