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Rousseau's Critique of Inequality: Reconstructing the Second Discourse

Rousseau's Critique of Inequality: Reconstructing the Second Discourse

by Frederick Neuhouser


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Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Mankind, published in 1755, is a vastly influential study of the foundations of human society, including the economic inequalities it tends to create. To date, however, there has been little philosophical analysis of the Discourse in the literature. In this book, Frederick Neuhouser offers a rich and incisive philosophical examination of the work. He clarifies Rousseau's arguments as to why social inequalities are so prevalent in human society and why they pose fundamental dangers to human well-being, including unhappiness, loss of freedom, immorality, conflict, and alienation. He also reconstructs Rousseau's four criteria for assessing when inequalities are or are not legitimate, and why. His reconstruction and evaluation of Rousseau's arguments are accessible to both scholars and students, and will be of interest to a broad range of readers including philosophers, political theorists, cultural historians, sociologists, and economists.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781107064744
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 06/19/2014
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Frederick Neuhouser is Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is the author of Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition (2008), Actualizing Freedom: The Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory (2000), and Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity (Cambridge, 1990).

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Nature is not the source of social inequality; 2. Amour propre is the source of social inequality; 3. The normative resources of nature; 4. Judging the legitimacy of social inequalities; 5. The contemporary relevance of Rousseau's critique.

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