PSCI 110 Lecture 17: Note 17

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17.03. Introduction to Political Thought
Lecture Outline: Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Part II
I. Dependence, inauthenticity, and loss of freedom in social life
A. Why social life leads to dependence and inauthenticity
1. Human faculty of perfectibility, triggered by changes in external circumstances
2. Amour de soi (natural love of self) v. amour propre (“vanity”)
B. Rousseau’s conception of freedom: freedom as autonomy
C. Challenge for the Social Contract: since we cannot return to the state of nature, how
can we eliminate the dependence, inauthenticity, and unfreedom of the social state?
II. Private property and inequality
A. Rousseau’s account of the origin of private property and inequality
1. Inequality is not natural; it is artificial and unjust (cf. Locke)
2. Not everything artificial is unjust
a. Golden age of moderate sociability
b. Possibility of legitimate government
3. But presumption that anything artificial is illegitimate
4. Psychological dependence: the rich desire inequality for their sense of self-worth
B. Critique of ‘right’ of private property
III. Origins of political society
A. Why actual historical contract is illegitimate: swindle of the poor by the rich
B. Differences from Hobbes and Locke
1. Aim of political society
a. Hobbes and Locke: ensure self-preservation
b. Rousseau: further plunder of the poor
2. Bases of contract
a. Hobbes and Locke: matter of reasoned agreement based on individual consent
b. Rousseau: matter of propaganda
IV. “Hypothetical history of governments”
A. Three stages
1. Establishment of law & right of property: de facto ownership gets protection of law
(authorizes class of rich and poor)
2. Institution of the magistracy (class of strong and weak)
3. Conversion of legitimate into arbitrary power (class of master and slave)
B. Paradox: good regime requires good citizens, but citizens become good only under a
good regime
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