Civilization and Private Property.doc

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Political Science
POL 1201
Elizabeth Beaumont

Civilization and Private Property Rousseau's conception of the path to civilization and modern political communities • Key reasons for and sequence of development of civilization: 1. Begin with solitary, simple individuals 2. Then a progression of 1. language 2. proximity/sustained contact and interaction 3. comparisons and desire for esteem 4. iron and wheat/agriculture 5. first claim to private property Property and political inequality are not "natural"; they arise form social processes combined with human psychology • Distinct tribes emerge - "permanent proximity" breeds comparison; ideas of merit and beauty create preferences, leading to jealousy, discord, bloodshed • "Each one began to look at others and to want to be looked at himself, and public esteem had a value. The one who sang or danced the best, the handsomest, the strongest, the most adroit or the most eloquent became the most highly regarded. And this was the first step toward inequality, and at the same time, toward vice. From these first preferences were born vanity and contempt on the one hand, and shame and envy on the other. And the fermentation caused by these new leavens eventually produced compounds fatal to happiness and innocence. What chain of developments led to property, civil society, and political institutions? • Humans spread, acquire different skills and tools in different climates, begin to interact more, form temporary associations, crude agreements/commitments Rousseau's View of Property • Exclusive property is the basis of civil society and seed of political inequality, and human ills and vices - war, violence, slavery • "The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say, this is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, and someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried "Do not listen to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the the earth to no one!" • How does this compare with Locke? (in italics) -- people working to get their property, getting to claim it, and achievement (Locke's view) Now: emergence of deception, dependence, domination, servitude, violence • "We find here . . . the rank and fate of each man" established partly on "the basis of mind, beauty, strength, or skill, on the basis of merit or talents. And since these qualities we
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