> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 31 December 2000
  • ISBN: 9780140444391
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $21.00

A Discourse On Inequality




In A Discourse on Inequality Rousseau sets out to demonstrate how the growth of civilization corrupts man’s natural happiness and freedom by creating artificial inequalities of wealth, power and social privilege. Contending that primitive man was equal to his fellows, Rousseau believed that as societies become more sophisticated, the strongest and most intelligent members of the community gain an unnatural advantage over their weaker brethren, and that constitutions set up to rectify these imbalances through peace and justice in fact do nothing but perpetuate them. Rousseau’s political and social arguments in the Discourse were a hugely influential denunciation of the social conditions of his time and one of the most revolutionary documents of the eighteenth-century.

  • Pub date: 31 December 2000
  • ISBN: 9780140444391
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $21.00

About the Author

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Peter Constantine's honors include the PEN Translation Prize, the National Translation Award, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize, and Greece’s Translators of Literature Prize. He translated Machiavelli’s The Prince for Vintage Classics.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712. He was a writer and political theorist of the Enlightenment. In 1750 he published his first important work 'A Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts' (1750) where he argued that man had become corrupted by society and civilisation. In 1755, he published 'Discourse on the Origin of Inequality' and in 'The Social Contract' (1762) he argued, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains". This political treatise earned him exile from his home city of Geneva and arguably inspired the French Revolution (his ashes were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris in 1794). He also wrote 'Èmile', a treatise on education and 'The New Eloise' (1761). This novel scandalised the French authorities who ordered Rousseau's arrest. In his last 10 years, Rousseau wrote his 'Confessions'. In The Confessions he remembers his adventurous life, his achievements and the persecution he suffered from opponents. His revelations inspired the likes of Proust, Goethe and Tolstoy among others. Rousseau died on 2 July in France in 1778.

Also by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

See all

Related titles