Burke and Rousseau: Inequality and Transformation Essay

1453 Words Apr 20th, 2013 6 Pages
Burke and Rousseau: Inequality and Transformation During the Enlightenment, many western political and economic philosophers attempted to describe the transition of mankind towards modernity. Specifically, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) were both heavily influenced by the American Revolution (1775-1783) and French Revolution (1789-1799), which compelled each to write about the existence of inequalities in society and transformations that aim to address these inequalities. Burke and Rousseau differed in their interpretations of why inequalities exist within society and had diverging views on radical transformation within society. These differences stem from their conflicting ideology pertaining to the role …show more content…
99). Rousseau viewed property as a right “which is different from the right deducible from the law of nature” (Rousseau, p. 94). Consequently, “the establishment of one community made that of all the rest necessary…societies soon multiplied and spread over the face of the earth” (Rousseau, p. 99). Many political societies were developed in order for the rich to preserve their property and resources. Rousseau argues that these societies “owe their origin to the differing degrees of inequality which existed between individuals at the time of their institution,” (Rousseau, p. 108). Overall, the progress of inequality could be constructed into three phases. First, “the establishment of laws and of the right of property” (Rousseau, p. 109) developed stratification between the rich and poor. Then, “the institution of magistracy” and subsequently “the conversion of legitimate into arbitrary power” (Rousseau, p. 109) created a dichotomy between the week and powerful, which ultimately begot the power struggle between slave and master. According to Rousseau, “there are two kinds of inequality among the human species…natural or physical, because it is established by nature…and another, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it… is established…by the consent of men,” (Rousseau, p. 49). Burke approaches the concept of
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