The political theorists is that social inequality

The political theorists, John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jacques
Rosseau (1712-1778) both developed specific theories based on the notions of
property and inequality. Locke writing in his Two Treatises on Government. Essentially John Locke believed humans
to having a natural right to life, liberty, and property. However, Rousseau in
his Discourse on the Origin and Foundation
of Inequality among men believed that property was not a natural right
rather a notion which only becomes prevalent within civic society. The thesis
that I have developed from both political theorists is that social inequality
only martializes once humans accept the social contract and join civic society.
For Locke the creation of money and the greed it enticed brought around
inequality, whereas for Rousseau, inequality stems from the rise of private
property and the formation of government.


Although both theorists had slight similarities in their beliefs
in relation to equality in the state of nature, the differences on beliefs on
property were far more evident. Within the state of nature both Locke and
Rousseau believed that all humans were equal “state all men are naturally in,
is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their
possessions and person as they think fit.” (Locke, 1821, pg. 189) Locke clearly
emphasis that within the state of nature all men are free and equal, he also
acknowledges the existence of property within the state of nature when using
“possessions”. Furthermore, Locke also highlights the equality all humans have
within the state of nature “wherein power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no
one having more than another” (Locke, 1821, pg. 189) similar to Locke, Rousseau
also speaks of the primitive state all men were born into, Rousseau
acknowledges the existence of physical inequalities but those are morally
insignificant and similarly to Locke, he supports the belief that equality and
peace are evident in a state of nature. The way in which that equality and
peace are disturbed differ for both theorists.

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Firstly, beginning with Locke. Unlike Rousseau, Locke believed
that property, similarly to life and liberty was a natural right for all humans
“Whether we consider natural
reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their
preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as
nature affords for their subsistence:” (Locke, 2005:25) Locke begins with the
theory that the world is the natural property of all mankind, he suggests that
the resources on earth are given to humans from god in order to aid their
survival “God, who hath given the world to men in common, The earth, and all that
is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being.”
(Locke, 2005:26) Here Locke stresses that the world is the equal property of
all mankind. Within the beginning of chapter 5, Locke says “it is impossible
that any man, but one universal monarch, should have any property upon a
supposition, that God gave the world to Adam”(Locke, 2005:26) Locke disowns the
theory that god gave the world, in this context to Adam and his posterity,
rather similarly to Rousseau, Locke stays consistent with the belief that all
men have equal rights within the state of nature, the world is the property of


Locke elucidates that the human body is the first natural property
that humans have full control over “Though
the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has
a property in his own person: this nobody has any right to but himself. The
labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”
(Locke,2005:27) Once again Locke acknowledges the existence of property within
the state of nature as being natural. Locke in previous chapters speaks of the
conditions of this property and ensures to mention that no other man has the
right to harm another individual’s property “no one ought to harm another in
his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Locke, 2005:2) Locke believes in
the preservation of one’s property, therefore in a state of nature all men must
act with reason and avoid damaging another individual’s possessions (property).


Furthermore, the belief that Locke adapts; stating that our own
bodies are our first property leads to development of the labour theory of
property. Locke emphasises that humans are able to expand the amount of
property they have through the use of their own labour “the labour of his body, and the work of
his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the
state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with,
and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.”
(Locke, 2005:28) as Alan Ryan makes clear, when an individual uses their labour
combined with a resource to create something, they in turn have a natural right
to the object they created. It becomes their property (Ryan, 2012:525).


However, Locke ensures to add that individuals may only come to
owning property within the law of subsistence, “sufficiency and spoliation limitation” (Ryan, 2012:525) humans must not accumulate more property than needed “nor for encroachment on the right of
others; what portion a man carved to himself, was easily seen; and it was
useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he
needed” (Locke,2005: 51) this means that unless the individual is able
to use up all their property efficiently; they should not claim more than what
they need to survive in order to avoid wasting resources. For John Locke,
property was a natural right, the use of labour to create or cultivate
something meant that the object became the individuals whose labour was used to
create it.


On the other hand, contrary to John Locke; Jean-Jacque Rousseau
saw that property was not a cultivation of natural rights rather a creation which
rose with the signing of the social contract and entering of civic society.
Rousseau understood that once individuals came together and signed the social
contract and accepted government rule, they in turn gave up certain natural
rights for their own preservation. Therefore, the community begins to claim
lands as their property, to preserve the conjoined members of the group. He
says “for as this idea of property depends on several
prior ideas which could only spring up gradually one after another, it was not
formed all at once in the human mind: men must have made great progress; they
must have acquired a great stock of industry and knowledge, and transmitted and
increased it from age to age before they could arrive at this last term”(Rousseau,2004)
for Rousseau, property only became relevant once individuals joined into larger
groups and started to progress into society. Hence the difference in thoughts
between the two political theorists. Locke saw property as natural, Rousseau
did not.


Rousseau clearly describes the state of nature and disagrees
with Locke, claiming that property did not exist prior to civic society nor is
property a natural right “whereas in this primitive state, as there were
neither houses nor cabins, nor any kind of property” (Rousseau,2004) Rousseau
believed that within the state of nature, humans lived in smaller groups and
thus there was no need to claim land, animals, or objects as their property.  Similarly, to Locke, Rousseau also emphasised
that all humans were equal. Thus, everything on the world belonged to everyone
and so property was an obsolete idea. He continues to say, “The first man, who,
after enclosing a piece of ground, 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” (Rousseau, 2004) once humans become far more interdependent
and closer together; the need to claim land as their own property become far
more prevalent.


Overall for Rousseau, the accumulation of property makes
society irrational and unjust. Although the theorists do not come to a similar
minded conclusion on the creation of property, Inclusive of their ideas. both
Locke and Rousseau acknowledge and develop the idea that property within civic
society leads to inequality.


John Locke saw
the creation of money within civic society to have corrupted the notion of
property and led to inequality, the reason for this is because within the state
of nature; humans had no desire to further their property due to the
perishability of the goods on that property (Ryan, 2012:525) “The measure of property nature has well set by the
extent of men’s labour and the conveniences of life: no man’s labour could
subdue, or appropriate all; nor could his enjoyment consume more than a small
part; so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the
right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his
neighbour”(Locke,2004:36) for instance an apple would eventually rot
away, thus humans only used their labour on commodities they could use up.
Nevertheless, the limits of nature were soon overcome with the acceptance of
money, following on the problem of perishability “thus
came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without
spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly
useful, but perishable supports of life.” money was a commodity which
men could keep onto for as long as they wished. Locke believed money made men
irrational and greedy. “This partage of things
in an inequality of private possessions, men have made practicable out of the
bounds of society, and without compact, only by putting a value on gold and
silver, and tacitly agreeing in the use of money” (Locke, 2004, sect 50) Locke
clearly emphasises that some individuals began to have more property than
others, the use of money gave people an incentive to expand their property to
levels they never wished for before. Inequality for Locke was harmful as it led
to the exploitation of resources; the mistreatment of people and consequently
implications on freedom.  


Although Locke mainly focused on inequality based on wealth,
Rousseau also brought emphasis on inequality of power and status. Rousseau describes
the cultivation of private property and rise of inequality through saying “How
many crimes, how many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors,
would that man have saved the human species by crying to his fellows: Be sure
not to listen to this imposter; you are lost” (Rousseau,2004) Rousseau clearly
links the creation of private property to many catastrophic human realities
such as murder and war. He does this because Rousseau believed that once men
began claiming land to be their own, they became irrational and greedy and thus
began using violence to take land from others. Thus, the state of nature
shifted away from equality and peace; to a state of war like the one Hobbes
envisioned in the Leviathan.


Rousseau clearly emphasis his ideas on inequality when
saying “you forget that the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and
the earth itself to nobody!” (Rousseau, 2004) Rousseau saw property as being
the beginning of an unequal society, the claiming of worlds resources as
property for individuals meant that humans became far greedier. Rousseau,
unlike Locke, highlighted inequality in other stages of life, he focused on
natural inequalities such as “age, health, bodily strength, and the qualities
of the mind, or of the soul” (Rousseau,2004) for Rousseau these natural
inequalities accumulated no significant impact. However, he saw the moral and
political inequalities which were authorised by the signing of a social contract
to being harmful. He states that “This species of inequality consists in the
different privileges, which some men enjoy, to the prejudice of others, such as
that of being richer, more honoured, more powerful, and even that of exacting
obedience from them” (Rousseau, 2004) Rousseau here highlights the different
types of inequality and even the consequences of such inequality. “Obedience
from them” Rousseau creates the link between inequality and slavery.


Both theorists believed that inequality led to the
destruction of the natural rights such as freedom and liberty, they both saw
inequality as detrimental for those lower down in society. As Fredrick
Neuhouser points out Rousseau emphasis that 
“especially of the first passage’s claim that “slavery and
misery” are the principal effects of social inequality.1 The first point is that Rousseau’s critique of inequality, above
all of economic inequality, focuses on its pernicious consequences for
human beings.” (Neuhouser, 2015) here Neuhouser highlights that Rousseau saw
social inequality as being responsible for slavery and other types of
alienating acts within humanity. The accumulation of wealth through seizing of
property results in overly powerful individuals, these individuals then exploit
the labours of the less wealthy within society. Inequality for Rousseau was the
cause of many injustices within society which did not exist in the primitive
state. Rousseau saw inequality as damaging; “social inequality is ethically
problematic primarily because of its tendency to hinder the achievement of two
essential human goods, well-being – including happiness and the
satisfaction of true needs – and freedom” (Neuhouser, 2015) as Neuhouser
points out, Rousseau believed that inequality hindered human happiness and
freedom because “every form of human dependence carries with it the danger that
dependent individuals will have to compromise their freedom in order to satisfy
the needs that impel them to cooperate with others.” Similarly, to Karl Marx in the communist manifesto, the theory
of the proletariat and bourgeoise was one Rousseau touched on, the individuals
with lower wealth would always be dependant on those whom own all property as
they give them a means to use their labour through work. However, as Marx
emphasised, this inequality in wealth leads to the alienation of individuals
and overall misery of those less wealthier humans. 


To conclude, John Locke believed that property
was a natural right and existed in the state of nature, whereas Rousseau
believed that property only became prevalent in the creation of a civic
society. However, although the theorists disagreed on this notion. They both
had similar ideas on the disadvantages private property led to, such as
inequality. Both Locke and Rousseau highlighted how the accumulation of unequal
distribution of wealth through seizing of property, led to issues such as
slavery. They both agreed that, the state of nature was a far more rational and
just state compared to society. For Locke, his focus was on the inequality of
wealth. Rousseau however ensured to point out the inequalities of wealth,
power, and status within society. He believed these created a way for slavery
and human misery and thus the loss in human happiness and freedom. 


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