Discourse on Inequality (1755)

Discourse on Inequality is one of the most powerful critiques of modernity ever written. Rousseau traces the psychological and political effects of modern society on human nature and demonstrates that human evolution and the development of inequality between men are closely related. The result is both a sweeping explanation of how modern man was created and a sharp criticism of unequal modern political institutions.

The Social Contract (1762)

The Social Contract was written and published in 1762 with the title On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Right (Du contrat social; ou, Principes du droit politique). With the famous phrase, “man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” Rousseau asserts that modern states repress the physical freedom that is our birthright. Rousseau’s principal aim in The Social Contract is to determine how freedom may be possible in civil society. After its publication, Rousseau had to flee France and the book was quickly banned. However, it was what he wrote about religion rather than the book’s main thrust about freedom and liberty that had landed the philosopher in hot water with the French authorities.

Popular pages: Selected Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau