Sample Term Paper on Rousseau and Marx

Question 1:

The purpose of the of Rousseau’s theory is to look at the basis of inequality amongst men, and to establish whether this inequality is approved by the rule of nature. Rousseau tries to illustrate that present ethical inequality, which is formed by a concurrence between men, is aberrant and disparate to the exact nature of human being. In order to assess natural law, Rousseau asserts that it is essential to reflect on human nature and to map how that nature has changed over the years to produce current man and contemporary society (Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Cress, and Wootton 16). To achieve this, he begins in the fantasy state of nature, a circumstance prior to development of society and reason. While disregarding the Biblical version of human creation and growth, Rousseau tries to make a presumption on how man in this condition would be like. He observes man’s physical and psychological features, and discovers that he is like other animals, motivated by pity and self-maintenance. The only genuine trait that detaches him from other animals is his perfectibility, a feature that is extensively important in the development.

Human being in the state of nature has minimized necessities, no thought of good and evil, and little interaction with fellow humans. The state of nascent man was simple and his first point of concern was his self-preservation (Rousseau, et al., 18). Apart from food, rest and sex man had less needs and hardly dreamt of developing or profiting from Nature. Nonetheless, challenges started to emerge and Man had to become responsive, run, struggle and rise above the impediments of Nature. Difficulties proliferated as man spread and different environments created diverse lifestyles. When man learnt to hunt other animals, he started to deem himself superlative among species and this marked the beginning of pride in human being. Savage man was introverted, but progressively began to notice similarities connecting him and others. Although he lacked refined language, Man was in a position to judge when he should collaborate with others. The first development became more rapid and Men discovered tools, and how to construct huts. This was the primary “revolution,” which led to the institution of families and a sort of assets (Rousseau, et al., 19).

Matrimonial love resulted from families staying together and each family unit was similar to a small society. Women developed into being sedentary and remained at home whereas their husband scavenged. The sedentary persons turn out to be less able to defend themselves against wild creatures, but better at collaborating to fight them. Men enjoyed a profusion of leisure in this fresh condition. They obtained fresh conveniences that destabilized their bodies and brains, and which later became needs. Men were not happy to acquire these needs, but equally discontented to lose them. Various natural calamities made language more and more necessary.

Nonetheless, man does not stay unchanged and the quality of perfectability is what enables human beings to change with time. In accordance with Rousseau it becomes essential the moment a secluded individual is compelled to adapt to his surroundings (Rousseau, et al., 20). When natural calamities force people to shift from one place to another, interact with other people, and create small groups or simple societies, fresh needs are generated, and men start to clear away from the state of nature toward something entirely different. Natural disasters are vital in the developmental process that Rousseau illustrates.

Man began to spread all over the planet, to apply language, and to settle in various habitats since they were driven there by tremors and tidal waves. As Human beings interacted more often, small groups or communities starts to shape. The human mind starts to develop, and as man turns to be more conscious of others, he develops a chain of fresh needs. The surfacing of reason and civilization are interrelated, but the method by which they develop is a negative one (Rousseau, et al., 21). When men start to stay in groups, compassion and self-preservation are substituted by amour propre, which impels men to evaluate themselves to others, and the need to control others so as to be contented. Rousseau indicates that as people have more contact with one another and small groupings begin to shape, the human brain develops verbal communication, which sequentially leads to the configuration of reason. Life in the group state also leads to the formation of a new, negative stimulating principle for human behaviors. Rousseau describes this principle as amour propre, and it stimulates men to contrast themselves to others (Rousseau, et al., 22). This force toward comparison to others is not derived only from the need to self-preservation. Instead, comparison motivates men to seek power over their fellow human beings as a method of enhancing their individual contentment.

The discovery of possessions and the division of work mark the beginning of ethical inequality. Possessions allows for the dominance and mistreatment of the poor by the wealthy people (Rousseau, et al., 25). Primarily, however, interactions between rich and poor are risky and unstable, resulting to an aggressive state of war. While trying to flee from this war, the rich trick the underprivileged into forming a political civilization. The poor are convinced that the political society will secure their liberty and security, but actually it only repairs the relations of dominance that were in existence and enacting laws to ascertain inequality.

Currently inequality is essentially unconnected to man’s original nature and physical inequality is substituted by ethical inequality (Rousseau, et al., 26). Changes also take place in the human brain that parallel the growth of instituted, ethical inequality. Collectively they generate the state of inequality that is illustrated by Rousseau. He is apparent that the growth of reason and the emergence of amour propre make men receptive to dominance by others. Without the structure of needs that control his life, or the want to control others, contemporary man would be unreceptive to the type of trick played by the wealthy class.

Rousseau’s description of the operation of humanity reflects on its different stages. Starting with the ploy played by the affluent, he perceives society as becoming increasingly unequal, until its final stage, which is autocracy, or the unfair rule of everybody by a single man. This development is not unavoidable, but it is very likely. As affluence becomes the standard by which men are evaluated, conflict and autocracy become feasible. According to Rousseau, the worst type of contemporary society is the one in which wealth is the only gauge of value (Rousseau, et al., 27).

In relation to Rousseau’s Discourse, inequality is natural only when it involves physical differences among men (Rousseau, et al., 29). Nonetheless, in contemporary societies inequality emanates from a process of human development that has tainted man’s nature and subjected him to rules and possessions, both of which sustain a new type of inequality, called moral inequality.






Question 2: What does Marx mean by the alienation of labor and how is alienation found in what he calls the fetishism of commodities?

Alienated labor is distinguished by the fact that a subject is involved in the formation of an object that is itself self-determining with regard to the manufacturer and her labor (Lawrence 31). Thus, alienated labor can be described as labor that shows itself in the outer surface of the producer and thereby forming the division among subject and object. Consequently, under capitalism the employee relates to her work as an alien object, lacking any kind of recognition with it. According to Marx the procedure of alienation is illustrated in labor and in the separation of labor (Lawrence 32). He further asserts that, labor is the active relatedness of man to nature, the formation of a new world, as well as the creation of human being. However, as private enterprise and the division of labor expand, labor loses its nature of being an illustration of man’s authority. Work and its products assume a progression separate from man, his will and his scheduling. The object created by labor, its product, now stands against it as a strange being and as a power sovereign of the producer. The outcome of labor is labor which has been personified in an object and twisted into a physical entity.

There are several fundamental methods in which the labor alienation expresses itself under capitalism. First, alienation is created because of the alien character of the merchandise itself. Marx illustrates that, a member of staff is connected to the product of his labor as to a strange object (Lawrence 33). In a sense, an employee loses something of himself in the course of producing this alienated product, as he/she does not connect with it as a consequential part of her own existence as an individual, but only as a sovereign entity distinct from herself. Consequently, Marx affirms that, worker entrusts his life into the object but now his life belongs to the object (Lawrence 34).

Secondly, labor itself is also a subject to alienation since the worker is connected in a kind of productive activity that she herself did not choose willingly, this act of  production is termed as forced labor. This means that, even though the particular employment is definitely of the well paying, the worker would still not prefer to do it if not for capitalism’s necessities in terms of obtaining money so as to make a living. Therefore, capitalism forces the worker to take part in alienated labor. The kind of work implied by private enterprise is by description external to the employee (Lawrence 35). It is a type of labor that fails to recognize the human being to a level where they deny themselves. consequently, just as the outcome of the employee’s labor seems to be strange and a sovereign entity, Marx perceives the productive action itself in the same vein, given that the product is in the end the synopsis of the production activity (Lawrence 36).

Therefore, the two features of alienated labor illustrated above are two sides of a similar coin. Marx recognizes capitalist society to be the most modern in a series of class societies that are all subject to exploitation. Even though people can critic exploitation from various moral points of view, it is not an ethical grouping for Marx but methodical one. Mistreatment has to do with the appropriation by a ruling category of an economic surplus, the misuse of that amount of the social product beyond what has become the tolerable level necessary for reproducing the work force in its present form. To be exploited does not necessarily mean to be treated unfairly, also, it does not indicate that the person is treated fairly either. In a class society, to be exploited means to be treated fairly in relation to the kind of conceptions of fairness that characterizes that specific society (Lawrence 37).

In Marx’s analysis of political wealth, commodity fetishism is the perception of the social dealings implicated in production, not as interactions between people, but as economic dealings involving money and goods swapped in market trade. Therefore, commodity fetishism converts the subjective features of economic value into objective or real things that people think have basic value (Lawrence 38).In the idea of the fetishism of commodities, which is vital to his economic study, Marx frequently applies the notion of alienation. Commodities are estranged products of the work of man, crystallized manifestations, which now control their architects. The commodity form and the value connection among the products of labor which stamps them as goods, have completely no relationship with their physical features and with the material associations arising from there. It is merely a definite relation among men, which presumes in their eyes the incredible form of a connection between things. To find a similarity, people must have alternative to the nebulous areas of the spiritual society (Lawrence 41). In that society the productions of the human mind seems independent beings gifted with life, and going into a relationship both with one another and with the humankind. Thus, it is in the world of goods, with the products of men’s toils. This is called the fetishism which connects itself to the outcomes of labor immediately when they are created as commodities. Explicitly stated the concept of alienation remained vital to Marx’s societal and economic study. In an alienated civilization, the whole state of mind of men, their perception, is to a large extent only the manifestation of the circumstances in which they find themselves (Lawrence 41). It is also an indication of the position in the production process in which they are variously situated.

Marx’s value theory is much more than a theory of price since it describes the way the social interactions between people assume material forms that then reacts to shape these social interactions. Labor takes the shape of value embodied in goods while price becomes the general expression of this value. The pursuit of wealth as an end itself controls society (Lawrence 41). Money, goods and capital represents social relations and hence become autonomous forces by dominating the society. Efforts to put forth some control over these forces via authority or the state always become entangled in the social aggressions of value. Marx alleges that commodities and cash are fetishes that stop people from discovering the truth regarding economics and society and that one group of people is exploiting the other (Lawrence 41).

Marx’s crucial finding, then, is that the “law of value” which dominates capitalist civilization, is not a timeless law of “economics”, but a concealed and masked political correlation, a variable human-power correlation (Lawrence 42). This law states that the exchange value of a product is in proportion to the standard labor time required to generate it. While assuming the law of value to be the law of productive-distributive action, inhabitants in capitalist society decline to have created the socio-historical world they live in. Therefore the concept of the fetishism of commodities converts the theoretical theory of alienation into economic language whereas translating economics into alienation. Individuals, groups, and lastly the entire society alienate their individual powers, including the power to be deliberately social to an objective, to the strange world of forces essentially beyond their control. The theory of commodity fetishism is relevant both to the perceptions of ordinary people in their everyday life and to the current economic studies.


Works Cited


Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Donald A. Cress, and David Wootton. The basic political writings. Hackett Publishing, 2012.

Simon, Lawrence H. “Karl Marx: Selected Writings.” Indiana: Hackett (1994).