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Ensaios-->THE ROLE OF HISTORICAL PROGRESS IN THE IDEAS OF ROUSSEAU/MAR -- 23/08/2017 - 07:02 (Paccelli José Maracci Zahler) Siga o Autor Destaque este autor Destaque este Texto Envie Outros Textos



By Paccelli Zahler


As we have seen in this course, Kant, like Plato, said that we have the world divided in two sides: the Phenomenal and the Noumenal. The first one we know by our senses, we can measure it; the second one, is that side that we feel, that we have intuition, where our faith is. For Kant, both can coexist.

On the other hand, for Rousseau and Marx, if we lIve in the Phenomenal side of the world, we have to search solution in it. Both show us some paths to understand and get a solution for the crises of their times.


Rousseau, in his Discourse on Arts and Sciences [1], said that both disguise our oppression, make us love our slavery and promote tyranny and inequality, because they create new needs and new forms of dependence. And that is a form of degradation, not progress. So, people became worried with luxury, they try to be someone they are not and this is a form of dishonesty.

For Rousseau, the society is ill and the cure is to use learned men to institute political change, bringing power and education to the people [2].

In his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality [3], Rousseau analyse the origins of political society and the origin of the state. For him, prior to reason, there are the interest in self-preservation and the natural repugnance at seeing another creature suffer. The instinct of pity, that preceeds reflection, occurs in nature, but becomes perverted by society because of its inequality. For instance, if we have more stuff, we feel superior seeing other people who suffer[2]. This occurs, in his opinion, because, in the state of nature, we are all not the same, but we do not compare ourselves to one other. In society, we have properties, so, we compare ourselves with others.

In this inequality, emerges the state. For Rousseau, the state is a product of the wealthy and a way to the rich convince the poor to defend their properties and protect them via political arrangements.


Karl Marx wrote about economic injustice. For him, the more you produce, the more impoverished you are as worker and that situation produces a sense of alienation [4].

For Marx: “The alienation of the worker in his product, means not only that his labor becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that becomes a power on its own, confronting him. It means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien”[5]. He claims that “the object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man’s species-life” and that the work has become a contradiction.

Marx was a follower of Hegel’s ideas and Hegel said that there is “only one world, the historical world where truth is made and happens” and “reason is the substance of the universe”.

On the Communist Manifesto[6], written with Engels, both claims that “history does not allow contradictions to stay forever”. So, a revolution has to happen.


We could see that both, Rousseau and Marx, pointed some problems that persists in our society (inequalities, alienation, objectification of man).

It is interesting that, in the XX Century, Carl Jung[7], that: “as more scientific knowledge grows, reduces the degree of humanization of our world. The man feels isolated of the Cosmos because he lost his unconscious emotional identification with the natural phenomena”. And he adds: “Our lives are now dominated by one goddess, the Reason, which is our major and tragic illusion. And is with its help that we believe to have conquer the nature.”

Until now, our relations with the phenomenal world remains unsolved. We have some advances since Rousseau and Marx, but we are far to have a just society.


[1]. ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques. Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. Translated by Ian Johnston. Published by eBooks@Adelaide. December, 17, 2014.

[2]. The Modern and Post-Modern (Part 1). Week 2. Wesleyan University/Coursera.

[3]. ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques. A Discourse Upon the Origin and the Foundation of the Inequality Among Mankind. EBook, Project Gutenberg, 2004.

[4]. The Modern and Post-Modern (Part 1). Week 3. Wesleyan University/Coursera.

[5]. MARX, Karl. Estranged Labour. Economic and Philosophical Manuscrips, 1844. Available at:

[6].MARX, Karl and ENGELS, Friedrich. The Communist Manifesto.

[7]. JUNG, Carl et alli. O homem e seus símbolos [Man and His Symbols]. 2nd edition, Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, 2008.



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