Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Timeless Rousseau

Preparing for a lecture on Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and I was struck by the following passage. I don't think a better passage could capture the feeling of the Occupy WallStreet movement than Rousseau's condemnation of his own time:

Like the statute of Glacus, which was so disfigured by time, seas, and tempests, that it looked more like a wild beast than a god, the human soul, altered in society by a thousand causes perpetually recurring, by the acquisition of a multitude of truths and errors, by the changes happening to the constitution of the body, and by the continual jarring of the passions, has, so to speak, changed in appearance, so as to be hardly recognizable.

Below is my "theme song" video to introduce Rousseau to my students. Rousseau's ideas influenced the French Revolution, but they are also just as relevant as a critique of the culture and people living in today's capitalist societies:


And now fastforward 200+ years: