Get the answer of: How is Marx Indebted to Rousseau?
In recent years, scholars have started to investigate the importance of Rousseau and have found that Marx is indebted to Rousseau in many respects. The thought- provoking work has been published by the renowned Italian Marxist Lucio Colletti.
His From Rousseau to Lenin has recharged our interest about Rousseau in the sense that Rousseau foretold many revolutionary ideas which are found in Marx’s writings. Here we quote few words from Colletti’s book – “Revolutionary political theory, as it has developed since Rousseau, is already foreshadowed and contained in the Social Contract”, or to be more explicit, that so far as political theory in the strict sense is concerned, Marx and Lenin have added nothing to Rousseau except for the analysis of the “economic bases for the withering away of the state”. This assessment of Colletti—though an exaggerated one—is very important.
Lucio Colletti says that how Marx is indebted to Rousseau is to be explained by Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Rights. Here Marx speaks of dissolution of the state and, at the same time, the dissolution of civil society.
The purpose of Rousseau’s social contract was to dissolve the state. It is because the civilized state, a product of arts and sciences, is responsible for the moral degeneration and alienation of people from the mainstream of society. Rousseau wanted to replace the perverted state by a right, moral and ethical political organisation.
In Rousseau’s judgment the new state produced by the social contract shall be the right and most desirable state. Marx has said that the proletariat—through class struggle and revolution—will set up a new state which will be called a proletariat state. Colletti believes that Rousseau’s just state and Marx’s proletarian state have almost similar features.
In Book I, Chapter IX Rousseau makes certain observations which are indicative of the idea that he foreshadowed Marx.
The caption of the chapter is Real Property.
We want to quote certain observations of Rousseau:
1. “The state is the master of all their goods by the social contract, which within the state is the basis of all rights.” In Marxian sense the state is the owner of all property or natural resources and, naturally, these are to be used for the benefit of all members of the body politic.
2. Every man has naturally a right to everything he needs; but the positive act which makes him proprietor of one thing excludes him from everything else… he can have no further right against the community.
3. In his A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality he said “I have endeavoured to trace the origin and progress of inequality. ….It follows from this survey that, as there is hardly any inequality in the state of nature, all the inequality which now prevails own its strength and growth to the development of our faculties and the advance of human mind, and becomes at last permanent and legitimate by the establishment of property and laws”.
4. Since it is plainly contrary to the law of nature that children should command old men, fools wise men, and that the privileged few should gorge themselves with superfluities, while the starving multitude are in want of the bare necessities of life
All the above observations of Rousseau amply prove that Rousseau had a soft corner about the non-privileged section of the society. It is true that, like Marx and Engels, he did not systematically and scientifically state everything.
This may be his shortcoming. But it is undeniable that he clearly understood the miserable condition of the have-nots section of the civil society. Marx is also indebted to Rousseau for the concept of alienation.