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J.-J. Rousseau on Property - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 272
Property/Rousseau/Höffe: Instead of helping people to significant achievements, a “being-with-oneself”, the two interwoven basic evils of private property and the state create a threefold inequality among people and, as a result, a threefold alienation (aliénation)(1): If property - someone fences in a piece of land and declares it his own - surrounds itself with law and justice, it creates rich and poor, if an authority is added, additionally rulers and ruled, and in case of arbitrariness and tyranny, masters and slaves as well. >Civilization/Rousseau.
Höffe I 275
État civil: With the conclusion of the social contract, people leave the state of nature and enter into the (civic) civil state (état civil). On the debit side [thereby] is the loss of natural freedom with
Höffe I 276
its unlimited right to everything to which the request is directed. In return, for the loss of independence, everyone receives the freedom of a citizen with the ownership of all that one owns. According to the Partnership Contract(2), legitimate property begins historically and de facto with the possession of a piece of land, that is, with the erection of fences, as rejected by the Second Treatise(1).
Conditions: Like Locke, Rousseau ties legitimate property to three conditions:
1) The corresponding area must not already be inhabited, which tacitly makes European colonialism appear illegitimate (RousseauVsColonialism);
2) One may not take possession of more than is necessary for subsistence, which is contrary to large scale properties (RousseauVsColonialism)
3) Where legal titles are lacking, "empty ceremony" is not enough, but "work and cultivation" is needed.


1. Rousseau, Discours sur l'inégalité parmi les hommes, 1755
2. Rousseau, The Social Contract (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique, 1762, I, 8.

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Mause I 47
Property/Rousseau: According to Rousseau, the extensive homogeneity of property relations belongs to the social functional conditions of a good, republican order. The guarantee of property, which is constitutive for the existence of a republican community, is in tension with its sovereign self-determination, since not only a policy aimed at equality of property, but taxes already levied by the state "directly attack property rights and thus the true basis of political society". (1)


1. J.-J. Rousseau, Abhandlung über die Politische Ökonomie. In Politische Schriften, Hrsg. Ludwig Schmidts, Bd.  1, Paderborn 1977, S. 56.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Rousseau I
J. J. Rousseau
Les Confessions, 1765-1770, publ. 1782-1789
German Edition:
The Confessions 1953

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016

Mause I
Karsten Mause
Christian Müller
Klaus Schubert,
Politik und Wirtschaft: Ein integratives Kompendium Wiesbaden 2018


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-11-30
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