Book cover for Jean Jacques Rousseau Discourse on Inequality

                    Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Origin of Civil Society ​and Inequality 

All texts and visuals were selected and edited by to animate the following sequences of our original 90-second-short video:

  1. Rousseau Discourse on Inequality: The animated portrait of J.J. Rousseau was painted by Maurice Quentin de La Tour in 1753.
  2. Paul Gauguin primitive society: "Day of the God" shows primitive humans living free, healthy, honest and happy as seen by Paul Gauguin. The other Paul Gauguin animated painting is called "Rupe Rupe" in which wahines are gathering the fruits of the earth.
  3. When did natural liberty disappeared?:  An observer created from self-portraits ("Paul Gauguin with palette" and "Self-Portrait with Halo and Snake") morphed into a portrait of "Meijer de Haan," watches as one wahine begs for the provisions of another one. 
  4. When was private property introduced?: Background is the "Harvest, Le Pouldu" scenery painted by Paul Gauguin while the animated farmers comes from French revolution caricatures (see #5).
  5. GIF Bastille Demolition: the background shows the Bastille jail being demolished.  The animated clergy and nobility comes from "The Awakening of the Third Estate" while the farmers are titled "August 4 to 5 night or the patriotic delirium," both French revolution caricatures. All were created by anonymous artists from the 18th century. 
  6. We The People preamble: animation is based on the preamble of the US constitution.
  7. Origin of society and law: Background is a Tavern Scene by Flemish artist David Teniers c. 1658, while the animated foreground is another French revolution caricature named "the Patriotic Snack."
  8. Basis of Inequality Among Men: the background is a painting from Claude Louis Châtelet representing the Queen's Hamlet, an idyllic rustic village in Versailles inspired by Rousseau's back to nature concept. The animated foreground are French revolution caricatures named "we must hope that this game will end soon."

Who Was the Real Founder of Civil Society ?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau's story retraces the origin of society and the law, from the introduction of private property to the destruction of natural liberty.  


The soundtrack was created by mixing the national anthems of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Councils, i.e. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.

"Here’s the truth: luxury always comes at someone else’s expense. One of the many advantages of civilization is that one doesn’t generally have to see that, if one doesn’t wish" Ann Leckie

Origin of civil society and inequalities

Movie Poster for Gauguin the Full Story, evocating Paul Gauguin Primitive Society experience

Read Rousseau Discourse on Inequality

​​Other posts about Civilization :

Watch Video

Listen to We The People preamble

Rousseau Discourse on Inequality (extracts)

I conceive that there are two kinds of inequality among the human species; one, which I call natural or physical, because it is established by nature, and consists in a difference of age, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind or of the soul: and another, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it depends on a kind of convention, and is established, or at least authorized by the consent of men. This latter consists of the different privileges, which some men enjoy to the prejudice of others; such as that of being more rich, more honored, more powerful or even in a position to exact obedience. […]

When was Private Property Introduced ?

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." […]

When did Natural Liberty Disappeared ?

Before they arrived at this last point of the state of nature […] man's first feeling was that of his own existence, and his first care that of self-preservation. […] But from the moment one man began to stand in need of the help of another; from the moment it appeared advantageous to any one man to have enough provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, work became indispensable, and vast forests became smiling fields, which man had to water with the sweat of his brow, and where slavery and misery were soon seen to germinate and grow up with the crops. […]

We The People preamble

Besides, however speciously [the rich] might disguise their usurpations, they knew that they were founded on precarious and false titles; so that, if others took from them by force what they themselves had gained by force, they would have no reason to complain. […] [The rich] readily devised plausible arguments to make them close with his design. "Let us join," said he, "to guard the weak from oppression, to restrain the ambitious, and secure to every man the possession of what belongs to him: let us institute rules of justice and peace, to which all without exception may be obliged to conform." […]

Origin of Society and Law

Such was, or may well have been, the origin of society and law, which bound new fetters on the poor, and gave new powers to the rich; which irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, eternally fixed the law of property and inequality, converted clever usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all mankind to perpetual labor, slavery and wretchedness. […]
Societies soon multiplied and spread over the face of the earth, till hardly a corner of the world was left in which a man could escape the yoke, and withdraw his head from beneath the sword which he saw perpetually hanging over him by a thread. Civil right having thus become the common rule among the members of each community, the law of nature maintained its place only between different communities, where, under the name of the right of nations, it was qualified by certain tacit conventions, in order to make commerce practicable, and serve as a substitute for natural compassion. […]

Sigmund Freud: “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization" 


The soundtrack was created by mixing the national anthems of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Councils, i.e. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.


Discourse on Inequality

was written in 1754 in

response to a competition

of the Academy of Dijon,

France, that Rousseau

did not win. Rousseau sets out to

demonstrate how the

growth of civilization

corrupts man’s natural happiness and freedom by creating artificial inequalities of wealth, power and social rivilege.  

Rousseau’s political and social arguments in the Discourse were a hugely influential denunciation of the social conditions of his time and one of the most revolutionary documents of the eighteenth-century.

Watch Paul Gauguin Primitive Society 

JJ Rousseau | Origin of Civil Society and Inequalities

Biography of one of the

world's most popular yet

controversial artists.

Gauguin is best known for

his gorgeous paintings of

Tahiti in which beautiful

native girls disport

themselves enticingly on perfect South Pacific beaches. But have these celebrated portrayals of an earthly paradise been misunderstood and blinded us to the bigger truth about his achievements? The movie features a stunning collection of Gauguin's masterpieces shot in museums and galleries around the world.

​​The making of: