I have endeavoured to trace the origins and progress of inequality, and the institution and abuse of political societies, as far as these are capable of being deduced from the nature of man merely by the light of reason, and independently of those sacred dogmas which give the sanction of divine right to sovereign authority. It follows from this survey, that there is hardly any inequality in the state of nature, all the inequality which now prevails owes its strength and growth to the development of our faculties and the advance of the human mind, and becomes at last permanent and legitimate by the establishment of property and laws.
This quote is essentially a concise summation of the various concepts, which Jean Jacques Rousseau discusses in Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality among men. The discourse outlines the psychological, political and social effects that modern society has had on the evolution of human nature; it also depicts how these effects came about. Rousseau explains that human evolution and the increase of inequality between people are interconnected. His discourse results in the enlightenment of how modern people were created, whilst voicing his views regarding the inequality implemented by modern political establishments. Rousseau tries to imagine people in their once natural state, disregarding the traditional influence of biblical rationalisation.
When examining the beginning of inequality amongst people Rousseau also poses the question as to whether or not this present inequality, is in fact inevitable and permissible by natural law. Basically, natural law is a set of laws given by God for man's preservation. These laws decide what is right, and the way things have to be for all people. The issue that the Discourse attempts to answer is if inequality is in fact authorised by natural law. That is, whether differences between people are naturally occuring and positive things.