Gesprächsleitung: Dr. Mischa Gabowitsch, Potsdam
Rousseau wrote his essay on the origins of social inequality in 1755 in response to a public essay contest on the topic. Why, in Ancien Régime France, was this question even being asked? Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality cannot be understood except in the context of indigenous critiques of European society—especially American ones—that were taken very seriously in many quarters in Europe itself. In some cases we know the names of the specific individuals responsible (e.g. the Huron statesman Kandiaronk). Ideals of “progress” were developed largely in response to that critique, and by synthesizing the two strands Rousseau essentially invented what we now call “the Left.”
David Graeber is one of the the most influential thinkers in the world today. Among many other topics, he has written about rural Madagascar, the theory of value, anarchism and communism, inequality, work, and art. His numerous books include Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011), The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015), and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018).