Act: Inspiration

AMLO, Rousseau, and Social Power

May 16, 2022

Ed. note. This piece was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada, on April 19, 2022. It has been translated into English by Jane K. Brundage on her website, Voices of Mother Earth.

Without a doubt, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is winning the war. The multiple battles of varying magnitude, their contradictions and chiaroscuros, and even their inconsistencies, are one dynamic, but another is the social process that he has unleashed down below in just three years.

Beneath what is debated, written and discussed in the political and communication media, beyond the perception of the elites, a phenomenon continues to advance in which millions are becoming aware of their exploited situation and the destruction of their means of life (water, air, food, health, environmental services). Tycoons, banks, corporations are appearing to the people as the true cause of their misery, and in their minds the idea arises that only by eliminating them will liberation be achieved, the recovery of their human dignity.

Every day more Mexicans discover that what we are experiencing today, not only in the country but on the entire planet, is a colossal battle between life and death. In short, social power keeps moving forward!

Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies a handful of individuals and corporations immorally holding the gigantic fortunes they possess. In equal measure, they are parasites that exploit human labor power and predators that squander the forces of nature. They are to blame for humanity heading toward collapse. The data are overwhelming:

12 percent of humanity owns 85 percent of the wealth (Credit Suisse).

But inequality cannot be considered something natural, since it is not determined by genes or by biological evolution.

We owe Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his work The Social Contract, published in 1762, for the first attempt to explain how inequality arose with the increase in social complexity. This complexity caused individuals to stop dedicating themselves solely to their survival in order to take on egomania — the desire to be superior to others and to be admired by others. Soon the families of the egomaniacs expanded and imposed on the rest of society a social contract that institutionalized inequality and domination through moral justification, which today reaches its highest expression.

Rousseau built his theoretical framework from what little was known in Europe about savage peoples. His idea of ​​the natural being was derived from anecdotes told by travelers who had contact with traditional or original peoples of Africa, Mexico, Peru, Chile and the West Indies. Two hundred fifty years later, two scientists from the University of Michigan, Kent V. Flannery and Joyce Markus, published a treatise of more than 600 pages describing — using data from archeology and anthropology — all that Rousseau did not achieve using the knowledge of his age.

The Creation of Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2012) uncovers the rise of monarchies, slavery, and empires some 4,500 years ago. Before that date, human beings lived in egalitarian societies for about two hundred ninety-five thousand years! By rigorously counterpointing past and present, Flannery and Markus have made a seminal contribution to the origins of inequality. Their contributions are connected to what was done by Thomas Piketty and 100 other researchers from the Inequality Laboratory in France, who have shown that today we live at the height of inequality and the concentration of wealth[1].

Humanity will only be saved by challenging and bringing down the social contract that today dominates the political ideology of the masses, and this will only be achieved through awareness and social or collective empowerment beyond the State and the market. Meanwhile, we are nothing but a species of primate in which a handful of males dominate the rest. Modern, industrial, capitalist and technocratic society recreates chimpanzee (or baboon) societies where alpha and beta males impose their dominance over other males and over the females of their troop (promiscuity). The 10 richest men in the world (Musk, Bezos, Arnault, Gates, Buffett, Page, Brin, Ellison, Ballmer and Ambani) control 1.5 trillion dollars, and in Mexico the families of the eight biggest tycoons (Slim, Larrea, Salinas-Pliego, Bailleres, Del Valle, Hank-Rhon, Hernández and Vigil) possess a fortune of 131 billion dollars.

With his first concern and his entire social policy focused on the poor, AMLO is empowering those below (and outside), where the values of traditional peoples (country and indigenous people, peasants) create a powerful sounding board for greatly expanding the revolution of conscience. AMLO is winning the war.

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[1] We Are Experiencing the Greatest Social Inequality In History, Victor M Toledo in La Jornada, February 8, 2022;

Also see In Times of Climate Crisis, the Future Is A Territory To DefendIndigenous Futures Network, 15-15-15.orgJune 14, 2021.

Why Humanity Finds Itself In A State of Emergency, Victor M. Toledo in La Jornada, January 25, 2022.

My Manifesto: Toward a Politics for LifeVictor M. Toledo, posted first in English in The Esperanza Project; originally published in Spanish in la Revista de la Universidad Iberoamericana, IBERO 66: 16-19, febrero del 2020.


Teaser photo credit: Rousseau (1755), Discourse on Inequality, Holland, frontispiece and title page. By The original uploader was Polmars at French Wikipedia. – Transferred from fr.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

Victor M. Toledo

Víctor M. Toledo, research scientist at the Institute for Ecosystem and Sustainability Research (Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad), Morelia Campus UNAM, is a Mexican biologist with PhD from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Dr. Toledo has combined his scientific training with studies in economic policies, agrarian cultures and rural sociology. An expert in ethnoecology (the cross-cultural study of how people perceive and manipulate their environments), his studies and theoretical contributions regarding the relations between indigenous cultures and the natural world are recognized internationally. Dr. Toledo served as head of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in the administration of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from May 2019 to September 2020. See also: Victor M. Toledo, Biologist, Ethnoecologist: "Passionate for Life".

Tags: inequality, mexico, social contract, social power, web of life