I've debated this issue at some length with anarchists (I hate anarchists, over dramatic whiny little...), humans are fundamentally a social animal. We instinctively seek out companionship and typically form hierarchy based on either merit or some kind of force. Essentially no matter what happens, as long as their are three people on earth they'll have some sort of social structure going.
A noble savage is a literary stock character who embodies the concept of an idealized indigene, outsider, or "other" who has not been "corrupted" by civilization, and therefore symbolizes humanity's innate goodness.
The idea that humans are essentially good is often attributed to the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, a Whig supporter of constitutional monarchy. In his Inquiry Concerning Virtue (1699), Shaftesbury had postulated that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate and based on feelings, rather than resulting from the indoctrination of a particular religion.
The locus classicus of the 18th-century portrayal of the American Indian are the famous lines from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man" (1734):
Lo, the poor Indian! Whose untutor'd mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul proud Science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or milky way;
Yet simple Nature to his hope has giv'n,
Behind the cloud-topp'd hill, a humbler heav'n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd,
Some happier island in the wat'ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold!
To be, contents his natural desire;
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire:
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
For Rousseau, man's good lay in departing from his "natural" state – but not too much; "perfectability" up to a certain point was desirable, though beyond that point an evil. Not its infancy but its jeunesse [youth] was the best age of the human race. The distinction may seem to us slight enough; but in the mid-eighteenth century it amounted to an abandonment of the stronghold of the primitivistic position. Nor was this the whole of the difference. As compared with the then-conventional pictures of the savage state, Rousseau's account even of this third stage is far less idyllic; and it is so because of his fundamentally unfavorable view of human nature quâ human. . . His savages are quite unlike Dryden's Indians: "Guiltless men, that danced away their time, / Fresh as the groves and happy as their clime – " or Mrs. Aphra Behn's natives of Surinam, who represented an absolute idea of the first state of innocence, "before men knew how to sin." The men in Rousseau's "nascent society" already had 'bien des querelles et des combats [many quarrels and fights]'; l'amour propre was already manifest in them and slights or affronts were consequently visited with vengeances terrible.
For Rousseau the remedy was not in going back to the primitive but in reorganizing society on the basis of a properly drawn up social compact, so as to "draw from the very evil from which we suffer [i.E., civilization and progress] the remedy which shall cure it."