Comparison And Contrast Between Two Political Thinkers: Thomas Hobbes And John Locke

3788 words - 16 pages

Comparison and Contrast Between Two Political Thinkers: Thomas Hobbes and John Locke


The Social Contract theory which dominated the European political thought in the eighteen century has played a very important part in the development of the modern political theory and practice. Being the most important of all the speculative theories, it came into being as a result of reaction against the theory of the Divine Origin. This theory was the first to denounce the influence of the church in the state affairs, provided an explanation for the origin of the state and shows the relationship between those who governs and those who are governed. Thomas Hobbes and John ...view middle of the document...

Hobbes and Locke follow methodological individualism, deriving the “public” sphere from the “private” sphere of individuals. Based on experience in the English Civil War, Hobbes argued that freed from state restrictions, power-seeking individuals invade each other’s property, implying aware of each against all, in which “peace” is preparation for further conflict. This Hobbesian “state of nature” reflects the human nature he posited. Examples include Beirut (1989), Bosnia (1995), and the world absent a hegemonic power or a world state. To avoid their destruction, people must agree to be dominated by a permanent, unified, and despotic sovereign, organized as a state no matter whom or what it might be. All individual rights are granted by that state. As Locke suggests, Hobbes did not solve his stated problem. Since the sovereign seeks power, the wrong kind of sovereign can arise, as with Hitler, creating war against its subjects. Facing government that rebels against its people, Locke justified revolt, as with the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Rather than rejecting the need for a unified sovereign, to Locke the state’s organizing force- the government must be subordinated to the governed. Locke did not see revolution as automatically provoking Hobbesian havoc, since he assumed a consensus based on “natural” property rights. In effect, sovereignty is vested in the property-owning class as a whole. His contract gives this class freedom to control resources without state-enforced responsibility to society, assuming that individual ownership produces benefits that trickle down to nonowners. Both of them were advocates of the social contract system, but they were influenced by their surrounding and contemporary events. The American constitution is hugely influenced by the philosophy of John Locke as it includes Natural Rights (Life, Liberty, Property), All People are born Free and Equal, Purpose of Government is to Protect the Rights’ of People, People have the right to rebel against unjust rulers; the question may arise, what would happen if the US constitution was influenced by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.

Similarities and Differences between Locke’s and Hobbes Social Contract Theory

In the 1600’s the political situation of England was being threatened by the constant changes in political powers. Throughout this period two philosophers, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, argued the reasons and purposes of government and began to establish different theories for the Social Contract known as the Commonwealth. Part of their main argument, was the need of government and how government should be stated.

The State of Nature
The State of Nature, as is conceived by both philosophers, the state in which all
men naturally exist, the time before any government or commonwealth is created or convened. According to the Hobbesian argument, the State of Nature is an amoral state, where there are no moral or ethic values. There are no laws in this state...

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