Foundations of Modern Social Thought: Hobbes vs. Locke

Pages: 4 (1427 words) Published: October 10, 2013
Roberto Lescrauwaet
Foundations of Modern Social Thought

3/ Hobbes believed we need a strong and clearly identified sovereign. Locke’s main concern was with the need to limit the powers of the power-holders. Compare the two theorists. What is your view? Do we need a strong state, or rather we should aim at making sure those in public office do not abuse their power, but make the state as small as possible?

Thomas Hobbes was a man burdened with fear. During the political turmoil in the English Civil Wars, Hobbes started to see a necessity for an absolute monarchy. Given the context of his writings, it is understandable to see the nature of Hobbes’s writing. John Locke on the other hand backed the ousting of the unpopular King James II, and advocated the institution of a constitutional monarchy. In both cases the effect of the context in which the writers were immersed affected their arguments and beliefs.

To understand Hobbes’s theory for the need of an absolute monarchy, the human state of nature has to be explained. "I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restlesse desire for Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death." 1For Hobbes, our “appetites” or our “aversions” determine our nature, given that resources are limited and we are all equal, in a “State of Nature” were there is no common power to subdue the people’s wills, men will become enemies, “and in the way to their End will endeavor to destroy, or subdue one another.” 2Given our inability to escape this “State of Nature” an absolute monarchy, where a single man autocratically dominates the people under a common law, is needed. Locke starts from a different premise. There is no limit on resources. “As much Land as a Man Tills, Plants, Improves, Cultivates, and can use the Product: of, so much is his Property.”3The entirety of Hobbes’s argument collapses because in a world without scarcity, all men can obtain any resource they need, without competing with the...
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