Force, Morality and Rights in Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's Social Contract Theories

Force, Morality and Rights in Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's Social Contract Theories

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Force, Morality and Rights in Thomas Hobbes and John Locke's Social Contract Theories

Throughout history, the effects of the unequal distribution of power and justice within societies have become apparent through the failure of governments, resulting in the creation of theories regarding ways to balance the amount of power given and the way in which justice is enforced. Due to this need for change, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke created two separate theories in which the concept of a social contract is used to determine the ways in which a government can govern without forfeiting justice. In this essay, the relationship between force, morality, and rights within both theories will be investigated in order to determine the most beneficial format for society based on the ideas of the natural condition of mankind, the rights of the government, and the rights of the governed. Through this examination of ideas, a conclusion may be made concerning the ideal form of government to preside over society today.

In his famous writing, “The Leviathan”, Thomas Hobbes explains that the natural condition of mankind is when a society lives together without the rule of a common authority or power; this creates a “dog-eat-dog” world in which the citizens live in a perpetual state of utter chaos and fear. The fears experienced by the citizens are not only of the unequal distribution of the power of others, but also fear of the loss of their own power. In Hobbes’ state of nature there is complete liberty for society in the idea that each member may do whatever he or she pleases without having to worry about infringing upon the rights of the rest of society; in other words, one is allowed to do whatever necessary to pursue their own happiness. Ho...


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...ract to which they consented to obey, and hence, subject to his punishment. On the other hand, in Locke’s theory, the government has no sovereignty of its own; consequently, the commonwealth has the right to dissolve the power of the government if it is not working to protect its rights.

The form of government proposed in the theory outlined by John Locke is much less restrictive on the rights of the commonwealth than the theory described by Hobbes, while at the same time providing equal guarantees of protection. Therefore, society today would undoubtedly function best under the ideas of Locke given that we live in a world where freedom is not only expected, but demanded. The absence of freedom, as described by Hobbes, would only create greater struggles for power resulting in the transition of mankind back into the state of nature which we so wish to escape.

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