Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essay

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Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed theories on human nature and how men govern themselves. With the passing of time, political views on the philosophy of government gradually changed. Despite their differences, Hobbes and Rousseau, both became two of the most influential political theorists in the world. Their ideas and philosophies spread all over the world influencing the creation of many new governments. These theorists all recognize that people develop a social contract within their society, but have differing views on what exactly the social contract is and how it is established. By way of the differing versions of the social contract Hobbes and Rousseau agreed that certain freedoms had been surrendered for a society’s protection and emphasizing the government’s definite responsibilities to its citizens.

     Each political theorist agrees that before men came to govern themselves, they all existed in a state of nature. The state of nature is the condition men were in before political government came into existence, and what society would be if there was no government. In relation to this the two theorists raised as much praise as criticism for their famous masterpieces.      

     Hobbes and Rousseau created a revolutionary idea of the state of nature. They did not believe government should be organized through the church, therefore abandoning the idea of the divine right theory, where power of the king came directly from God. Starting from a clean slate, with no organized church, Hobbes and Rousseau needed a construct on what to build society on. The foundation of society began with the original state of nature. Hobbes’ perception of the original state of nature is what would exist if there were no common power to execute and enforce the laws to restrain individuals. In this case, the laws of the jungle would prevail: only the fittest survive. Man’s desires are insatiable. Since resources are scarce, humankind is naturally competitive, inevitably creating jealousy and hatred, which eventually leads to war.

     The constant state of war is what Hobbes believes to be man’s original state of nature. According to Hobbes, man cannot be trusted in the state of nature. War among men is consequent and nothing can be unjust. Notions of justice and injustice or right and wrong will not hav...


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...ons on what kind of government should prevail within a society in order for it to function properly. Each dismissed the divine right theory and needed to start from a clean slate. The two authors agree that before men came to govern themselves, they all existed in a state of nature, which lacked society and structure. In addition, the two political philosophers developed differing versions of the social contract. In Hobbes’ system, the people did little more than choose who would have absolute rule over them. This is a system that can only be derived from a place where no system exists at all. It is the lesser of two evils. People under this state have no participation in the decision making process, only to obey what is decided. While not perfect, the Rousseau state allows for the people under the state to participate in the decision making process. Rousseau’s idea of government is more of a utopian idea and not really executable in the real world. Neither state, however, describes what a government or sovereign should expect from its citizens or members, but both agree on the notion that certain freedoms must be surrendered in order to improve the way of life for all humankind.

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