KeOf all the social contract theories that have been put forth, the most influential perhaps have been John Locke’s and Thomas Hobbes’. While both are Natural Law theorists, they have completely different views of man’s state of nature. John Locke thinks of man in a natural state as a peaceful, social being while Thomas Hobbes thinks of man as an aggressive and greedy man. Both theorists also showed that man doesn’t live in a state of nature, social contracts will be formed to govern the populace. It is, however, the reasons for the formation of these social contracts that are of relevance to this essay.
I believe that neither of these theories are accurate depictions of man but Hobbes seems more practical in his theory than Locke. In a state of nature, as perceived by ALL these theories, each man will live a solitary life. Therefore, when resources are scarce and each man is trying to get the best out of the environment, there has to be a way to resolve the conflict that is bound to occur. A social contract has to be made. Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes lived in an era when wars were being waged all over Europe.
Hobbes saw Spanish Armada, 30 Years War, First & Second Bishops’ War, Scottish invasion of England, Irish Rebellion and English Civil War. It is no wonder, then, that he has such a dim view of mankind. Locke starts off by proposing, in his treatise On the Citizen that all men are born with more or less equal faculties of body and mind. There are no natural disparities so great as to give one man exclusive claim to some benefits. People, egoistic as they are, will always try to make their life as comfortable as possible. In a state of nature, it is possible for everybody to live a comfortable life in a certain society.
This, however is in the event that the natural resources are too vast to be exhausted. When resources are scarce, which was the case in Europe at Hobbes’ time, men will resort to force to get what they want. The stronger man will live the most comfortable life. This would inevitably lead to the establishment of a kratocracy. In an effort to promote peace and equality, the people will cede their power to the Leviathan, who will proclaim laws that none of the governed will have the power to go against. For this social contract to subsist, the cession of power has to be mutual between the members of the society.
In this respect, he endorses our modern view of a constitution as deriving power from the people. Any further explanation of Hobbes’ theory is pointless as far as this essay is concerned. The relevance of Hobbes’ Social Contract theory Most people wrongly get stuck at the point where life is described by Hobbes as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. I have no authority to describe what life was without a social contract as I have never known man to exist in a state of nature for long enough to study. More important to me is what man’s reaction to being in a state of nature is.
Man strives to remain peaceful and maintain equality with his fellow man. According to Hobbes, the Leviathan ought to maintain this state by punishing those who unjustly exceed the limits of their power as per the contract. A modern view of the Leviathan is the government, which will enforce the laws that the citizens (through their legislative representatives) have agreed upon (a social contract). Hobbes’ view that the Leviathan should be a monarch is, no doubt, influenced by European politics at the time, which was dominated by monarchies.
Hobbes does not argue that man is not a social animal, his argument is based on an economical point of view (self-preservation and development in the Commons). In support of the argument put forth in class, I believe that when faced with a problem that affects many people, the people will come together in an effort to solve it. Hobbes’ problem is maintenance of peace, which is essential for man to live a comfortable life, is solved by appointing an authority (the Leviathan) to ensure that this happens.
The biggest argument I could draw from the argument in class was that Hobbes saw man as unable to form any relationships with another so as to achieve a common good. This, I would like to point out, is a state of nature, which I am yet to witness. Hobbes’ biggest undoing perhaps, is his infatuation with preservation of the power of the Leviathan. He says that the Leviathan has the power to punish all who undermine its authority. Elinor Ostrom’s view What I took from Ostrom’s discussion on “Economics, the State and the Third Sector” is that we should not always look to the state as the solution to all our problems.
Furthermore, institutional diversity should be embraced because you cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution for some issues. Where land is a scarcity e. g. The People’s Republic of China, there is a much more urgent for land law than there is in such sparsely populated areas such as Chad’s rural lands. This part of Ostrom’s views I totally agree with. Furthermore, in her treatise, “Governing the commons”, she demonstrates man’s apathy to a state of nature, coming together to create a law that will govern their use of common property.
Conclusion I believe that while man in a state of nature (and otherwise) is greedy and egoistic, being a rational being, man will look for a solution to a common problem by coming together to solve it. The solution to the tragedy of commons as per Hobbes is the establishment of a Leviathan. This eliminates indecision, which is an inherent characteristic of human beings. Clans, tribes, states, empires and monarchies are all headed by a Leviathan of sorts and it is no wonder they are so successful.
Courtney from Study Moose
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