The relationship between the individual and the community.

In the early 18th century, the social contract theory dominated European politics. This notion also served as a foundation for the evolution of modern political concepts and practices. It includes the evolution of laws as well as countries. It also focuses on the impact of nations on individuals. The social contract hypothesis has several forms, all of which address the question of individual safety (Rousseau 46). To achieve the necessary level of individual security, a joint agreement is required. This mutual agreement transforms the human sphere from an unstructured condition to an organized society. The theory came into being when people reacted against the theory of Divine Origin. The chief exponents of the Contract Theory are John Locke, Thomas Hobbes as well as Rousseau. This paper intends to compare and contrast the main features of the Social Contract Theory as described by the above philosophers.

The state of nature

In regard to the state of nature, Thomas Hobbes asserts that a man is the enemy of another man. He argues that in a society where anarchy is practiced, people will only do what serves their personal interests (Hobbes 54). He describes the state of nature as a battle of all against all. A society characterized by moral decay and violence making people live in fear. Individuals are frightened that death may catch up with them any time as a result of violence. Freedom does not encompass living in fear, therefore, individual’s resolves to end violence. However, when a person gives up violence but the neighbors do not, individual safety is not certain. A leader, referred to as Leviathan by Hobbes, is installed to maintain law and order. He may be required to use force as long as the will of the majority is served.

John Locke is of the view that in a natural state, humans exist in ultimate independence. He goes on to explain that the natural state is neither ethically right nor immoral but very disorderly (Hobbes 56). To reduce the level of disorganization, people resolve to walk out on their freedoms in order to normalize life. The community asserts the power to the rulers and the most vital role the government has to its people is enhance their safety. Therefore, if the government is unable to accomplish its task to the people, it should be dethroned. How does Rousseau perceive humans in the natural state?

Rousseau views man as a primitive being free from the corruption of civilization. He argues that in a natural state, people will cooperate rather than fight (Rousseau 48). However, man has been corrupted through civilization. He has experienced violence fueled by politics. Rousseau believes that the role of the government is to enhance peace and harmony among its people. He explains that democracy is what the majority of the society desires and the government should strive to achieve what is desired by the society.

The difference between the theorist’s interpretations on the state of nature.

Hobbes has a pessimistic opinion regarding nature of man. According to him, man must be protected from another man by the state and where necessary using force (Rousseau 50). He also believes that people should not be represented by the government since the sole role of the government is to ensure people’s safety. Locke, on the other hand, is confident that people have the capability to live in harmony with one another. He asserts that people are entitled to good representation by the government otherwise they have a responsibility to overthrow a failed government. Rousseau calls for a political process that engages public participation and not dominated by the state

In 1600, England was experiencing drastic changes in the political realm. It was during this period that philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau reasoned the role of the government (Rousseau 50). They, therefore, established different schools of thought for the social contract referred to as the Common Wealth. Their major argument was relating to the necessity of government as well as how administration ought to be stated.

The law of nature

A great difference is observed between Hobbesian and Lockean opinion regarding the existence of the law of nature in the state of nature. According to Hobbes, people are free to do what they wish. Locke, on the other hand, believes that people can do what they wish so long as the action is within the law of nature. Hobbes believes that sovereignty over people is required for conservation of man (Hobbes 58). This means that people have to conquer others to safeguard their interests. Locke, on the other side, believes in respecting other people’s life and independence. Despite the two philosophers concurring on the issue of self-preservation as an essential product in the State of Nature, they also have varying views regarding the common wealth. Locke believes that men bear the responsibility of enhancing conservation of mankind at large. This argument provides the basis for punishing those who transgress the human rights.

Police state and welfare state

In Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, it is crystal clear that Hobbes supports the formation of tyrannical monarchy and unlimited power of the self-governing (Hobbes 60). He argues that a person can defy the command of the ruler only if the orders threatens the life of that person. In his book “Studies in Diplomacy and State-craft”, Gooch describes Leviathan state as a required evil, an agent of coercion, not a requisite instrument of free and open-minded civilization. This counters the Lockean belief that people tend to give up the powers they had as individuals and hands it on to the community.

The existence of property in the natural state

Another significance difference is observed between Hobbes and Locke’s views regarding the state of nature. John Locke asserts that creation of commonwealth is not a requisite for obtaining property (Rousseau 52). Hobbes, on the other hand, does not believe in the existence of such a thing. Locke defines property as anything that nature provides for human use. Hobbes, on the contrary, argues that in a natural environment, there exist constant wars among people. In this society, property does not exist and neither does dominion. This argument contradicts Lockean view that individuals can acquire the property in the natural state and associates this with the necessity of a governing body to possessions in the Hobbes’ structure.

Lawmaking, executive powers and the government

The theories of the two philosophers Locke and Hobbes regarding the types of government appear similar but are very different. In the 19th chapter of the Leviathan, Hobbes provides for a monarchial government whereby all powers are bestowed upon a single individual, democracy where the community is represented by the congress, or aristocracy when only a portion of the society is the representative. Hobbes goes on to explain that in the event people becomes dissatisfied with the governing body, the names of the three forms of government changes altogether (Hobbes 70). The monarchial government changes to tyranny, the democratic government becomes the oligarchy while the aristocratic government becomes the anarchy correspondingly. In his book the Second Treatise, Locke also describes the three types of government with similar definitions to Hobbes except for the aristocracy which he calls an oligarchy. The only difference noted between the two theories is where Hobbes affirms that sovereign powers must be handed to of the three forms of government but not to all at the same time.

Locke, on the contrary, supports mixing of powers among the three types of government. He has a preference for a law making body which he calls the legislature while the executive is mandated with the implementation of laws. The philosophers also have similar and dissimilar opinions regarding government dissolution (Rousseau 54). Hobbes compares the sovereign body to a worldly deity. He argues that sovereign resembles the society’s soul such that when the regime falls, the soul dies leading to people seeking a new sovereign for individual safety. Likewise, Locke states that the legislature acts as the soul that unites and gives life to the commonwealth. Despite the philosophers using the same language to describe the forms of government, they have varying opinions concerning peoples’ right to take back powers into their hands. While Locke believes that it can be done legitimately, Hobbes terms that process as irreversible.

External forces, for example, a dominant nation may contribute to the downfall of the government, leading people into their original state; the State of Nature where a new contraction is made. Nonetheless, all root causes of the government disbanding are unwarranted in the same manner the people retreating their backing of the self-governing. During the formation of the government people promised their support thus are bound to continue supporting the sovereign while waiting for the moment the government fails to fulfill its mandate (Hobbes 73). On the other hand, Locke allows for the internal termination of the contract to the government in a justifiable manner. He explains that the legislative powers are entrusted to it by the people therefore, the people have the supreme power to terminate the legislative.

Hobbes, Locke and International Relations

Thomas Hobbes is recognized in the field of international relations since he provides its basis on which realists base their understanding. He is famous for his description of the State of nature as the state of conflict (Rousseau 56) He perceives the state of nature between individuals to be imaginary and that the actual state of nature transpires between people of different autonomous authority. Hobbes attributes individual beings and the states. From this analogy, he associates rights of the states with people’s rights that existed before the development of the Leviathan. This explanation provided the basis for interpretation of Hobbes by the realists.

There are two ways in which the international relations theorists have incorporated Hobbes ideas in their arena. Firstly, his political theory acts an international relations model. Secondly, International Relations appear similar to the natural relationship among individuals as depicted by Hobbes as a state of war (Hobbes 85). In contrast, Locke argues that all mankind were born with equal capacities hence all knowledge is learned and molded by a person’s environment and involvements. These notions correspond to Locke’s theories such as the concept of property, states, as well as the political arena. He designates the existence of the state of nature as the everlasting condition of the universal associations.

Lee Ward asserts that Locke visualizes the foundation for worldwide standards resulting from natural law and treaties that control fights and collaboration among self-determining cultures in a far-reaching global society. Such associations and agreements are referred to as the best method for solving disputes by affirmative arrangement. As a natural philosopher and a liberal, Locke endorses two of the most consecrated doctrines of liberalism which are; equality for all and fundamental privileges.

The principle of realism affirms that social nature is inherently immoral as well as hungry for influence, Locke also believes in the existence of people depicted in the realist’s explanation of social nature (Hobbes 89). He further explains that individuals are liable to comply with natural laws, there is need to punish those who infringe the law so as to put off future defilements.


Ultimately, a vibrant differences and comparisons among three philosophers and in particular between Thomas Hobbes and John Locke have been determined in regard to the Social Contract Theory. Both Hobbes and Locke are in agreement that humans are born with equal capacities and freedom. They also assert that self-preservation is very vital for people. In respect to the differences between Locke and Hobbes, the latter argues that the natural state of humans is characterized by consistent wars and fear of violent death whereas the former believes that there is could be war in the state of nature but not always. The Lockean state upholds the Law of Nature while Hobbes does not.

Works Cited

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Print

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract, and Discourses. New York: J.M. Dent, 1913. Print.

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