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Spring 2004 (20:2)

Developments in Democracy

BRIA 20:2 house | how Women won the ideal to poll | have actually Women achieved Equality? | Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and also Rousseau on Government

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Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau top top Government

Starting in the 1600s, european philosophers began debating the concern of who should govern a nation. Together the absolute preeminence of emperors weakened, enlightenment philosophers argued for different forms of democracy.

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In 1649, a civil war broke out over that would preeminence England—Parliament or King Charles I. The war finished with the beheading the the king. Soon after Charles to be executed, one English philosopher, thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), wrote Leviathan, a defense that the absolute strength of kings. The location of the book referred to a leviathan, a mythological, whale-like sea monster that devoured whole ships. Hobbes likened the leviathan to government, a powerful state produced to i charged order.

Hobbes began Leviathan by relenten the “state that nature” wherein all individuals were normally equal. Every person was totally free to do what that or she essential to execute to survive. Together a result, everyone endured from “continued fear and also danger of violent death; and also the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

In the state the nature, there were no regulations or anyone to enforce them. The only method out of this situation, Hobbes said, to be for people to produce some supreme strength to impose tranquility on everyone.

Hobbes obtained a concept from English contract law: an comprise agreement. Hobbes asserted the the people agreed amongst themselves come “lay down” their natural rights the equality and also freedom and give absolute strength to a sovereign. The sovereign, created by the people, could be a human or a group. The sovereign would make and also enforce the regulations to secure a tranquil society, making life, liberty, and property possible. Hobbes referred to as this agreement the “social contract.”

Hobbes believed that a federal government headed by a king to be the best kind that the sovereign might take. Place all power in the hands of a king would certainly mean much more resolute and also consistent practice of politics authority, Hobbes argued. Hobbes likewise maintained the the social contract to be an commitment only among the people and not in between them and their king. As soon as the people had given absolute strength to the king, they had no appropriate to revolt versus him.

Hobbes warned versus the church meddling with the king government. The feared religion could become a resource of polite war. Thus, the advised that the church end up being a department of the king’s government, i beg your pardon would carefully control all religious affairs. In any conflict between divine and royal law, Hobbes wrote, the individual need to obey the king or pick death.

But the days of absolute majesties were numbered. A new age v fresh principles was emerging—the europe Enlightenment.

Enlightenment thinkers want to enhance human problems on planet rather than worry themselves with religion and the afterlife. These thinkers valued reason, science, religious tolerance, and what they called “natural rights”—life, liberty, and also property.

Enlightenment thinkers John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, and also Jean-Jacques Rousseau all arisen theories of federal government in which some or also all the civilization would govern. This thinkers had actually a profound impact on the American and also French revolutions and also the democratic governments the they produced.

Locke: The wake up Democrat

John Locke (1632–1704) to be born shortly before the English polite War. Locke studied science and medicine in ~ Oxford University and became a professor there. He sided through the protestant Parliament versus the roman Catholic King James II in the Glorious transformation of 1685. This event lessened the strength of the king and also made parliament the significant authority in English government.

In 1690, Locke published his 2 Treatises of Government. He generally agreed through Hobbes around the brutality that the state that nature, which required a society contract to guarantee peace. Yet he disagreed v Hobbes ~ above two significant points.

First, Locke said that herbal rights such together life, liberty, and also property existed in the state of nature and could never ever be taken far or also voluntarily given up by individuals. These civil liberties were “inalienable” (impossible to surrender). Locke additionally disagreed through Hobbes around the social contract. For him, it was not just an agreement among the people, but in between them and the can be fried (preferably a king).

According come Locke, the natural rights that individuals minimal the strength of the king. The king go not hold absolute power, as Hobbes had said, yet acted just to enforce and protect the natural rights the the people. If a sovereign violated these rights, the social contract to be broken, and also the world had the right to revolt and also establish a new government. Much less than 100 years after Locke composed his 2 Treatises the Government, cutting board Jefferson offered his theory in creating the statements of Independence.

Although Locke spoke out for liberty of thought, speech, and religion, he thought property to it is in the most necessary natural right. He declared that owners might do whatever they want with their building as long as they execute not attack the civil liberties of others. Government, the said, was mainly necessary to encourage the “public good,” that is to protect property and also encourage commerce and tiny else. “Govern lightly,” Locke said.

Locke favored a representative government such as the English Parliament, which had a hereditary residence of Lords and an chosen House the Commons. But he want representatives to be only males of property and business. Consequently, just adult male residential or commercial property owners should can vote. Locke was reluctant to enable the propertyless masses of human being to get involved in government since he believed that they were unfit.

The supreme authority of government, Locke said, must reside in the law-making legislature, prefer England’s Parliament. The executive, management (prime minister) and also courts would be innovations of the legislature and under that is authority.

Montesquieu: The well balanced Democrat

When Charles Montesquieu (1689–1755) was born, France to be ruled through an pure king, luigi XIV. Montesquieu to be born into a noble family and also educated in the law. The traveled generally throughout Europe, including England, where he studied the Parliament. In 1722, he composed a book, ridiculing the regime of luigi XIV and also the doctrines of the roman inn Catholic Church.

Montesquieu published his greatest work, The soul of the Laws, in 1748. Unlike Hobbes and also Locke, Montesquieu thought that in the state of nature individuals were so fearful that they avoided violence and also war. The need for food, Montesquieu said, caused the timid human beings to associate through others and also seek to live in a society. “As quickly as guy enters into a state that society,” Montesquieu wrote, “he loser the sense of his weakness, equality ceases, and then commences the state that war.”

Montesquieu go not define a social contract as such. But he stated that the state that war among individuals and nations led to person laws and government.

Montesquieu wrote that the main purpose of government is to keep law and also order, politics liberty, and the building of the individual. Montesquieu opposed the absolute monarchy that his residence country and favored the English mechanism as the ideal model of government.

Montesquieu rather misinterpreted exactly how political strength was actually worked out in England. Once he created The soul of the Laws, power was concentrated pretty much in Parliament, the national legislature. Montesquieu thought he saw a separation and also balancing that the strength of government in England.

Montesquieu viewed the English king as exercising executive power balanced by the law-making Parliament, which was itself separated into the house of Lords and the residence of Commons, each checking the other. Then, the executive and also legislative branches to be still further balanced by an live independence court system.

Montesquieu concluded that the best kind of federal government was one in which the legislative, executive, and judicial powers to be separate and kept each various other in check to prevent any branch from becoming too powerful. He believed that uniting this powers, as in the monarchy of Louis XIV, would result in despotism. If Montesquieu’s separation that powers theory did no accurately explain the federal government of England, americans later adopted it as the foundation of the U.S. Constitution.

Rousseau: The excessive Democrat

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was born in Geneva, Switzerland, whereby all adult male citizens could vote because that a representative government. Rousseau traveled in France and also Italy, educating himself.

In 1751, he won an essay contest. His fresh view that man was naturally good and to be corrupted by society made him a celebrity in the French salons whereby artists, scientists, and also writers gathered to discuss the latest ideas.

A few years later on he published another essay in i beg your pardon he described savages in a state the nature together free, equal, peaceful, and happy. When people started to insurance claim ownership the property, Rousseau argued, inequality, murder, and war resulted.

According come Rousseau, the an effective rich stole the floor belonging to everyone and also fooled the common people into agree them together rulers. Rousseau concluded the the society contract was not a ready agreement, together Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu had believed, but a fraud against the people committed through the rich.

In 1762, Rousseau published his most vital work on political theory, The society Contract. His opening line is still striking today: “Man is born free, and also everywhere that is in chains.” Rousseau agreed through Locke the the individual have to never be compelled to provide up his or her organic rights to a king.

The difficulty in the state of nature, Rousseau said, was to uncover a means to protect everyone’s life, liberty, and also property when each human remained free. Rousseau’s systems was for people to go into into a society contract. Castle would provide up all your rights, no to a king, yet to “the whole community,” every the people. He called all the world the “sovereign,” a term offered by Hobbes to mainly refer to a king. The people then exercised their “general will” to make regulations for the “public good.”

Rousseau argued that the general will that the human being could no be chose by elected representatives. He thought in a straight democracy in which anyone voted to express the general will and to make the laws of the land. Rousseau had in mind a democracy on a little scale, a city-state prefer his indigenous Geneva.

In Rousseau’s democracy, anyone that disobeyed the basic will that the civilization “will be forced to it is in free.” He believed that citizens need to obey the laws or be forced to do so as lengthy as they remained a residents of the state. This is a “civil state,” Rousseau says, whereby security, justice, liberty, and property space protected and enjoyed by all.

All political power, follow to Rousseau, should reside with the people, exercising their basic will. There deserve to be no separation the powers, together Montesquieu proposed. The people, meeting together, will deliberate personal on laws and also then by bulk vote find the basic will. Rousseau’s general will was later embodied in the words “We the civilization . . .” in ~ the beginning of the U.S. Constitution.

Rousseau was rather vague on the mechanics of just how his democracy would certainly work. There would certainly be a government of sorts, entrusted with administering the general will. However it would certainly be written of “mere officials” who obtained their orders indigenous the people.

Rousseau believed that religious beliefs divided and weakened the state. “It is difficult to live in peace with human being you think are damned,” he said. He favored a “civil religion” that accepted God, however concentrated on the sacredness of the society contract.

Rousseau realized the democracy as he envisioned it would be hard to maintain. That warned, “As quickly as any kind of man states of the work of the State, ‘what does it matter to me?’ the State might be offered up because that lost.”

For Discussion and also Writing

1. The the four philosophers discussed in this article, which two carry out you think differed the most? Why?

2. Which of the democratic forms government proposed by Locke, Montesquieu, and also Rousseau do you think is the best? Why?

3. Rousseau wrote in The social Contract, “As quickly as any type of man says of the affairs of the State ‘what does it matter to me?’ the State may be provided up because that lost.” What carry out you think the meant? just how do girlfriend think his indigenous relate to American democracy today?

A C T i V i T Y

The thinkers Take a Stand

1. Division the class into four groups, each acquisition on the role of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, or Rousseau.

2. The members of every of the role group will must research why their philosopher would agree or disagree through the controversy topics listed below. The write-up contains some clues, yet students should uncover out much more about their philosophers’ see by utilizing the institution library and Internet.

3. After ~ research has been completed, each duty group will state the philosopher’s position on object A. The teams should then dispute the topic from the point of watch of the thinker they are role playing. Monitor the same procedure for the rest of the topics.

4. After all the arguments are finished, course members should comment on which one of the four philosophers lock agree with the most and also why.

Debate Topics

A. The best kind of federal government is a representative democracy.

B. Only the president should have the strength to declare war.

C. A great way to make regulations is for all the civilization to directly vote ~ above them.

D. Religion should be a component of the government.

E. The federal government should have the government to confiscate a person’s home for the general public good.

For further Information


Encyclopedia articles:

Wikipedia: thomas Hobbes

Wikipedia: Leviathan

Internet Encyclopedia that Philosophy: thomas Hobbes

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Hobbes’ Moral and Political Philosophy

Malaspina an excellent Books: cutting board Hobbes

Leviathan message of the book.

SparkNotes: Leviathan A study guide to the book.


Yahoo Directory: thomas Hobbes

Google Directory: cutting board Hobbes

Open catalog Project: thomas Hobbes


Encyclopedia articles:

Wikipedia: man Locke

Bluplete Biography: john Locke

Stanford Encyclopedia that Philosophy: man Locke

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: john Locke

Wikipedia: two Treatises the Government

Second treatise of Civil government Text of the book.

See more: Table Sugar Is Not A Mineral Because : It Is Made Of More Than

SparkNotes: Locke’s second Treatise of federal government Two Treatises of government A study guide.