Compare and contrast hobbes notion of commonwealth
Compare and contrast Hobbes' notion of how all the members of a Common-Wealth are united in one Person (i.e. in the Leviathan or Sovereign) with Rousseau's notion of the “body politic” and the “general will.”Â How are the views of human nature underlying each of these two views of society similar and/or different?Â How are the forms of government suggested by each similar and/or different?Â Which of these two theoretical perspectives do you think may be more useful for understanding recent events in Egypt?Â Explain how that perspective is useful for understanding those events.
Do we work for state or the state works for us? The answer of this question is changing from man to man. Hobbes who is an English philosopher and famous mostly known for his political thought, and deservedly so. His book Leviathan reflects his perspective of the world is strikingly original and still relevant to contemporary politics. His main interest is as a problem of social and political order. Namely, he tries to explain how human beings can kive together in peace and avoid the danger. According to Hobbes, we should do everything what the sovereign wants and we should work for the sovereign and obey it to get out of state of nature. Hence, Hobbes says that the government should have absolute authority. On the other hand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau who is another philosopher and emphasizes in his early writing, Rousseau claimed that man is really good, a noble savage when in the state of nature, and thoseÂ people are made sad and tainted with their experiences in society and in the book Rousseau's Political Writings tell us that civil society formed by its citizens and governed by the general wills. He depicted a state of nature very different from that described by Hobbes. 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. Throughout this essay, it will be argued that, there must be some common power, some sovereign authority, to force people to uphold the contract which is supported by Hobbes and he also adds “sovereign power cannot be forfeited, no man can without injustice protest against the institution of the sovereign, the sovereign's actions cannot be justly accused by the subject, and the sovereign is judge of what is necessary for the peace and defense of his subjects (Hobbes, 1985). On the other hand, argument of Rousseau which is having inappropriately included in savage man concern for self-preservation to need to satisfy a multitude a passions which are handy work of society and which have made laws necessary. Additionally, Rousseau's Political Writings is the source that points out how to best succeed an ideal governing body. Consequently,Â arguments of Hobbes and Rousseau will be compared and contrasted with each other in order to be able to link the idea of common wealth to the events of Egypt.
Hobbes argued that in the state of nature, without civil society, there will be competition between men for wealth, security, and glory. The ensuing struggle is Hobbes's famous “war of all against all(or every man against every man)” in which there can be no industry, commerce, or civilization, and the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”(p.186). The struggle occurs because each individual rationally pursues his or her own interests, but the outcome is in no one's interest. Indeed, in the state of nature all men are equal in their faculties of body and mind, and they are all free of doing anything (Hobbes, 183). Furthermore, according to Hobbes, state of nature is a condition of war and if there is no authority and common power, war occurs. In state of nature, people harm others and they do not trust each other in order to defend themselves and thus they start to become hostile each other. After this situation, disadvantages of war appears like that according to Hobbes “ in such conditions there is no place for industry, no culture of earth, no navigation, no commodious building, no letters, no society and no account of time.”(p.186) Therefore, Hobbes claims that the existence of covenants makes it possible there to be justice. If there is no covenant, every man has right to do everything. Hence, no action is unjust. However, when there is a covenant, an action is just if it follows the covenant. To secure covenants, there have to be a common-wealth. Common-wealth makes people to keep their covenants by fearing them of a punishment if the do not keep their covenants. Namely, in making the social contract, Hobbes says that we must establish some means of enforcing it.Â To do this we must all hand our powers over to some other person or group of persons who will punish anyone who breaches the contract.Â This person or group of persons Hobbes calls the sovereign.Â It may be a single person, or an elected legislature, or almost any other form of government; the essence of sovereignty consists only in having sufficient power to keep the peace by punishing those who would break it. Thanks to this idea there is a sovereign power who is operating through fear. Moreover, thanks to common wealth, laws make people live without harm each other and do not live conflict or competition between each other and thus a man does not kill or harm others and they will keep going to protect their rigths orÂ mutual agrements. In addition to this, Hobbes expresses that, “...I AuthÄ±rize and give up my Right of Governing my selfe, to this ManÂ or to this Assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up my Right to him...This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMON WEALTH... This is the Generation of the great LEVIATHAN”(p.227). Furthermore, according to Hobbes, human beings are evil and selfish because they think only their peace and survival and because of this, they always do not care other people who made covenants with you. Consequently, they can kill them easily to be in secure. As a result Hobbes think that the most suitable form of government is absolute monarchy and with the help of monarchy, peace and self preservation are assurance because “ when the representative is One man, then is the Common Wealth a MONARCHY”(p.239). In monarchy there are two ways of establishing a commonwealth: through acquisition (force) or through institution (agreement) like Hobbes enlightened us in his book Leviathan.
On the other hand, Rousseau opposes Hobbes and he claims that human nature is not evil and state of nature is not egregious condition. “The state of nature, being the one in which our concern for self preservation is least prejudicial to that of others, was, consequently, the best suited to peace and the most fitting for the human race”(p.27). In addition to this, Rousseau's expression is easy to understand and namely, according to Rousseau there is no need to fight. It required rule by the “general will”. I can say that, the general will is not the sum of all the individual wills in the community but the true common will of all the citizens.Â Moreover, as we all know that Rousseau talks about the sovereignty which has great importance in body politic and he describes the body politics like as follows; “the sovereign power represents the head; the laws and customs are the brain, industry is the mouth, agriculture is the stomach , public finance are the bloods and the citizens are the body”(p.61). Additionally, Rousseau states that if the brain or other organs areÂ influenced unfavorably, they are automatically incapable of work and thus a man is dead. This situation is similar to state andÂ in this condition state is disappeared. Besides, sovereign is related to general will and it is the will of sovereign and common good. At this point together with general will the body wants to be healthy and it is trying to promote cooperation. With the help of general will people try to learn what is just, justice and what is unjust or they learn how can they act justly. This is because, we can say that, sovereign is linked with the general will and also general will is the will of sovereign and common good. General will in a healthy state comes from the law and laws provide people with freedom. For this reason, for all people/citizen and either state general will is the most convenient form. Of course we cannot ignore the importance ofÂ legitimate and popular government's elements which we called ‘maxims'. These are as follows: 1) to follow the general will in all things by making laws that are consistent with general will 2) since the virtue is conformity of the particular will with the general, government should have people with virtue by educating them 3) government should provide for the public needs (Rousseau, 1988). Also he says the purpose of government should be life, property and liberty. At this point, Hobbes disagree with liberty one. However, Rousseau implies that there should be balance with each of them. In general, if we take into account Rousseau's ideas, we can realize the Rousseau's point of view is democracy.
From now on, I will not give any idea from directly Hobbes and Rousseau but now I will compare and display the differences or similarities ofÂ these two philosophers' views. According to Hobbes, state of nature is equal with a war condition and aÂ man starts to be enemy between each other. In order to protect and reach peace, they behave unjustly and so Hobbes is called human beings as an evil. With a common power people live in the state of nature where they are selfish and always pursue their self-interests and self-preservation without regard of others. That would cause conflict and state of war. Hence, in order to survive or escape the condition of state of war, the common power is the only way and making covenant and giving all people's rights upon one man who is a sovereign. Â Nevertheless, Rousseau disagree with Hobbes and he says that naturally a man is good and they give importance justice and they behave virtuously. Both Rousseau and Hobbes agree with that there should not be any harm while achieving or reaching to the peace. Just for one thing they agree with each other and this is the inequality issue. According to Hobbes, nature has made people roughly equal (Hobbes, p.183). However, with the idea of common power, inequality is created. Sovereign can proclaim that some people should be treated differently so it is the starting point of inequality in the society. Nevertheless, Rousseau argues that, “growth to the development of our faculties and the progress of human mind and finally establishment of property has created inequality in the society”(Rousseau, p.57). Moreover, the rule of law is another emphasized issue for these two philosopher in terms of examining their notions. While Rousseau is saying that general will is superior and even sovereign has to obey it, on the other hand in Hobbes' point of view rule of law is nothing and is not important. He thinks that dictatorship and certain power are real law. To query the sovereign's power is permissible and impossible.
As everybody know that recently, there are commotion, riot, warfare and hostilities status in Egypt. The regime is common-wealth in Egypt as Hobbes supported. Mubarek is the common power and he is the law himself directly. However, there is no equality. In Egypt, Mubarek took the control of a group of people, who--if they do not resist the acquisition and depose the sovereign--must consent to his control. Thus, a sovereign instituted by force is as much a part of the social contract as a sovereign instituted by agreement. At that point, notion of Hobbes does not work and people want to gain their liberties and rights and want to abolish this dictator regime. After that they want to establish democracy instead of monarchy. On the other hand, if the notion of Rousseau was implemented like his rule of law ideas or general will ideas, Egypt and its citizens could not face with these situation they are in.
In conclusion, I tried to compare and contrast Hobbes' notion of how all the members of a Common-Wealth are united in one Person (i.e. in the Leviathan or Sovereign) with Rousseau's notion of the “body politic” and the “general will.” And also tried to explain how are the views of human nature underlying each of these two views of society similar and/or different. As I enlightened above, Hobbes' understanding of state of nature, saying that out of civil states there is always war of every one against every one. Furthermore, according to Hobbes, state of nature is a condition of war and if there is no authority and common power, war occurs. In state of nature, people harm others and they do not trust each other in order to defend themselves. Additionally, the sovereign is judge of what is necessary for the peace and defense of his subjects (Hobbes, 1985). He also does not believe the rule of law and he says it is nothing and the sovereign is the power himself. On the contrary, Rousseau who is quite opposite of Hobbes. He emphasizes the idea that human nature is not evil in the state of nature. “The state of nature, being the one in which our concern for self preservation is least prejudicial to that of others, was, consequently, the best suited to peace and the most fitting for the human race”(p.27). Besides, the body politic as an organized, living body similar to that of a man. In addition to this, Rousseau emphasizes the general will, which is the true will for everyone. According to him, rule of nature is the superior and everyone has to obey it. I personally believe that, notion of Rousseau is the reasonable one rather than Hobbes'. This is because, even in Egypt we see the events as an example recently are essentially important that dictatorship and certain power does not really work and all of the citizens protest against Mubarek regime. They want to achieve their freedom and try to gain their liberties. For this reason, I prefer notion of Rousseau instead of Hobbes.
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