Thomas Hobbes Theory Of The Social Contract

1285 Words6 Pages
Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher best known for his work on the theory of the social contract. The social contract relates to the question of the origin and legitimacy of political power. The Leviathan was published in 1651 and is one of the earliest and most important work contributing to the theory of the social contract. In the Leviathan Hobbes argues for a civil society, a commonwealth in which men should live under the rule of an all-powerful sovereign. Is Hobbes’ Commonwealth more than a reign of terror? I will argue that while presenting the characteristics of an absolute rule Hobbes’ commonwealth goes further than that. The social Contract theory is designed to create a civil society which creates a supreme authority to…show more content…
The covenant is made between the individuals, the power is outside of the deal as it is suppose to establish its legitimacy. The civil society establishes a sovereign with an extremely important authority and a large power. This sovereign is named the Leviathan, after the sea monster of the book of Job. Is is the will for security which makes man seek for something more than the state of nature. The principle of security must be guaranteed by the sovereign and it is enshrined in the contract. In the state of nature a man does what he wants to archive his desires and protect his own life while in a civil society man follows laws which were established for all men. In the civil society man transfers his power to the sovereign to which he is « obliged, bound not to hinder those to whom such right is granted, abandoned from the benefit of it ». If man doesn’t follow the rules set by the covenant and enforced by the sovereign, he is to be punished. Punishment is decided by the sovereign. The sovereign acts in the name of the general interest of the civil society. Man joins the civil society to live in peace which is not possible in the state of nature. As previously stated the sovereign, the Leviathan is granted with extremely strong power. The covenant gives legitimacy to the absolute power of one person. One body of power, the sovereign (it can also be an assembly) is given absolute, undivided and…show more content…
However it is to be underlined that Hobbes’ Commonwealth is centered on fear. Men joined the civil society to live in peace outside of the state of war that is the state of nature. But the only reason maintaining peace in the civil society according to Hobbes is the fear of repercussions. The sovereign is made strong to counter the natural « bad » nature of men. He is given « the power to keep them in awe and bind them by the fear of punishment and respect the laws of nature ». The sovereign is given absolute power, as it is the only way to maintain peace in the society and avoid falling back in the state of nature. While it may seem easy to qualify it as a reign of terror of the sovereign I disagree. The idea goes further than just a tyrannical rule. Men living in the state of nature join voluntarily the civil state through the covenant they made upon themselves. Hobbes argues that men’s selfishness and will for self-preservation leads them to prefer to live in a civil state under an absolute sovereign where the risk of dying and being at war at all time disappears. The danger of the state of nature disappears under the rule of the sovereign. So Hobbes states that men are better off living under the sovereign where their risk of dying depends on their behavior (if they disobey the rules), their choice rather than in the state of nature where
Open Document