How does John Locke's idea of the social contract compare to Thomas Hobbes's ideas?

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Both Locke and Hobbes believed that people joined together to create a society that would have a government to protect them.  However, they had very different reasons for why people did that and those reasons led to very different prescriptions for what government should be like.

Hobbes believed that people are inherently selfish and bad.  Therefore, they have to give a sovereign complete control over them to keep them from killing one another.  His view of human nature leads to the idea that an absolute monarchy is necessary.

Locke believed that people are fundamentally good.  He said that they join together and consent to be governed to protect themselves from the few bad people who do exist.  His view of human nature leads to the idea that government should be based on the consent of the people and should be aimed at protecting the people's rights.  To Locke, the social contract is a deal between the government and the people in which the people give up only some of their rights so the government can protect their most important rights.

Thus, Locke is a much more optimistic thinker on human nature and his ideas give rise to the idea of popular government, not of absolute monarchy.

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question