What are the major similarities and differences between Thomas Hobbes' and John Locke's conception of the state of nature and the social contract? Which of these two offers the best social contract theory for modern politics and why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hobbes argued that despite natural equality and liberty amongst individuals, the anarchy of pursuing survival made life "nasty, brutish, and short." Without the social bonds that emerge as the product of a state-constituted society, the free individual lives a solitary life in constant fear of violence and death. Therefore, he suggests the establishment of a supreme sovereign power (e.g. King/state) would be the only way to create order and peace as well as secure the natural rights of equality and freedom. This supposedly rational decision, by the people, to acquiesce power (freedoms) to an absolute sovereign in exchange for laws and enforcement that make life possible is understood by Hobbes as an implied agreement, which he calls the "social contract."

In contrast, Locke argued that despite the anarchy and insecurity of a state (of nature) in...

(The entire section contains 421 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team