Nature and Political Society: Hobbes’s and Locke’s Views

The issue that most theorists try to explain is legitimacy of government formation and the supposed reasons for having a state of society as a government (Lee, 2010). Locke and Hobbes are natural theorists who have formulated philosophies about the subject. They both have different arguments about moving out from the state of nature. Although both of them believe in social contact theory, they have dissimilar views of the state of nature. Hobbes’s view focuses on a monarchy rule while Locke’s philosophy depicts an anarchy rule.

Hobbes argues that people are free, rationale and informed in the state of nature. He differentiates two types of human acts. For example, he says ‘acts of will’ and ‘impulsive acts’. Acts of will occur deliberately in order to increase our individual gains, and so people in the state of nature are self-centered. Because people are self-centered, they want those similar things in the society, thus the state of nature becomes very competitive because people aspire for limited things. In this case, a state of nature becomes a state of fight between all (Thornton, 2005).

Hobbes thinks that when people want to come out of the state of nature, they would prefer monarchy because it is a rule that will guarantee their safety. Since safety is gained through contract, there must be control to uphold it. However, the authority must be established willingly by the people themselves, and consequently punish those who break the law. The monarch carries out its task through fears and threats of punishment which ensures that the social contract is sustained.

People are involved in signing the contract and the monarchy holds no moral responsibility towards people. Hobbes further says that although people want to move out from the state of nature due to its cruel things, their behaviors will lead to unwanted outcomes. He says that ‘people must work together in order to achieve peace because the contracts without forceful enforcements are worthless’ (Thornton, 2005, p.15).

According to Lee (2010), Locke has a different view on the state of nature. Locke argues that there is a rule of nature that directs the state of nature. The law prevents people from damaging other people’s life and property. He however has arguments about each right with a religious touch. In the first right of property, he says that human beings are God’s properties, hence it is bad to harm someone’s property. His argument about property rights is strange because it does not reflect Christianity.

The argument is unclear because he tries to set up human rights through God’s rights. In another point of view, he argues that since God is perfect in everything, he tries to grant us conscience to be aware of the moral truth, which will not permit us to do harm to one another. Locke believes that people have natural rights in this state and property is one of the rights in the state of nature.

Additionally, Locke argued that in order to own the property, another person should not own it. However, according to his theory, it is evident that the world is God’s property. He also believes that one has to labor on the property and leave the good things for others without wasting the property for sustainability. He further justifies these arguments through the mixing theory, by saying that people mix their effort with what they work on, hence owning it. Using the rewarding value theory, Locke argues that where there are more than enough good for others and where one takes only what he can use, does good as not having anything at all (Lee, 2010).

Lacewing (2008) highlights that after trying to solve the issue on the state of nature, Locke finds himself in a tough situation. According to Locke’s arguments, the state of nature seems to be too good since people’s rights are protected. Then, the question is, why people want to get out of the state of nature? Though he seems to be an anarchist, he further supports his arguments by saying that not all the people in the state may be rational, and says that it is the reason why the government is needed. Other questions about Locke’s statements are, if at all a person in the state of nature is free, will he need any freedom? Why should he give up his freedom and subject himself under control and authority? However, Locke may support his points by saying that though the man in the state of nature is free in the absence of justice which protects his property, he may be insecure.

Locke brings out major problems in the state of nature government, the need for a government, courts, and executive branch. However, his thoughts about the government are negative because he thinks that the government violates people’s rights and hence people have the right to rebel against it. Unlike Hobbes, Locke is giving a good reason for rebellion against the government, only if it denies rights and freedom to the citizens. However, Locke has a problem that is still present between the government and the democrats. It seems that the act of the government is acceptable only if it protects people’s rights. In a democratic scenario, the act of the government is acceptable only when there are majority votes.

In essence, Locke’s view appears to be better than that of Hobbes. However, he fails to argue his ideas well. Thornton (2005) outlines that Locke’s arguments are full of faults. This is evident when he argues about the rights of the state using Christianity, but the arguments do not fit here. He also says that some individuals are not entirely rational and hence, they need the government. He however gives a good picture of how the state of nature will be like as he says ‘a state of conflict of all against all’.

He says that no matter what high morals we have, we may do wrong to others willingly or unwillingly. Although he justifies his state of nature as monarchy, it is hard to believe his arguments no matter how he argues them well. His recommendation for a government is to protect stability and sustain the contract. Nevertheless, Hobbes and Locke have differences about humans because Hobbes says that human beings are bad while Locke says they are good. From the analysis, Hobbes arguments, although in some instances are contradictory, are much deeper is able to analyze the human psychology well.

In conclusion, this paper has analyzed and compared Hobbes’s and Locke’s views about the state of nature and the significance of political society. Both theorists have different views. Locke says that the state of nature ‘peaceful, better and present since men honor their obligations’ which is contrary to what Hobbes believes. Hobbes seems to be stuck between the state of nature, either being modern or not, as he uses a present-day theory to defend an old government. Alternatively, Locke recommends new ideas and new self-governing state, but he has not supported his arguments well.


Lacewing, M. (2008). Philosophy for AS. IGCE international examination board. London: Routledge. Web.

Lee, W. (2010). John Locke and modern life. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Web.

Thornton, H. (2005). The State of nature or Eden, Thomas Hobbes and his contemporaries on the natural condition of human beings. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. Web.