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Comparative Politics: John Locke and Thomas Hobbes
John Locke and Thomas Hobbes were two legendary philosophers from the seventeenth century, who have influenced politics and opened a broader image of them to the world. Despite their different views on human nature, both theorists analyzed the role of government and their influence is still seen today. Both men have contributed as much to American government, as the government has contributed to its people. And even thought they disagreed with each other on the matter of human nature, both men have contributed to comparative politics, with their strong arguments and philosophical approach towards them.
John Locke can be characterized as an optimist, who believed that humanity was reasonable and acknowledgeable. John Locke lived during the Glorious Revolution, which was a nonviolent war and therefore had not caused him to refer to humans as savage animals. He believed that a child was born empty, nor good nor bad, and that it was the society and events that took place that later characterized him into one of the categories. His teachings present humans as moral, peaceful, and good. He believed that humans “kept their promises and honored their obligations”. He also believed humans knew the difference between what is right and what is wrong and, therefore what is allowed to do and what is not. Peaceful, grateful, and reasonable; those were John Locke’s definitions of humankind.
Thomas Hobbes, on the other hand, can be characterized as a realist, who, in turn, believed that humanity was cruel, evil, and selfish. Thomas Hobbes lived through the English Civil War, which was one of the bloodiest wars ever fought. He believed humankind was selfish and their only goal was to gain power. He also believed that people were “unthinking” and their society was “materialistic and mechanical”. He believed that the only way humans can exist, is under a strong government called absolutism. He claimed that people need an absolute ruler to keep them under control and to neutralize their negative side. Locke, on the other hand, believed that absolute monarchy was irrelevant and said that the government would only prosper under limited constitutional monarchy.
Both men disagreed on human rights as much as they did on human nature. John Locke believed that a government should be run by people who care about their country and its people, as well as respect their rights. He also believed that the purpose of the government was to protect those rights and that those rights cannot be denied without any particular reason. He believed people could also overthrow the government if its rule was unacceptable and people’s rights were not protected or respected. Hobbes had a different view in that matter. Hobbes believed that people had no rights and it was the ruler’s duty to decide what was fair and what was not. He also claimed that people had no right to rebel or disagree with the absolute ruler.
Both, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes presented reasonable arguments on human rights and human nature, however, it was John Locke who analyzed humankind in a less critical, negative way and it is him, therefore, whose arguments are more reasonable and just. John Locke evaluated people from a time period that played no particular influence over his analysis. Also John Locke introduced arguments on the role of government, which are still applied today. Thomas Hobbes, however, who lived during a cruel period of time, seen nothing but slaughter and anger, was influenced by the events that took place during his lifetime. The English Civil War caused Hobbes to view the humankind as an uncontrollable danger that is therefore to be kept under the chains of an absolute ruler. The influence of time played a role on Hobbes, and it can be compared to the post era that resulted after World War One, era of sorrow and regret, lost and emptiness. Events of the English Civil War caused Hobbes to feel the same anger towards the world, and the humanity itself.
Both men lived through many disputes among each other and their beliefs, however, both have influenced comparative politics. Thomas Hobbes, who believed humans were cruel and evil, during his time, influenced people by disproving the parliament of England and the papal system of France. John Locke, who believed people were reasonable and good, and his ideas on human independence and equality brought their influence into United States. His beliefs on “all men are created equal” and “men have rights by their nature”, craved their way into the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, and the Constitution. The influence of these two seventeenth century philosophers was, is, and will be inevitable. We, people should realize how important comparative politics are and especially, how important is their influence over us.
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