Hobbes And Locke Argue Life Becomes A War Philosophy Essay

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Why Did Hobbes Argue That "Life becomes a war of all against all" and Why did Locke Disagree? Hobbes maintained throughout his works that there is a "natural equality" (Hobbes in Lamprecht, 1949 pp.25) amongst men in the pre-societal state that he termed 'the state of nature'. However he did not perceive this equality as a positive thing. He believed people in this state were aware of this equality but, given the violent and aggressive tendencies of human nature, the inhabitants saw each other as "equals who can do equal things one against the other" (Hobbes in Lamprecht, 1949 pp.25) I.e. injure or kill. This lead to a 'mutual fear', as Hobbes termed it.

He also stated that each person in their natural, equal state is motivated by self-interest and that under the laws of nature "every man hath a right to preserve himself" (Hobbes in Lamprecht, 1949pp.26) He believed that resources would be scarce and would lead to violent conflict if "many men at the same time have an appetite for the same thing" (Hobbes in Lamprecht, 1949 pp.26). Mutual fear of each other's capability to do harm and attack coupled with a competition for resources equated for Hobbes into individuals attacking out of a perceived threat and living aggressive, brutal lives.

Locke possesses a much different view, however the two thinkers do align on certain aspects of this perceived state of nature. Parry (1978) summarises Locke's impression in explaining that in his state of nature "no man is naturally subordinate to another, but that all are free and equal" (Parry, pp. 14) Again, men in this state recognised this but it was not a source or fear or violence for Locke. This is, for the most part, all that they agree on. Following from this Locke does not agree that man was this selfish, violent being but was given the capacity to reason and in the state of nature "are subject to the laws of reason" (Schouls, 1992 pp. 43) and Locke describes the state of nature as one "of perfect freedom to order their actions" (Locke in Carpenter, 1924 pp. 118)

However, there would be no communal enforcer and thus each individual risks interpreting this law in their own way and that this means the state of nature is potentially one of risk, in that somebody may attempt to impose their interpretation on others. (Carpenter, 1924) In this way, although Hobbes and Locke do not entirely agree on man's nature, they do agree that the state of nature risks being one of conflict, be it excessive or mild.


Carpenter, W. S (1924) Introduction in Two Treatises of Government London: J. M Dent & Sons Ltd.

Carpenter, W. S (1924) John Locke: Two Treatises of Government. London: J. M Dent & Sons Ltd.

Hobbes in Lamprecht, S (1949) De Cive or The Citizen. Appleton-Century-Crofts Inc.

Parry, G (1978) John Locke. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Schouls, P. A (1992) Reasoned Freedom: John Locke and the Enlightenment. New York: Cornell University Press

Summary of the relationship between 'commodity fetishism' and exploitation.

Marx's theory on the fetishism of commodities is relatively straightforward. He outlined the idea that products of labour create social relationships within the division of labour (Craib, 2007 pp. 92) but Marx stresses that these relationships are not between the individuals. These people may never meet or physically interact because the relationship is "not between themselves, but between the products of their labour" (Marx in McLellan, 1977 pp. 436) He also identifies the 'mystical' nature these products then take on, that they "become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible" (Marx in McLellan, 1977 pp. 436) These social relations attached to objects creates a situation where the products take on a kind of 'extra-value' that has "absolutely no connection with their physical properties" (Marx in McLellan, 1977 pp. 436) This is where the relationship between commodity fetishism and exploitation occurs.

For Marx, "the measure of the expenditure of labour power by the duration of that expenditure takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labour" (Marx in McLellan, 1977 pp. 436) Essentially this means that the price of the product is intimately tied with the labour power it takes to produce it. Thus, in a capitalist mode of production "labour power is a commodity" (Craib, 1997 pp. 94) and it belongs to the worker to sell to employers. This establishes a wage-labour relationship and it is one that is extremely exploitative.

It is such because "the 'use-value' of labour is...is typically greater than its exchange value" (Hughes et al, 2003 pp. 64) meaning that labour is exchanged by the worker for less than how much it is worth to the employer. And as Craib (1997) explains, "the difference between the two is surplus value" (Craib, pp. 94) Exploitation arises here because "the surplus value created by the labour of the proletariat becomes the property of the capitalist." (Hughes et al, 2003 pp. 65) And because the worker has only his labour to sell, he must work for less than his labour is actually worth or he cannot pay for food or housing.

The relationship is thus, the fetishism of commodities, the social meanings attached to things, means that surplus value is added. However, this is not reflective of the work that the labourer has put into the product, and it goes straight to the employer in the form of profit but the worker is forced to labour for less than this.


Calhoun, C et al (2002) Classical Sociological Theory Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Craib, I (1997) Classical Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hughes, J et al (2003) Understanding Classical Sociology. London: Sage

McLellan, D (1977) Karl Marx: Selected Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press

What Did Weber Mean When he Argued that Sociology involves the 'interpretive understanding of social action'?

Weber's approach to social phenomena was quite new at the time he was writing. He strongly believed that the social action of each individual should be understood so that meanings and generalizations on wider social life could be made from this. As Calhoun (2002) notes, Weber believed "social science should seek causal arguments that generalize past any particular case" (Calhoun et al, pp. 166) However, in order to generate these causal arguments Weber looked first to the individual actions of people in society.

Weber was only concerned with 'meaningful social action' and there are a few clarifications here to be made. One is that 'meaningful' action refers to actions that have subjective meaning to the individual, distinct from unconscious physical actions people perform every day. The other, more significant clarification is that when Weber refers to 'social action' he specifically refers to action that is performed in relation to other individuals. As Craib (1997) explains, "Weber is concerned with...intentional acts of meaning, rational actions that we deliberately or consciously take in relation to and directed towards other people" (Craib, pp. 46)

However, problems arise in that how can this subjective social action which must have personal and emotional contextual attachments, be interpreted in a way so that it can be generalized, or so that it may be even be simply understood? Huff (2006) identifies the challenge it is "to interpret, to render meaningful some set of humanly inspired bits of evidence" (Huff, pp. 12) on a wider scale.

So, in trying to find a way of interpreting these actions, he placed a huge importance on "rationally intelligible relationships of action" (Honigsheim, 1968 pp. 127) because they related to a wider structure of meaning. More accurate, legitimate generalizations could be made from being able to understand the rational context behind 'meaningful social actions' because it can then be generalized to a larger group of people. As Huff (2006) recognises, "to grasp, to perceive the meaning of some sensory event is to connect it up to some set of meaning structures" (Huff, pp. 14) In this sense understanding the rational context of social action seems to mean for Weber that larger generalizations about the structures behind individuals behaviour can be made.

When he argued sociology is about interpretive understanding of human action, he meant that the study of society rests on understanding individual social action in rational terms in order to understand wider meanings.


Calhoun et al (2002) Classical Sociological Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Limited.

Craib, I (1997) Classical Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Honigsheim, P (1968) On Max Weber. Ontario: Collier-Macmillan Canada.

Huff, T (2006) Max Weber and the Methodology of the Social Sciences. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers

What Did Roussea Mean When He Argued that 'Man was born free but is everywhere now in chains?'

Rousseau, unlike the other thinkers of his time, approached the concept of a 'state of nature' in a significantly different way and this was arguably a more logical approach. He was aware of the hindrances this theoretical basis caused to the progression of the understanding of society from a scientific, rational perspective. He believed that knowledge of the biological history of man was "too uncertain, to afford an adequate basis for any solid reasoning" (Rousseau in Cole, 1993 pp. 52)

What he is clear about however is that it is in fact the social contract and also very notably property that hinder men in current society from being free, as they were in the state of nature. Rousseau puts this forward best I believe when he asks "what ties of dependence could there be among men without possessions?" (Rousseau in Cole, 1993 pp. 81) for it summarises the fact that before the introduction of private property men were all individually free of each other and were not hungry to accrue more or 'better' possessions. They were free before private property not only from social restrictions and institutions like the social contract but free of any conflict or competition, to do as they pleased as equal, rational beings.

However, he pinpoints private property as "the source of a thousand quarrels and conflicts (Rousseau in Cole, 1993 pp. 87) and thus it becomes Rousseau's reasoning for the need for a social contract. In his mind, it involved a communal body that was capable of enforcing individuals' property and he genuinely viewed this as a remedy to the conflicts caused by private property. This does not imply however that he viewed this situation positively.

Hall notes that for Rousseau, "what is evil in human society derives from bad institutions that could be replaced by better" (Hall, 1973 pp. 33) In this way he targets civil society as effectively placing chains on initially free men and that institutions put in place to enforce this behaviour limit the freedom of men to do as they please.