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An evaluation of the accounts on political authority in Hobbes and Locke

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Maude P.
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  1. Introduction
  2. The legitimacy of political authority
  3. The crucial notion in political life
  4. The social contract theorists
  5. Nasty and brutish
  6. Hobbes' theory
  7. The legitimacy of an absolute authority
  8. Rebels against the Leviathan
  9. Locke's theory
  10. The separation of power and the balance
  11. Conclusion
  12. Bibliography

Since the beginning of time, the issue of authority has been discussed. From God, to absolute Sovereigns and until democratic parliaments, different outlooks on political power and its holder have been developed and applied. These theories have been fought or defended, they have given birth to passions, changes, wars and revolutions throughout History. Some of them have played an essential role in our modern conception of politics and definitively changed the notion and perception of political authority. The Social Contract theorists' approaches marked a turning-point in political thought. Considering that human beings are, by nature, free and equal, they deduced that the original legitimacy of governments (the legitimacy of political authority) must be the result of a ?social contract' passed between consenting individuals.

[...] To conclude, it can be said that the importance of the social contract theory is to reveal a new conception of political authority. This will definitely affect their successors thinking. T. Hobbes's account is, as seen, very disputable and quite unfit to illustrate the revolution of the mentality during this period. Nonetheless, he has the merit to make people think about and react to his approach, starting the crucial debate. J. Locke's theory shapes a large part of modern political thought, and probably also contributes to defining our democracy. [...]


[...] Whereas Locke believes in good human beings, Hobbes makes them passionate, in the opposite extreme. Both are wrong, human beings are even freer than that. They are free to go against their reason and free to decide not to fight. Thereafter, Locke explains that judges are needed in case of disputes about property. Actually, property can be analyzed as our body, mind, culture, education Numerous aspects of the community's life can enter this notion. This shows how important this concept of property is, but is also a bias for the government to rule everything. [...]


[...] This process gives birth to the political authority which is an absolute power only in charge to enforce this contract. Everyone must submit to this sovereign and limitless authority not to break the contract and collapse back into the state of nature: the ?worst condition of all'. As a consequence, this theory shapes the legitimacy of an absolute authority. People would give their obedience to protect themselves from the others and their dark human nature. However, who would be this Leviathan? [...]

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