John Lockes vs. Thomas Hobbes | Political Views Comparison
Many of the revolutionary political ideas of the Enlightenment developed out of a basic disagreement on how people should be governed. This disagreement is best illustrated by the divergent views of British political thinkers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.
In this activity, students will analyze the differences between the political views of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Students should address the following questions in their storyboard:
- What are natural rights?
- What is the social contract?
- What is the preferred government of Locke and of Hobbes? How is the government based on each thinker’s view of human nature?
Locke’s Natural Rights
According to Locke, people are reasonable. They are born with the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. Governments must protect those rights...or be overthrown.
The best kind of government is democracy.
Government by popular consent was the motivation for the Atlantic Revolutions and the foundation of modern democracies.
According to Hobbes, people are not reasonable. They are born with selfish, nasty inclinations. Governments exist to keep human beings from killing each other.
The best kind of government is absolute monarchy.
Hobbes' view that the only way to maintain order was through absolute rule also persists. Many 21st century authoritarian governments justify their action with Hobbesian arguments.
Students could extend this activity by finding modern examples of governments that reflect either a Lockean approach or a Hobbesian approach to ruling. These examples could be displayed in an additional two cells at the bottom of this storyboard.