Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) an Englishman is prominent among the three major exponents of the social contract theory. Others include John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jaques Rosseau (1712-1778). The social contract theory is a theory that describes the human state of nature. This theory goes to give basis on how human beings forfeit their individual sovereignty for a general will (popular sovereignty). This general will led to the formation of the political institution called ‘State’. The social contract theory goes ahead to contradict and displace the divine theory origin of state, which trace the creation of state to God.
The basis of the social theory is that state is a creation of men through a social contract to which they had all consented. Thomas Hobbes version of the Social contract theory sees human existence in a state of anarchy where ‘dog eat dog’ and high level of lawlessness exist. According to Hobbes, the human life is nasty, brutish, short-lived, and a threat to human existence. Chaos and mayhem reign supreme in human state of nature. This brought about the need to human being to come into a contract by submitting their individual freedom for the popular sovereignty.
In return, the popular sovereignty, which is the state, will protect the lives, and property of the people. For a better execution of the social will, Hobbes posited that there should be an all-powerful authority, called the Leviathan, who should be given the sovereignty of the state, and the power to control and protect the people. The state of nature describe man as weak and lawless, who cannot protect themselves, it is the Leviathan that will through the social contract execute the popular sovereignty on behalf of the people. The Leviathan is described as a Monster with great influential power and authority.
Assuming, having the state sovereignty to execute the state will. The type of social contract theory painted by Hobbes is more liking to a monarchical rule. This was the practice during his days in England. The Hobbesian Social Contract describes human ability to compromise their freedom for the Popular Sovereignty. There is entering into a contractual agreement, which requires a consideration from both parties. Thus, on one hand is the submission individual will of the people to the popular sovereignty, and the security and protection the State gives to the people on the other hand.
The agreement to live in ‘polis’; a human community guided by sound social judgment is ensured in this instance. Though this sovereignty is not collectively owned by the people as proposed by Locke, but should be passed unto the Leviathan in Hobbes social contract. Thus, each party has a role to play in term of political obligation. The people are expected to pay tax to the state. In addition, the state in return is to cater for the security, provision and distribution of the state scarce resources. WHAT THE SOCIETY WOULD BE IF THIS HOBBESIAN THEORY IS REAL
The Hobbesian state of nature is too anarchical. In real sense man exhibit some extend of brutality against another, but the extent to which such brutality is painted in Hobbes theory is not obtainable. Supposing this were the true nature, and the people come into agreement to submit there will through the state to a single individual that is all power, then there will be arbitrarily use of such power by the Leviathan. Thus, the following will bound to arise in such society: i. The Leviathan that has the popular sovereignty will get to a state that he will be power drunk and abuse such power.
As the popular maxim goes ‘Power corrupt, absolute power corrupt absolutely’. The better example of the Leviathan in recent time is the communist leaders that turned the communist states into a place for perpetuating genocide and massive dehumanizing acts. Many of such leaders turned into practicing dehumanizing and cruel acts as never recorded in human history (e. g. Lenin, Adolph Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Mussolini). Million of people were killed and human rights were infringed upon. The ideology of communism sought to run away from a class exploitive capitalist state, where bourgeoisies exploit the proletariats.
However, the communist leaders in control of the collective wealth of the people turned around to become a tool massive exploit and destruction of innocent lives that are suspected to be against the communist stand. The Hobbesian leviathan naturally will spring from people that were in the state of nature that exhibited brutish and mayhem, these features is not totally removed from the society. There is then the instinct for the Leviathan to submit to the corruption that absolute power brings. ii.
The Society painted in Hobbesian social contract theory is one that will exhibit forceful approach in making people to submit their will to forming a state. Naturally people likes freedom, there is the tendency that some people in the society will reframe from submitting their will to the popular sovereignty. The only way to get this people to submit such will is to apply force. Instances abound of state secession, where a part of a state will want to leave the state and get back their own sovereignty. In addition, forceful annexing of small state by bigger ones abound.
In both instances, there are traces of the lack of will to submit ones sovereignty and the force of force by another to acquire state sovereignty. The human society created by Hobbes will culminate into a forceful seizure of people freedom and their individual will. iii. Inequality in the distribution of state resources is bound to exist. In the society created by Hobbes gives the Leviathan the power to distribute scare resources to the people. There is a tendency that the Leviathan, giving his human nature, will have preference group in the society.
Hence, more resources will be given to the well to do in the society than to the downtrodden. This will surely lead to inequality in the distribution and allocation of resources in the society. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CONTEMPORARY US SOCIETY AND THE SOCIETY PAINTED IN HOBBESIAN SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY The Hobbesian human society is one that the popular sovereignty in the state lies with a single authority (The Leviathan). The Leviathan should command absolute power and authority. This is not what is obtainable in United State society. The popular sovereignty in United States lies with the people.
The Americans have right to determine how the state resources are distributed, what public policies the government formulate and implement, how the governments conduct its foreign policy and how government conducts its activities. The democracy in United State portends that the popular sovereignty of the state is retained by the people. This is in contrast to Hobbesian human society where the sovereignty is expected to lie with a single individual called the ‘Leviathan’. The popular sovereignty of the Americans is practiced through their elected representative in American Congress and the Senate.
For instance, the American sovereignty gives them the power to change those in power during the expiration of office of those elected. Their franchise right give them the power of choice to determine who leads them or who does not. The American can call unto their elected representative in the national assembly asking them to raise motion on certain vital issues as it affect the people. This move goes a long way in shaping the public policies of government in the state. In contemporary United State society, the rights of individual are respected and their freedoms are guaranteed.
Thus, the freedom to live, free speech, right to own private property, right to privacy, right to exercise ones franchise among other rights are enshrined in the American constitution, and this is expected to be adhered. This is unlike the society painted in Hobbes social contract. The people in Hobbesian society have no personal will and their rights depend on the mercy of the Leviathan. The Leviathan may choose infringe on the right of his subjects without course to him being challenged. Since he posses, the state might and authority he can determine how best to put this authority and power into practice.
For instance, in United State the Americans have the right to speak against government public policy they conceive as unpopular and against the course of living a good life in the state. This is not to be in Hobbesian society; as the people have no right to question the Leviathan. The United State government is guided and expected to conduct every of their activities in line with what is written in the American constitution. Any activity done outside the constitution remains unconstitutional; thus it is rendered null and void.
The American constitution is a written document showing how the state is run, how public officers are to be elected to office, their tenure of stay in office, the rights and obligation of the American people, how resources in the state will be distributed and the formula for distributing this, intergovernmental relationship issues, inter-alia. Thus, every activity in government is checked against the constitution to see it validity and its lawfulness. In the Hobbesian, society the Leviathan is a law unto himself, he determines what law should be in place and how to go about this.
The American system of government is operate separation of power, where the executive government operate independent of the legislative arm (the lawmakers), and the judiciary interprets this law independently of the other two arms of government. There is also the principle of checks and balances where each arm of government checks against the other to make sure the are not operating arbitrarily. This is absent in Hobbesian society. The powers to make law, interpret it and execute it are all imposed on the Leviathan. The Leviathan should remain unrestrained and uncheck for him to have the maximum power to execute laws and protect the people.
However, there is a similarity between the Hobbesian society and the contemporary American society. The government in the Hobbesian society is expected to distribute the state scarce resources among the people and to protect their lives and property from intruders. This practice is also available in the practice of democracy in United States. The Americans are to be protected by the government from terrorist attackers and other external invaders. Furthermore, resources are to be distributed in a judicious way among the difficult states and people of America.