Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Mid 17 century wrote the leviathon
The English Civil War (1641-1649) pitted followers of King Charles 1 against followers of
Oliver Gonmell (parliament). The Cronmellians won, Charles beheaded.
This is relevant to Hobbes because he saw the civil war as tearing under the fabric of society. He
believed there were 2 choices: trusting or chaos.
State of Nature: “a condition in which there is no government or civil authority.”
Hobbes says life is: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
1) People in this state are by nature equal. (anybody can kill anyone else; weak can band
together, strong people need to sleep, anybody can prevail).
2) Equality produces fear.
3) Fear leads to war (not in battle only, but the notion that there is no assurance there will be
peace; a fight may be around the corner at any moment).
4) A state of war leads to pre-emptive strikes against neighbours.
5) There are 3 principle causes of quarrel:
a) Competition (over resources, food, etc).
The general goal = is gain
The specific goal = is to make oneself master of anothers “life, wife, children, and cattle”.
General goal = safety
Specific goal = defence of ones “life, wife, children, and cattle”
General goal = reputation
Specific goal = overcoming perceived lack of social respect.
6) In this state, nothing is unjust (no law, no injustice – there is no „right‟ to your property,
no authority, no justice, or laws, etc).
7) What‟s wrong with this? No civilization (Every man is an enemy to every man. It is no
place for industry, no society, etc)
The Social Contract:
Why are we “inclined to peace” in the state of nature:
We fear death
We desire civilization
Because of this, there are laws of nature. The Laws of Nature:
1) Seek peace, but be prepared to make war.
2) So long as others are willing to do the same, lay down your right to the violent “invasion”
of your neighbour. (Seeking mutual restraint is the beginning stages of signing a
Therefore we should transfer the right to do whatever you want to one person: the Leviathan
The Legitimacy of the Leviathan:
The coat covered in people symbolizes every ones transfer and legitimacy of the Leviathan – you
give him consent and power. (This is the origin of legitimate state authority).
The social contract is meant to address the prisoners‟ dilemma.
Collective Action Problems
The problem: self-interested agents engaged in cooperative activities will tend to act in ways that
promote sub-optimal outcomes.
The solution: empower a government (Leviathan) to force people to act in ways that produce
1) An arms race at an international level.