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SCS 1160 Study Guide - Final Guide: English Civil War, Social Inequality, Class Conflict

Social Sciences
Course Code
SCS 1160
Jordan Stancil
Study Guide

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Melissa Joly (6756450) 1
The problem of social class seems to preoccupy many and arguably all of
our authors. Write an essay about this theme using the following questions as
guidance. How does each of the writers address the problem of social class?
What role does class and the relations among classes play in each writers
broader concerns? How does class conflict affect these writers’ views about
how politics works and about how society is organized?
Ever since the first man claimed personal possession and society developed, there has been a
fixation on the individuals place in the social system. The individuals place in the social structure and
the manner in which different societal classes interact with one another is a major focus of many
political philosophers. In the 14th century, when Italy was experiencing a political changeover with the
expulsion of the Medici family, Machiavelli wrote his book “The Prince”, which was a detailed
handbook for how a person of authority should operate. The book focused on the prince's struggle
between power and public opinion and emphasized the importance of the divide between the public
people and those in power. Hobbes introduced the state of fear, which is a society run off a central
power, who uses this power to induce fear, and therefore the obedience of his nation. Contrarily, Locke
developed a theory in which the government worked for the people, and using the same social contract
which Hobbes describes, is able to create a community based off of liberal values which value the
individuals natural rights. Rousseau wrote the Discourse of Inequality which explores the notion of
how society developed and therefore how social class developed from the state of nature. Marx
describes this as the classic fight of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the factory owner and the
factory worker and the inevitability of a communist revolution which eliminates all sense of social
class. Durkheim's Divisions of Labour in Society discusses how societies maintain order through
mechanical and organic solidarity as well as the transition from a primitive, natural society to one

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which is complex and mechanical. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, and Durkheim all
present differing philosophies of both how society currently functions and the ideal society. These
viewpoints are largely influenced by the time period in which they lived as well as important life events
which influenced their psyche.
Machiavelli’s book entitled The Prince, was seen a as a guidebook for the common ruler.
Machiavelli like Hobbes, believes in an absolute central authority, bound by the social contract theory.
It is of Machiavelli’s opinion that a ruler must be able to sacrifice his morality for his state, he must in
other words, love his state more than his sole. The Prince acts as a preparation for future leaders,
preparing their minds for the potential immoral acts they may have to commit. According to
Machiavelli there are two phases to ruling the public successfully, warfare and managing public
opinion. The first, warfare, is fairly straight forward. A leader must be confident in military tactics in
order to protect his territory from outside threats, thereby securing his kingdom as a threat. Machiavelli
also recognized however that public opinion was rather important. In Machiavelli’s eyes there are three
social classes, the average citizen, the elite, and the sovereign. By managing the public opinion of the
average citizen, the prince would protect himself from being overthrown by the elite, therefore securing
his place in power. A good leader must be able to form a balance between what his ideal military
tactics would be and the ability to keep public opinion at bay. The most important characteristic of a
prince is his ability to sacrifice his morality for the good of the state and to prevent immoral acts being
acted upon him. To do this, the leader must be willing to sacrifice not only his morality but also his
word, being willing to denounce statements or laws which are no longer beneficial to himself
In Machiavelli's ideal state however, the average citizen's roles extent further than simply
obeying the sovereign. The average citizen has three responsibilities, to be active in political affairs, to
be virtuous, and to be economically independent. According to Machiavelli, a citizen has no right to the
protection of the sovereign if they are not able to take action in the politics surrounding the state. For if

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they are not involved they are not acting as citizens of the state in all it's authority. The citizen must be
virtuous to both his king and moral values, in order to ensure his state is run in a moral manner and to
avoid tyranny, however the citizen must always be loyal to their king, even if it means sacrificing the
morals of the community. Lastly the citizen has the responsibility to be economically independent in
order to aid in the funding of the state and to evoke civil pride.
Thomas Hobbes, the author of the work Leviathan, is famous for stating that he and fear
were born twins. Having been born premature due to the coming invasion of the Spanish Armanda,
and being forced to flee to Paris during the English civil war, Hobbes was constantly surrounded
by fear during his lifetime, which in return, effected his view of the citizens role in society.
Hobbes was a big proponent of the social contract theory which stated that a citizen, by being part
of the societal group, has automatically given up some of their rights to the sovereign in return for
the sovereign's protection and services. In Leviathan, Hobbes states, “where there is no common
power, there is no law; where there is no law, there is no injustice”, this quote refers to the
Hobesian ideal that without a central power, man would only act in the way which is most
beneficial to himself and would therefore revert back to his primitive instincts which are inherently
selfish. Hobbes speaks to this natural state through he quote, “To this war every man against every
man”, meaning that when left to their own devices, it is a solo world.
Since, according to Hobbes, there is to be only one central authority in the ideal world,
there would only be two classes, the sovereign or ruling power and the citizens. The sovereign's
role is to act in the best interest of the commonwealth, he would be awarded absolute power in
order to ensure a sufficient defence. The sovereign would also act as a common power, eliminated
all other other illegitimate sources of power which may result from the average citizen. It is for
this reason that the sovereign operates in the manner of fear, in order to maintain it's power and
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