• Counter :
  • 20559
  • Date :
  • 6/11/2013

Hobbes View and the Purpose of the Government

thomas hobbes

According to Thomas Hobbes, and some other philosophers[1], the main purpose of government is to maintain order and security[2] even through oppression and depriving people of their personal freedom. Hobbes, one of English philosophers after renaissance, believed that the sovereign, who is granted power by people through contract, has absolute authority in achieving his objectives.[3]

“The purpose of this contract [through which sovereignty is granted to a person or group] is for people to live amongst each other and be safe from harm.”‌

According to this security-oriented view, which is based on Hobbes’ peculiar anthropology, man is assumed to be selfish, ill-natured and predatory.

He believes judging and prescribing the rules of discerning good and evil as exclusive duties of the sovereign[4], nothing the sovereign can do to a subject can properly be called injustice or injury because every subject is author of every act the sovereign does, therefore the sovereign has absolute authority in exercising sovereignty in order to maintain power and security. Therefore the sovereign is not accountable for his actions to people, thus people do not have the right to revolt against the government or punish the sovereign.[5]

According to Hobbes, there is no power higher than or equivalent to the power of sovereign. Therefore the power of sovereign is greater of that of a cleric, and clerics must be appointed by the sovereign and be subservient to him.[6]

The difference between Machiavelli and Hobbes’ views is that Machiavelli seeks to maintain the interests of the ruler and strengthen his power, but Hobbes argues that the absolute authority of the sovereign stems from the legitimacy of the government, which is a natural right and ceding power to the sovereign, and is aimed at protecting the interests of citizens.


[1] Frederick Charles Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Volume V, translated by Amir Jalaleddin Alam, pp 49-52

[2] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, translated by Hossein Bashirieh, p. 189

[3] Frederick Charles Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Volume V, pp 49-52;  Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, pp, 189. 193. 196. 446

[4] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 193

[5] Ibid, pp 193-194

[6] Ibid, p 196

Ahmad Niazi, graduate of Qom Seminary and Phd student of Al Mustafa international university

Source: political science journal, No. 3

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

Other links:

Classic Theories of Happiness (Plato)

Classic Theories of Happiness (Aristotle)

  • Print

    Send to a friend

    Comment (0)