The United States of America is a nation known for it’s uniquesystem of government which was inspired by well-known empires such as forexample the Roman Empire and great philosophers such as for example, ThomasHobbes. The goal of our functioning government is derived from what we, thepeople, believe is just and equal to man while diminishing from the conceptsdescribed from the past that hinders individuals in a society.
The belief thatman had their own rights was not always in existence, we know because historyexplains periods of time and repeats itself, for example, where societies likethe Egyptian dynasties and the establishment of kingships. Hobbes’s workssignifies a time in history in which people spark their minds and realizesocial science as well as political science and philosophies. Also, how tocreate a better organized community. In relation to Hobbes claims in Leviathan thatare tyrannizing and also nonefficient, one can be aware that now with ourpolitical knowledge, how his society fails to actually reach its intendedpurpose of a commonwealth. However, Hobbes addresses many important observationson the nature of man and how violence drives man to achieve their desires evenif it means denying that of another.
Arendt also makes claims in OnViolence in regards to acts of violence but on how it is linked withinequality as she believes that with violence total power within the hands ofan elite few can never be reached. Hobbes also contends that to overcome thisnature of violence that man has, their rights must be stripped and given to theCommon Power, but as we read in King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, manhas a duty to stop and interrupt unjust laws. Both Arendt and King describeways of running a society that oppose debunk Hobbes’ concept of the SocialContract. In this analysis I will attempt to interpret Hobbes’ workfrom Leviathan by explaining the obligations man has to createcommotion by King and Arendt’s honest statements on how violence and rage areacceptable if it means reaching a small goal.In Leviathan, Hobbes makes one clear argument which is that ofhow humans act based on their natural instinct.
Man will perform in ways ofviolence, similar to how we once used to be, to get what we want. If man has nopower above it then violence will continue until we are no longer left which iswhy a superior power must be instated. When everyone in the society gives uptheir own wants for the greater good then man can be tamed because if one doesnot succumb to the commonwealth or body that Hobbes speaks of than they arefaced with punishment.
Punishment must be used because without it man willalways try to fight for power however, by using fear of violence to stopviolence, Hobbes is creating a hypocritical idea that will eventually only leadto tyranny. While Hobbes makes a valid point about man’s nature to act out withviolence as seen throughout history; Crusades, Spanish conquest of the Aztecs,WW1, etc., Arendt makes some very acceptable answers to this observation suchas for example when Arendt means to say is that that no human life wouldfunction without others being there and testifying and just watching them andtheir actions. (On Violence, 138). To further explain the example, even a smallanimal in the ocean must rely on the communication with its other fellowanimals in the community and not on forced or relying on violence. The exampleand its similarity to human activity helps refute Hobbes argument of humannatures dependence on violence because to Arendt, if we do not act in violencewe will become nonviolent.
Another key point Arendt addresses in On Violence is theseparation between public and private life, a right that man has, whichcontrasts that of Hobbes opinion on the matter. Hobbes believes in diminishinga private life for the society that lives and works solely for the commonwealthand for the “body” of Leviathan, this way the personal rights that man hadbefore which always lead to a struggle of power disappear. Hobbes argues thatby taking away their rights he takes away the possibility of violence. “Theonly way to erect such a Common Power, as may be able to defend them from theinjuries of one another is, to conferre all their power and strength upon oneMan, or upon an Assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by pluralityof voices unto one Will. This is more than Consent, or Concord; it is a realUnitie of them all, in one and the same Person, made by Covenant of every manwith every man, in such a manner, as if every man should say to every man, IAuthorize and give up my Right of Governing my selfe, to this Man on thiscondition, that thou give up thy Right to him .
This done, the Multitude sounited in one Person, is called a COMMON-WEALTH. This is the Generation of thegreat LEVIATHAN” (Hobbes on Leviathan, Ch. 17). When a ruler or set groupof people are implemented and place violence on those who step out of place byhaving a private life or acting on their own rights, than we lead the waytowards a tyrannical society but when numbers are low then violence onlyhappens when forced. Arendt describes power as either a whole society againstone and violence as being one against all, and that violence can alwaysdestroy power. What never can grow out of it violence is power. The greatestexample we have is that of how the U.S.
democracy has become a sample for othernations around the world and label it as positive western ways. Looking at Dr.King’s movement that takes a very different perspectiveon violence than Arendt but yet still manages to help discredit Hobbes argumenton needing to take away man’s right’s in order to have a properly functioningcommonwealth. Dr.
King used his natural right to protest, or as Hobbes wouldconsider acting violently, because he was placed in a society that was not fairand equal and gave rights to white’s but not black’s. The society he had wasnot perfect so King argues that man has a duty to use disrupt the peace, andchallenge the government in order to reach a perfect society. After Kingprotested in Birmingham he wrote a letter addressing the clergymen of the southwho attacked him for it and stated they were uneasy at the protestors”willingness to break laws.” These laws however were unlawful and immoralanyway so King stated that man should be able to differentiate between a justand unjust law, if not then it was their right to break those laws. In King’s”Letter from Birmingham Jail” he describes what a just law is: a law thatupholds human dignity, and an unjust law: a law that “degrades humanpersonality.” The bigger picture Dr. King explains is that those that areoppressed are not the only ones being misguided, but so are those doing theoppressing because they begin to feel a false sense of superiority (175).King’s idea to use “violence” against the oppressing laws shows what Hobbes’Leviathan society would have become had it been implemented.
In Leviathan anyonewho broke a law was punished and rights were not given to anyone in the sense thatwe know of today. The reason why Hobbes society would not work is because justas he said himself, man is destined to act in their natural way of violence,King helps show that when one elite group thinks everything is perfect the wayit is when it is not, man will act violently to make it right. By using powerin the right way, King shows that large numbers create a change even though itis technically a peaceful form of change, Hobbes would consider it violent buthis society would have shattered at the power of large numbers.Nonetheless, by contrasting Hobbes with both King and Arendt we cansee just how mistaken Hobbes was in his belief in a society like Leviathan.Today we are able to see just how wrong and unjust and not crucial a societylike that of Hobbes would do and how far behind the world would be towardsreaching equality and freedom of rights. King helps establish the idea that mancan make a change peacefully and without violence if society fails to meet thestandards of life. If man, as Hobbes states, is really inclined towardsviolence in order to reach power than it would contradict so many powerfulleaders we have today that range from CEO’s to tribe leaders.