The United States of America is a nation that is known for it’sunique system of government which was inspired by famous empires such as theRomans and also great philosophers such as for example, Thomas Hobbes.
The goalof our functioning government is derived from what we, the people, believe is justand equal to man while diminishing from the concepts described from the pastthat hinders individuals in a society. The belief that man had their own rightswas not always in existence, we know because history explains periods of time andrepeats itself, for example, where societies like the Egyptian dynasties andthe establishment of kingships. Hobbes’s works signifies a time in history inwhich people spark their minds and realize social science as well as politicalscience and philosophies. Also, how to create a better organized community. In relationto Hobbes claims in Leviathan that are tyrannizing and also nonefficient, onecan be aware that now with our political knowledge, how his society fails toactually reach its intended purpose of a commonwealth. However, Hobbesaddresses many important observations on the nature of man and how violencedrives man to achieve their desires even if it means denying that ofanother.
Arendt also makes claims in On Violence in regards toacts of violence but on how it is linked with inequality as she believes thatwith violence total power within the hands of an elite few can never be reached.Hobbes also contends that to overcome this nature of violence that man has,their rights must be stripped and given to the Common Power, but as we read inKing’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, man has a duty to stop and interruptunjust laws. Both Arendt and King describe ways of running a society thatoppose debunk Hobbes’ concept of the Social Contract.
In this analysis I willattempt to interpret Hobbes’ work from Leviathan by explaining theobligations man has to create commotion by King and Arendt’s honest statementson how violence and rage are acceptable 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.Arendt claims that no human life, not even a hermit, is possible without aworld which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other humanbeings (On Violence, 138). To further explain the example, even a smallcreature in the ocean must rely on the communication with its community membersand not on forced violence. The example and its similarity to human activityhelps negate Hobbes argument of human natures reliance on violence because toArendt, if we do not act in violence we will become peaceful.
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 this condition,that thou give up thy Right to him.This done, the Multitude so united in onePerson, is called a COMMON-WEALTH. This is the Generation of the greatLEVIATHAN” (Leviathan, Ch. 17).
When a ruler or set group of peopleare implemented and place violence on those who step out of place by having aprivate life or acting on their own rights, than we lead the way towards atyrannical society but when numbers are low then violence only happens whenforced. Arendt describes power as either a whole society against one andviolence as being one against all, and that violence can always destroypower. Out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resultingin the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of itviolence is power. The greatest example we have is that of how the U.S.
democracy has become a sample for other nations around the world and label itas positive western ways.Looking at Dr.King’s movement that takes a very differentperspective on violence than Arendt but yet still manages to help discreditHobbes argument on needing to take away man’s right’s in order to have aproperly functioning commonwealth. Dr.
King used his natural right to protest,or as Hobbes would consider acting violently, because he was placed in asociety that was not fair and equal and gave rights to white’s but not black’s.The society he had was not perfect so King argues that man has a duty to usedisrupt the peace, and challenge the government in order to reach a perfectsociety. After King protested in Birmingham he wrote a letter addressing theclergymen of the south who attacked him for it and stated they were uneasy atthe protestors “willingness to break laws.” These laws however were unlawfuland immoral anyway so King stated that man should be able to differentiatebetween a just and unjust law, if not then it was their right to break thoselaws. In King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he describes what a just law is:a law that upholds 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 sensethat we know of today. The reason why Hobbes society would not work is becausejust as he said himself, man is destined to act in their natural way ofviolence, King helps show that when one elite group thinks everything isperfect the way it is when it is not, man will act violently to make it right.
By using power in the right way, King shows that large numbers create a changeeven though it is technically a peaceful form of change, Hobbes would considerit violent but his 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.