Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Machiavelli
The thirteenth through the eighteenth century brought profound changes in the political realm of Western civilization. Beginning with the Scientific Revolution and only advancing during the Renaissance, secularization and skepticism lead to changes in not only the intellectual life of Westerners, but also to their politics. At the forefront of the political debate were well-versed men such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. The influences of these men, though often criticized, can clearly be seen in the centuries and decades following their noted works. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau shared many concepts, but the similarities between their theories end at the word politics. Each had different ideas. Rousseau's and Locke's ideas appear to be wishful thinking while Hobbes's ideas seem to be too cynical. Machiavelli's ideas seem practical for his day and for an authoritarian government, but definitely not for a democratic system such as ours. I believe that the most accurate view for a successful society lies somewhere in between Hobbes's cynicism and Locke's optimism. Regardless as to who is most accurate, it is obvious that Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all shaped modern political theories by their views.
Machiavelli was a prominent figure during the early sixteenth century. His political view stemmed from observing the division of Italy into small city-state systems during the late fifteenth century. Invasions, corruption, and instable governments marked this time period. According to Machiavelli, the success of the city-states was dependent on the effectiveness of the autocrats who headed these states. Machiavelli, through observation, saw what was necessary for an authoritarian state to be successful.
According to Machiavelli, the state and its laws were a creation of man that should be protected by the prince in whatever means necessary. "Machiavelli identifies the interests of the prince with the interests of the state." He felt that it was human nature to be selfish, opportunistic, cynical, dishonest, and gullible, which in essence, can be true. The state of nature was one of conflict; but conflict, Machiavelli reasoned, could be beneficial under the organization of a ruler. Machiavelli did not see all men as equal. He felt that some men were better suited to rule than others. I believe that this is true in almost any government. However, man in general, was corrupt -- always in search of more power. He felt that because of this corruptness, an absolute monarch was necessary to insure stability. Machiavelli outlined what characteristics this absolute ruler should have in The Prince. One example of this can be seen in his writings concerning morality. He saw the Judeo-Christian values as faulty in the state's success. "Such visionary expectations, he held, bring the state to ruin, for we do not live in the world of the "ought," the fanciful utopia, but in the...