Thomas HobbesWriting in the aftermath of the English civil war, Hobbes took the view that in the state of nature---humanity free from governing structures---existence was a war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes) as people seek to fulfil their desires. The result, Hobbes contends, is that life was 'solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short'. It is the fear of untimely death, what Hobbes terms the summum malumor greatest evil,that drives him to propose the Commonwealth, where people voluntarily give up their rightto struggle and fight, erecting in place a sovereign (a person or body) who rules over them for the preservation of peace, suppressing the state of nature and the concomitant fear of conflict, making room for industry, commerce, learning and culture.John Locke [To read more John Locke, click here](Links to an external site.)Writing around thirty years after Hobbes, Locke took the view that people are born with rights that inhere in them by virtue of their humanity. On account of this, Locke contends, people can only be ruled over with their consent. Consequently, Locke proposes a system where government is responsible to and conducted with the consent of the governed. Where Hobbes argues that, in a state of nature everyone isat war with everyone, with the only right to wage war, Locke argues that all people are born with a God-given right to life, liberty, and property. To Locke, the state existsto serve the people, not the other way around, and is formulated by the cession of a degree of freedom to more fully ensure its protection. Consequently, Locke asserts, when a government turns tyrannical, a people have not only a right but a dutyto overthrow it. These idea found its way into the U.S. Declaration of Independence,
proclaiming the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and asserting the right and duty of citizens to overthrow a tyrannical government. In some ways, Locke's ideas provide for a political analogue of free-market capitalism: just as the free market ensures that the products and ideas most widely accepted are rewarded,so Locke's system, and democracy in general, ensures that the form of government popularly accepted is supported, and tyranny punished and destroyed.Jean-Jacques RousseauFor French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, l'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers (man was born free, but is everywhere in chains). The great challenge Rousseau sought to address was how to translate into political action the general willof the people in the face of differential particular interests. Rousseau argues that such people as disagree with or diverge from the general will must, knowing not their own civilinterest, be forcedto be free. This raises the question of who can interpret the general will. One interpretation of such a view of the general nature and estate of humanity is that the role of the government is to direct and guide human activity so as to realise the general will.