Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau Comparison Grid






State of Nature

The state of nature is a state of war.  No morality exists.  Everyone lives in constant fear.  Because of this fear, no one is really free, but, since even the “weakest” could kill the “strongest” men ARE equal.

Men exist in the state of nature in perfect freedom to do what they want.  The state of nature is not necessarily good or bad.  It is chaotic.  So, men do give it up to secure the advantages of civilized society.

Men in a state of nature are free and equal. In a state of nature, men are “Noble Savages”.  Civilization is what corrupted him.

Purpose of Government

To impose law and order to prevent the state of war.

To secure natural rights, namely man’s property and liberty.

To bring people into harmony.  To unite them under the “General Will”.


Governments are designed to control, not necessarily represent.

Representation ensures that governments are responsive to the people.  Representation is a safeguard against oppression.

Representation is not enough.  Citizens cannot delegate their civic duties.  They must be actively involved.  Rousseau favors a more direct democracy to enact the general will.

Impact on Founders

Governments must be designed to protect the people from themselves.

1.       Governments must be designed to protect the people from the government. 

2.       Natural Rights must be secured.

1.       Governments must be responsive and aligned with the general will. 

2.       People make a nation, not institutions.

3.       Individual wills are subordinate to the general (collective) will.




Political Continuum



Liberal                                                Liberal/Moderate                                                                  Conservative

Rousseau                                           Locke                                                                                     Hobbes