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The Stance of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke on the Political Community

This study analyzes the role played by morality while operating a political community. The specific reference is made to the views of great political thinkers concerning a relationship between morality and governance. The comparative analysis is provided on how Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke conceive the connection between morality and the political society. The three thinkers assert that morality is central to political systems. More parallelism is created between Machiavelli and Hobbes on the significance of a supreme being in the creation of moral laws. However, the paper asserts that Locke provides the best argument by explaining the importance of God while creating natural laws. Such ones define morality and its significant role in the acceptance or rejection of a political system.

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Morality, according to Machiavelli, is built on the following basis. Individuals live in an ever changing world. Morality in this sense is related to the present world. It is centred on individuals and their actions. The first argument of Machiavelli is that morality has a little role in shaping political actions. It should not be misconstrued to mean that Machiavelli detached politics from morality. Traditionally, morality was viewed as the compliance to traditional religious ethics. It is a notion that Machiavelli sought to debunk it and instead introduced a new morality changing the ever changing surrounding. Traditionally, morality was conceptualised in relation to God. The difference that Machiavelli seeks to introduce is to conceptualize morality in relation to nature. He perceives good behavior without any reference to God.

Machiavelli’s work is being in a search of a strong political community. He argues that it cannot be built based on the universal morality. He states that individuals should continuously improve themselves through experience instead of relying on a standard scheme of the morally wrong and good actions. In this view, Machiavelli argues that rulers should change their behavior, according to changing circumstances. He considers that governors are supposed to harbor all qualities that should be good. However, he intimates that it is not possible to have all these characteristics. Therefore, living a completely virtuous life is almost impossible under changing conditions.

Machiavelli has strongly approved the moral qualities strengthening political societies, bolstering the enterprising power of individuals, and making the public inspired. For this reason, he disliked some Christian traits such as patience under justice and humility. He as well approved ambition. The reason is that nations need strong men to create a powerful political community. These forceful individuals should manipulate traditional values to adapt to circumstances and achieve unity, stability, and order. Machiavelli argues that a ruler should observe common merits though as well deviate from such ones when it is necessary. His concern about religious morality is attached to the extent, to which it influences political behavior. Machiavelli has a negative perception of human nature. He claims that whoever desires it to build a state and give it laws must proceed on the following assumption. All men are bad and always ready to show their vicious nature whenever an opportunity comes up.

Generally, Machiavelli has challenged the notion of basing morality on the Christian ethics in the political life prevailing during his lifetime. His approach was that morality should be pragmatic and adaptable if it had to effectively shape the political community. He has argued that the political society needs morality of its own that can enable it to successfully defend its people and guarantee them safety.


Like Machiavelli, Hobbes seeks to build a system of morality and the political community without any reference to religious principles and laws. The two thinkers also interconnect the conceptions of morality and the assumptions on human nature. According to Hobbes, the driving force of people’s actions is their passions. However, unlike Machiavelli claiming people to be bad and vicious, Hobbes does not talk about their wickedness. This scholar states that the desires of individuals are not sins in themselves. Bad actions do not derive from the passions till human beings learn about the existence of law banning such actions. He claims that the ill conditions that a person is classified in by the mere nature are a partial outcome of desires and mind.

Hobbes’ theory also differs from the traditional accounts of natural law. The concepts perceived the laws of God as also the regulation of nature and, by extension, valid in the political society. The traditional accounts have also assumed that men will know the laws through reason. They obey these regulations as an expression of obedience to God. On the other hand, Hobbes argues that reason does not source the laws of nature from the rules of God. He rather claims that individuals utilize their experience to discover that for them to have peace they should follow certain regulations communicating with other people.

Hobbes asserts that two important forces shape morality and build the political community. These ones include the fear of death and love for power. The first one is classified among the passions of people. It overcomes the love for power. This passion shapes morality by promising the furtherance of life. Morality, according to Hobbes, results from the formulation of rules that people follow to maintain and preserve their lives. This conception is parallel to Machiavelli in the view that morality is connected to the public-political life rather than of individuals.

Hobbes’ idea is the following one. If the fear of death and self-preservation is a main concern for people, they should be organized under the authority of the state and commit the power to sovereigns. The scholar is scared of what can happen if people weaken sovereign power by their disobedience. In such occurrence, individuals will be constantly at war with each other. Therefore, persons should surrender the power to decide good and bad to the monarchs, to whom they will appeal on the matters of morality.

Hobbes’ view was that men should obey the will of rulers on the issues of what is right or wrong. The reason is that the sovereign has the complete knowledge about human nature and moral laws. Generally, Hobbes’ view displays that the basic passion driving the actions of individuals is a need for self-preservation. An action is judged to be morally good based on whether it contributes to self-preservation or not.


Locke is prominently known for his natural law theory that connects ethics with politics. Most of his works are concerned with morality. Locke begins by asserting that morals are easily vivid as in the case of mathematics. The scholar explains morality with the reference to God and the natural law. He claims that God is an ultimate source of morality. He states that the Creator has given a man the natural law, which should govern all actions including the political system. Locke mentions that morality is a core business of humankind. According to this scholar, morality has defined in clear terms is a foundation of government and justice.

Locke’s explanation of morality begins with the claim and acknowledgement that there is God. The perfection and regularity of nature demonstrate that there is a powerful Creator of all things. The discovery that there is God and the knowledge of oneself leads people to discover their duty to do His will. The revelation of the person’s senses and the consciousness of the obligation to do His will yield the specific moral duties. To motivate people to obey, the Creator sets laws and attaches rewards for obedience and the penalty for disobedience.

Locke has emphasized the role of morality in the creation of a political community or a government. He has defined political power as the natural authority wielded by each individual and collectively bestowed to the hands of a designated body. According to Locke, the political society is made when it surrenders a part of its natural rights in favor of a government. The community gives up this power in anticipation that the authority will protect the rights better than any person can do.

Locke believes that morality is necessary for the part of the government because it exists principally to ensure the well-being of the society. He believes that any authority that does not uphold morality should be replaced. The people making up the community have a moral obligation to revolt against a political system that does not act to benefit the community. Locke has believed that the society should closely examine political institutions to guarantee that they uphold moral principles. He also supposes that the authority keeping moral standards causes material and spiritual prosperity in the society. According to Locke, the morality of natural law is self-perpetuating and permanent. Political systems only contribute to the moral order.


The comparative analysis conducted above indicates a greater similarity of opinions of Machiavelli and Hobbes. It is their conception of morality without the reference to God. They also concentrate on what is morally right in the public, i.e. political life. According to this view, the scholar provides a better account by fully acknowledging the contribution of religious principles in building a moral community. Locke also demonstrates that morality is relevant both in the private and public life. The efforts of individuals in upholding morality culminate to a stable and prosperous political society.

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