Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2010
Adeolu Oluwaseyi Oyekan
Human Nature and Social Order: A Comparative Critique of Hobbes and Locke
Central to most intellectual debates on political organization is the issue of human nature, for one’s understanding of it influences one’s prescriptions on how best society can be governed. This paper examines the contractarian theories of Hobbes and Locke in their attempts to identify the conditions for social order. Deploying a critical and comparative method, the paper identifies the failure of the two theories to recognize the complexity of human nature, a complexity which forecloses the plausibility of a descriptive straitjacket. The paper further argues that contrary to Hobbes’ pessimism and Locke’s optimism towards human nature, the individual has qualities which point to a delicate balance of both. Consequently, the paper highlights the imperatives of social order in a manner that accommodates the complexity of human nature. It concludes that it is on the basis of the appreciation of these dimensions of human nature that we can hope to evolve an enduring social order.