Archive for the ‘Section 11’ Category

When John Stuart Mill wrote his essay “Subjection of Women”, he argued that business partnership should be the ideal model for marriage in order for women’s emancipation and a better marriage (Mill 672) as this would create an ‘equal’ atmosphere of interaction.

A television advertisement is depicting a happy family in a suburban setting, the husband, a middle-aged man acts immaturely and the wife then took care of his mistakes with a smile while promoting a certain product…

Seen one like this? Would this be one of the scenarios he conceptualize as the ideal equal marriage relationship? Mill described the equality of business partnership as having no absolute leaders, but having two co-leaders with two equal share of authority. Devoid of the uncontrolled patriarchal lordships Mill observed during his era, is top-down relationships considered an inequality and bad altogether?

Mill in advance, forecasted that at some point, certain opponents (he sometimes described as Casuists) would counter-argue that if both husband and wife have equal say, everyday decisions will be far from being accomplished and the smallest matter (e.g. who buys the grocery?) could involve feral disputes (Mill 672). He made an effort to offset this case by proposing that “one (person) should have their sole control” but it shouldn’t always be the same person each time (Mill 672). Well, shouldn’t deciding ‘who become the leader in which division’ recreates the same vicious cycle of bickering and disputes?

This so-called noble bondage of marriage is claimed by Mill as ‘domestic slavery’ similar to the slavery institution that is still operational in 1869 United States of America (Mill 669). The main point is, top-down relationships is regarded by Mill as unequal rights in action and should be abolished. Mill was and still not alone in this matter; top-down relationship is often viewed negatively especially in this new western civilization and that it is the stems of inequalities that it should be cut off immediately from the branch of society.

Top-down relationships should not be confused with the dominator-dominated relationship. It is crucial to not understand these two relationships to be interchangeable. A top-down relationship can be exemplified by the relationship of a democratic government leader and the civilians. This ‘leader’ exercises a top-down authority to his constituents, meaning that he is granted the ultimate decision power… But then, does he become the dominator? No, not necessarily. The leader is already in contract with its constituents when he signed for the post, therefore, he should be the main crusader for the best interest of his appointee…or he would then be unseated in the next election. A leader with top-down powers should always keep in mind his appointee, similarly, the appointed family leader (in this case, husband or wife) should always keep in mind his/her appointer, the core foundation of marriage: the COMMITMENT to have a physically, emotional, intellectual and for some, spiritual relationship with the significant other, if not, it will no longer be a marriage and all the powers of a leader would then be stripped off. Conditions applied, husbands or wives with top-down powers would then be the more responsible and mindful partner and sometimes tend to care more than required, but absolutely not the dominator.

As explained in my previous blog post (Honey, It’s Just Business), the foundation of marriage is rooted deeply on the commitment ITSELF to be a part of each other physically, emotionally, intellectually and for some, spiritually, and this being the source for a marriage leadership, top-down relationships then would not create unequal rights among partners but provide different roles for them. In this post, I WOULD NOT ARGUE which types of relationships is better, or which gender is worth more being the leader, but only to prove the point that top-down relationships are not bad altogether and is possible to be applied in marriage, without one being the dominated and one being the dominator.

Works cited:

[1] Mill, John Stuart. “On Liberty” in Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to

Nietzsche. 2nd ed., edited by David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008).

[2] Honey It’s Only Business. [Polisci 101 Intro to Political Theory Blog]. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from the World Wide Web:https://polsci101.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/honey-it’s-only-business/

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Honey, It’s Only Business..

The world back then for John Stuart Mill was completely wrong. Inhumane slavery, insensible patriarchal lordships…just to name a few. Atrocious practices linger freely among the society creating myriad social upheavals. Marriage, for him, did not escape from negative influences of current social norms. Women were exploited and literally treated as property when tied with this so-called noble bondage of marriage. Wives can be treated nearly as servants, with the husbands regarded by law as ‘lord of the wife’. Also, wives can’t even have the rights to own property alas inheriting any from her husband (Mill 667). To summarize, women are deprived most if not all her rights when she married a man. Mill’s “Subjection of Women” essay argued that partnership in business is the ideal model for women’s emancipation and a better marriage. Or is it?

The sense of equality in business partners seems to be an attractive best solution to lift the status of women as a more appropriate partner in marriage. Assuming both partners have equal shares in the business, their say would carry the same weight in determining the business’s directions. One business partner would also have equal rights to exit the binding contract between them, thus protecting both parties from dominating each other (Mill 672). However, it is of utmost importance to first analyze the analogous features between business partnership and marriage before we determine its relevance to each other. Interestingly, these two social institutions were built on extremely contradictory foundations that it can be of opposing ends in a continuum. The core of business partnership would be ‘conditional reciprocation’ meaning relationship comes after certain requirements were met, while marriage is built on an unconditional one. Plainly, business partnership is centered more on self-interest; its relationship depends on the ability of each partner to benefit from each other (e.g. profit, protection, market power, etc). Once the chain of benefits is broken, the core of its relationship is crumbled, the partnership could be off. Marriage relationship, unlike the former, is based on a different paradigm, involving different goals. Not relying solely on benefits each partner could garner from each other, marriage is a relationship that roots deeply on the commitment itself to be a part of each other physically, emotionally, intellectually and for some, spiritually. Marriage is not about what others CAN do for us, but what we WANT to do for others.

Now, how can such two systems of relationship with different goals compared with each other? Business partnership probably suits its purpose to steer a firm’s course in the tangly world of business but in an intimate relationship such as marriage that’s probably not the case. It’s main reliance on self-interest and materialistic benefits instead of the relationship itself is what people describe as ‘strictly business’, and fittingly describes its ‘strict’ and brittle relationship with less tolerance. When billionaire Tiger Woods’s scandal erupted and no longer beneficial of a business image, it only took weeks before global consultancy firm Accenture ended their six-year relationship/sponsorship with Woods; with more partners like Gillette and watchmaker Tag Heuer forecasted to take actions (NY Times). As the core of marriage is the relationship itself, and involves a lot more aspects such as the ‘PIES’ (Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual), added with interpersonal intimate interaction, marriage is a relationship built for stability. It would be dreadful if a marriage relationship became so superficial that it could break at any minor crises, considering its impact socially (e.g. raising of children). It would be inappropriate and even detrimental if one would apply the interaction system of a business partnership to marriage.

When Mill introduced this theory, he probably has the best interest at heart to quickly alleviate women’s status from the harsh patriarchal lordships. I would courageously say business partnership would be inappropriate as a marriage model, and that interactions in a marriage only reflect the social interactions of the community as a whole. Foundations of marriage, is not the cause of this atrocity, but the fundamentals of society is what needed to change first.

Works cited:

[1] Mill, John Stuart. “On Liberty” in Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to

Nietzsche. 2nd ed., edited by David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008).

[2] Accenture Ends Sponsorship of Tiger Woods. [NY Times Online]. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/13/sports/AP-US-Tiger-Woods-Accenture.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=tiger%20woods%20sponsorship&st=cse

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            Throughout the readings on Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, discussion centered around one ruler- a prince or sovereign.  John Locke introduced a new form of political thought based on the idea of separation of powers.  Hence, no one individual has absolute power.  In Second Treatise of Government, Locke talks about the idea of being free and equal, as well as other important topics that distinguish his ideas from his predecessors.  I will discuss why, according to Locke’s principles, democracy is a more successful form of government as opposed to tyranny or monarchy.

            Locke addresses ideas inherent or explicitly defined in prior methods of thought.  Specifically, he recognizes the popular belief that God gives kings authority, so kings have a divine right and justified claim to power.  Locke, however, challenges this because he proposes that people are free and equal.  Equality involves given rights of humanity because God make people equal such that one cannot dominate another.  This is a notion of justice that Locke then links to freedom.  An individual is free until his or her exercise of freedom harms another individual.  Justice also appears when Locke discusses the right to judge.  If anyone has executive power, then personal biases will eventually cause a problem.  Therefore, Lock suggests a common judge.  With a common judge, similar benefits from Hobbes’ sovereign allow for unbiased judgments and time efficient resolutions.  However, for Locke, the common judge does not make the laws as with Hobbes’ sovereign.  This allows for checks and balances on power to preserve personal freedoms.  In this case, one does have an obligation to the laws because an individual may be tried before the common judge, but there is also the right to revolt and appeal.  This highlights a key difference between Locke’s common judge and Hobbes’ sovereign.  We can also see this difference in the Unites States’ method of government today in that it is much more similar to Locke’s checks and balances and separation of powers.

            Benefits of allocating power appear when analyzing Locke’s explanations about the negative characteristics of usurpation and tyranny.  In the case of usurpation, the government has the power to overrule laws which adds an uncertainty to the government’s capabilities. Are there then no limits to the government’s rule?  With usurpation, the answer is no, so people may have constant fear toward the government.  In a tyrannical state, the ruler can take property, life, and freedom, again leaving the people with uncertainty and fear.  In these cases, as well as in a monarchy, denial of representation prevents the people from being able to speak out for themselves.  This oppression is a general harm for Locke and can lead to a long chain of abuses in the government.

            The benefits that a democracy brings include representation, separation of powers, and, perhaps most importantly, a guarantee of freedom and equality.  The constant state of feeling powerless and unable to elicit change is addressed through Locke’s ideas.  Recognizing the need for a government for protection, Locke gives us the preliminary ideas of a government run for the people and by the people, making Locke very influential toward the foundation of the United States’ government and its democracy today.

Rebecca Beagan Section 11

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Politics and Religion in America:
Where is This Religious Tolerance I Have Heard About?

Section 011

I have decided to post this blog this late in the term because it does not directly correlate to any of our readings, however, I do believe this is an important political issue that should be discussed.

How many senators and representatives in congress believe in some form of a God? How many do not? The 111th congress opened this year with, at most, 7 “non-believers”. Breaking that down, there were actually two Buddhists and five who declined to answer the question. This means that a confirmed 1% of congress does not believe in a God. Is this just because 1% of America does not believe in a God? Not quite, only about 80% of Americans believe in a God, leaving 20% who have declared not to be affiliated with any God religion. Thinking about this in a larger sense, how many presidents have declared to not believe in a God? Zero. So, one may be asking oneself, what’s the issue here? The issue is that those who do not believe in a God are put at a disadvantage on the political level by many of the American people and there is something seriously wrong with this.

A USA Today/Gallup poll in 2007 showed that only 45% of respondents would vote for an Atheist. So, theoretically, even if a non-believer ran for president and would clearly be the best candidate for the position, he would still not win, because of his lack of belief in a God. Does this seem right? Does this seem like it is in the best interest of the country? I do not see how the answer to this could be yes. Some may claim that because he does not believe in a God, he would be immoral and therefore advocate immoral laws. However, this attack against political atheists has relatively little ground. Just because religions with a God advocate some kind of moral position on almost everything, why is it that without a belief in God, someone cannot be moral? This is blatant prejudice thought. Also, since when did everyone who believes in a God follow all those morals anyway? (We all have at least heard one story of a politician who has been “unfaithful” to their spouse).

Maybe one could argue that, “people should have the right to vote for who they want.” This is true, but that does not make this issue any less of a problem. The issue of stereotyping race, sex, gender, etc. has come to discussion in American politics, so why not religion? Just like there is no reason not to vote for an African-American who is most suitable to be the Commander-in-Chief, there is no reason to not vote for a non-believer in the same situation. Too many voters are unfairly stereotyping those who do not believe in God and consequently voting their religion in office and not voting based on merit. Once again, this can in no way benefit America and can only hurt it.

The United States claims to have a government that is separate from religion, but the word “God” is on our national currency and is said during almost any political address. We claim to have freedom of opportunity, but the political scene looks grim for anyone who enters without a belief in God. I am not advocating “Godlessness” in America, only in American politics. We should vote for our public officials based on merit, not on religion. Government and religion need to be in two separate spheres: just as the government has no place in religion, religion has no place in American government.


Lin, Joanna. “111th Congress reflects greater religious diversity in

the U.S. .” L.A. Times 05 Jan 2009: n. pag. Web. 13 Dec 2009.


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Since December 2007, the number of unemployed persons in the United States has risen by 7.9 million (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm). This statistic – along with the November 2009 unemployment rate of 10% – reveals that the United States is currently experiencing significant economic troubles. These problems have ignited political debates across the country that have brought into question what role the government should play in helping those who are suffering from economic hardship. At the core of these arguments lies the issue of whether or not the government should intervene in the private lives of individuals. I would argue that these debates, in questioning the relationship between government policy and individual liberty, have added a new sense of relevancy to a political discussion that has lasted more than a century. Liberal minds, starting with John Stuart Mill in his work titled On Liberty, have spent a great deal of time attempting to explain the importance of individual liberty and to present opinions on how involved a government should be in the private lives of citizens. Two different liberal schools of thought – Old and New Liberals – developed possible answers as to what the relationship between a state and its people should resemble. Through the analysis of these two viewpoints, I believe that the complexity of the current political situation in the United States will be revealed. This complexity, I would argue, will force Americans to once again bring into question whether or not the government should play an active role in dictating the private lives of citizens.

I feel it is important to first present the fundamental ideals of Liberalism in order to understand the basis from which Old and New Liberals have developed their ideas. John Stuart Mill, in his work On Liberty, states it is “imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve,” (Wootton, 620). This statement reveals the importance that early liberals placed on the ideal of individual liberty. Mill stresses in his writings that people, when acting within their own “private” sphere, should have the right to base their actions off of their own free will.  However, this seemingly simplistic idea is convoluted by the reality that people, as they are members of society, interact with each other on a regular basis. Mill is aware that these interactions could be potentially harmful to society as a whole if an individual’s actions are not monitored. This is why Mill argues it is necessary for a set of rules and standards to be created so that life in this more “public” sphere can run in a smooth manner. The government establishes these rules and standards in the form of laws. It is at this intersection of Mill’s ideology that the viewpoints of New and Old Liberals deviate. These two versions of Liberalism, as shown below, have fundamentally different visions as to what extent the government should intervene in the natural course of events of the “public” sphere.

Old Liberalism – also known as Classical Liberalism – was founded by Herbert Spencer. He agrees with Mill that a person’s individual liberty should be cherished. However, he develops his own opinion as to why individual liberty is important based on his belief that the nature of human society is very similar to an organic entity. Spencer argues that when individuals act freely, they compete with one another. The end result of this competition is the success of one individual and the failure of another individual. Spencer explains that it is through this process of the “survival of the fittest” that a strong and advanced society will be established. In his work titled The Study of Sociology, Spencer states, “social arrangements which retard the multiplication of the mentally-best, and facilitate the multiplication of the mentally worst, must be extremely injurious,” (Spencer, 344). This statement illustrates Spencer’s belief that individual liberty is important in that it allows for the superior members of society to survive. He goes on to further state “fostering the good-for-nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty,” (Spencer, 344). This raw language bluntly argues that it is of no use for a society to attempt to shield the inferior from “that mortality which their unworthiness would naturally entail,” (Spencer, 344). In other words, Spencer is arguing that “weak” people, because they are naturally inferior, should ultimately be left to die off. The final result of this process, Spencer believes, would be the realization of a society made up of only “superior” human beings. These opinions on the importance of allowing Social Darwinism to shape a perfect society are closely related to Spencer’s other assertion that people must be allowed to act freely in order to not disturb the natural course of society. In order to act freely, Spencer argues, governments should not interfere with or constrain the liberty of an individual to act in a free manner.

New Liberalism was created – in large part – as a response to the ideologies of Old Liberalism. Thomas Hill Green, a founder of New Liberalism, believed that liberal politicians had lost sight of the true goal of Liberalism. He states in his “Lecture on Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract” that “there can be no freedom among men who act not willingly but under compulsion,” (Green, 371). This statement reveals that Green, Like Spencer, also agrees with Mill on the basis that individual liberty is an extremely important ideal. However, he disagrees with Spencer’s assertion that those on the losing end of social competition should not receive help from the rest of society. He argues that the social position of a man does not reflect that man’s ability to be a “winner” in society. To defend this opinion, Green speaks out against the idea that men are solely the result of natural forces and advocates that current society – through its laws and standards – has crippled a certain group of people. Therefore, Green argues, it is the moral duty of society to help lighten the burden of those who are experiencing hardship in order to help them ascend into the “winning” half of society. He stresses that it is the duty of the government to act in a moral manner and advocate a positive freedom through which individuals can prosper with government assistance. This means that New Liberals support positive and constructive government intervention in the lives of citizens.

Old and New Liberalism, although both stemming from the same ideology, present two fundamentally different outlooks on to what extent the government should intervene – or not intervene – in the private lives of citizens. I would argue that these two viewpoints only offer simple solutions to complex issues. I feel Old Liberalism’s position that the government should not intervene in the private lives of citizens is problematic in that a policy of “no intervention” would result in increased class distinctions and mass poverty (Old Liberals would view this poverty as a sad necessity, but I am choosing to focus my analysis only on the Old Liberal call for minimal government intervention). However, I find myself believing that it is also problematic if a government fiercely follows New Liberal policies and ensures that people will always receive aid.  I feel that if people know they will never hit “rock bottom” they might not have the drive to help themselves and better their own lives. In conclusion, I find myself unable to fully align with one of these two ideological camps. I feel both that government intervention should be avoided in order to encourage self-growth but also that a government has a duty to intervene when people really are in need. This is where I would like to present the following question: Given that 10% of Americans are currently without a job, do you think that it is the government’s role to intervene in the natural course of society and immediately provide those who are suffering from economic hardship with the help they currently need?


Unemployment Data – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

John Stuart Mill Quote – Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought – Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Second Edition. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008. Print.

Herbert Spencer – The Study of Sociology (London: C. Kegan Paul, 1881), 339-346.

Thomas Hill Green – “Lecture on Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract,” in The Works of Thomas Hill Green (London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1891), 365-386.

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Kant Goes to School

Recently, we’ve been talking about Kant and his idea of enlightenment.  To Kant, “enlightenment” means “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.”  And “immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another” (Wooton 522).  Kant also says that reason is the tool to use in order to become mature and enlightened.  I thought about this and wondered how Kant would react to our current university teaching system.  At first, I thought that Kant would be against the teaching methods, but as I looked closer I found that this was incorrect.

The common idea is that we go to school in order to learn.  People have different reasons to go.  One person goes to school simply because it’ll get him/her a better job in the future.  Another person just wants to learn.  I think Kant would say that the first person, even though being “educated”, is still immature.  He would say this because this person is following a common idea of society and depending on “guardians” to progress in life.  Kant’s “guardians” are people who sway your opinion and tell you how to act (Wooton 522).  Also, because the person is relying on the “guardians” for guidance, Kant would think that the person is being lazy and is a coward.

The second person would be closer to being mature, but different ways of learning may hinder his/her maturation.  For example, a large amount of classes at the University of Michigan are large lecture classes.  We sit there and listen to someone talk at us for an hour or so.  We take notes because we don’t want to fail a test.  We simply absorb ideas and accept them because we were taught by the “guardians” that professors are qualified and correct.  In discussion classes, we are swayed to one opinion by our GSIs so that we understand certain points of a reading.  In this sense, we are not using our own reason, thus not becoming enlightened.

This idea, however; is simply grazing the surface.  Kant said “these guardians then show [you] the danger that threatens [you], should [you] attempt to walk alone” (Wooton 522).  When you look at the situation, you see that the number large lecture classes decrease overtime.  The large lectures give you a foundation for your learning.  An introduction, if you will.  After the large lecture, we decide whether we want to pursue that field of interest.  And if we do, we have to use our reason more than ever.  We take the basic knowledge we learned for the introduction and use our reason to pursue our goals.  We choose what we want to believe and then act on it.  Undergrads decide what major they want to get.  Graduate students decide what area they want to get their masters in.  School may scare you with the amount of work classes give, but it lets you decide your path and “walk alone.”  This “spreads the spirit of rational appreciation…for each person’s calling to think for himself” (Wooton 522).

Kant says that the way to enlightenment is to become mature.  To become mature, we must use reason.  The common idea is that we go to college after high school.  Different people go for different reasons.  The methods they use determine whether you mature or not.  One could say that the large lecture idea is not good and it fosters immaturity, but that is incorrect.  They give us a base of knowledge that we decide what to do with.  Thus, we choose our own path and use our reason to become enlightened.

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The state of human nature has been a heavily hypothesized topic of political thought throughout history. Philosophers from a multitude of historical time periods have spent a great deal of effort attempting to define the truths of human nature. It can be argued that the opinions of various influential political thinkers, including Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, present a binding ideological commonality that humanity has an innate tendency to act on selfish motives. However, I do not believe it is possible to develop a stagnant definition of the reality of human nature. The tendencies of mankind, I believe, are prone to continuous change and therefore capable of being catalyzed by more than a single natural force. Through the analysis of the social evolution of mankind, tied together with the dissection of various social ideologies offered by prominent political thinkers, I will present an argument in defense of the idea that the nature of social theory, a key element of political thought, is one of infinite change rather than finite universalities.

Thomas Hobbes and John Locke both present social theories centered on the unchanging belief that man is selfish. Hobbes, in his work titled Leviathan, states “the object of man’s desire, is not to enjoy only once, and for one instant of time, but to assure for ever, the way of his future desire,” (Wootton, 149). This statement reveals the idea that human action is driven by a selfish tendency to always act in ways deemed as beneficial to the preservation of oneself. Locke, although he argues that man possesses the natural abilities of reason and tolerance, insists “self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends,” (Wootton, 289). This means Locke also believes selfishness to be a universal and unavoidable characteristic of mankind. These two men, writing during periods of intense violence spurred by a revolutionary mood in the history of England, felt man was capable of action based only on selfish motives. The divided nation of England presented a world that was easily viewed as one in which acting selfishly was the only appropriate way to achieve self-preservation.

Although Hobbes and Locke present a universal and unchanging definition of human nature as they define their own social theories, modern philosopher Rebecca Solnit argues, through her observations of various human reactions to disasters, that humans are capable of acting selflessly. She claims that the phenomenon of “surprising human kindness and good sense” occurs time and time again when disaster strikes (Solnit, 33). The observations that persuade her to defend this idea are mainly of disasters that have occurred in time periods and places where a social structure has been firmly established. Her argument illuminates the potential reality that modern humanity, upon descending into a state of nature, subconsciously finds it beneficial to its own preservation to work together and assure that old social structures will be erected once again.

How is it that Rebecca Solnit is able to present factual observations that can be seen as contrary to the social theories of Hobbes and Locke? I believe the answer to this question lies within the idea that social theory is organic. External forces, which occur randomly over the course of history, stimulate substantial human reaction. This can be seen in both the violent reactions of Englishmen during the English Civil War and the responses of modern humanity to the challenges presented by disasters. These human reactions to external forces, I would argue, cannot be defined by one common catalyst. That is, I believe humans will act according to the unique situation in which they find themselves. The people of England acted selfishly throughout the 17th century because it was in their best interest to preserve themselves through the use of violence. However, the populations analyzed by Solnit found it more beneficial to act in a selfless manner in order to preserve their lives through maintaining a social structure. I would argue that this is because a substantial portion of modern humanity is not fully capable of prolonged sustainability without receiving help from an established society.

In conclusion, I would defend the social theories of all the philosophers discussed above on the basis that humans acted, during specific and unique time periods, according to the theories presented. However, I would disagree with all of these thinkers on the basis that they present their social theories as finite definitions of human nature. I believe it can be argued that human nature is based on responding to external forces. Therefore, given both a specific time period and the reality that new external forces are always arising, human nature is constantly evolving. This means that social theory, because it is the study of human nature, is also infinitely changing.

Why is this important to the topic of Political Science? Political philosophers have consistently used social theory as a base from which they establish further political assertions. Therefore, presenting an understanding of human nature is an essential piece of the creation of a political theory. As argued above, human nature, and by association social theory, is constantly changing. This means that political theory is also an open-ended science. For example, the development of Communism, I would argue, would not have been possible without the occurrence of both the Industrial Revolution and the worldwide movement to embrace a Capitalist social and economic structure. In other words, Communism, as a political theory, was created as an answer to a newly arisen state of human nature created by a human response to external change. Therefore, human nature, because it is constantly evolving as it responds to new external forces, allows for the infinite construction of new political theories.

Works Cited:

Wootton, David. Modern Political Thought – Readings from Machiavelli

to Nietzsche. Second Edition. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing

Company, Inc., 2008. Print.

Solnit, Rebecca. The Uses of Disaster – Notes on Bad Weather and Good

Government (Essay)

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Sean Houchins

Section 11

Political Science 101

20 October 2009

In the article by Rebecca Solnit, she describes several instances of “disaster” where people actually come together following the events, rather than panic and revert to a Hobbes like state of nature. While the examples she gave may be compelling to have us believe that man’s state of nature is not so bad after all, it is important to examine her argument more closely. Rebecca Solnit’s claim that people actually come together during disaster is, in reality, limited, in that people only come together when their life is not immediately at stake. Therefore, Hobbes is still correct in stating that people are naturally selfish in the way that their primary care is preserving their life.

The first disaster that Solnit describes is a hurricane in Nova Scotia. However, she recounts mostly what happened after the disaster. One person claimed that there was a, ” ‘A sense of happiness to see everybody, even though we didn’t know each other.’ ” (Solnit, 31). During the disaster however, a time where there truly are no laws and man is certainly in a state of nature, there is not much Solnit has to say. It is this time that can truly test a man and how he acts in a state of nature. In this time, men are not as cordial and cooperative as the article suggests they are after the disaster. Take for example the fire that occurred in the Bangkok night club over new years 2008-09, “At least 59 people were killed and more than 200 others injured early Thursday after a fire broke out at an upscale Bangkok nightclub…Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation or were trampled in a rush to get out of the club.” (CNN). Here, the people did not get together and rush out in an orderly fashion as if the disaster were bringing them together. For the people in this nightclub, their lives were immediately at stake, therefore, they rushed out of the club, ignoring order, and trampled on anyone who was in their way. This is the true state of nature that Hobbes is describing.

As for how Solnit describes people after the disaster, it cannot be ruled out that these people are acting out of selfishness as well, rather than “love”, as she puts it. Hobbes states that, “the voluntary actions, and inclinations of all men, tend, not only to the procuring, but also to the assuring of a contented life.” (Hobbes, 149). So it could very well be possible that people are only joining together because they know that the aftermath of a disaster is hard, and if you are in a group of people, it is more likely that you are going to survive. Therefore, Solnit’s observation’s may be correct, that, “A production of civil society…is a work that many of us desire most.” (Solnit, 33) However, her conclusion that a production of civil society is, “a work of love.” (Solnit, 33) is questionable at best. It is quite possible that working together is a work we desire, because we simply have the, “…foresight of [our] own preservation,” (Hobbes 173).

Works Cited

Wooton, David. Modern Political Thought: Reading from Machiavelli to
Second Edition.
Hackett Publishing: Indianapolis, 2008.

Solnit, Rebecca. “Uses of Disaster.” Harper’s Magazine Oct.
2005: 31-37. Web. 20 Oct 2009

CNN, . “Dozens Dead in Bangkok New Year Nightclub Blaze.”cnn.com/asia. 02 Jan.
2009. Cnn, Web. 20 Oct 2009.

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Aditya Badrinath

Section: 11? Something like that HELP JOSH SHIPPER!

The recent reading by Halper and Muzzio introduced the concept of a “Hobbesian city,” or one governed by the principles mentioned in the Leviathan. The authors go on to compare societies described in the Leviathan to our vision of these in movies. The authors’ choices of movies to represent portions of Leviathan, be they the natural state or the reign of the sovereign, are similar in nature: they are all dystopias. This includes the likes of the book burnings from Fahrenheit 451, a not-so-subtle attempt to censor independent thought by censoring anything that can’t be centralized, to the “universally benefitting” decrees from Logan’s Run, which require every human to be euthanized on their twenty-first birthday.

The characteristics of the sovereign’s reign fall in line with our view of a dystopia. Forfeit of personal rights and freedoms, unlimited power, absolute truth derived from the views of a single individual- do these seem familiar? They should- all are elements of the “ideal,” or “perfect” oppressive society, in our minds the embodiment of a dystopia.

But if we believe Hobbes’s ideas of human nature, the social contract suggests that in a twisted way, the sovereign’s government could even resemble a utopia.

A quick second to pause and think about what I just said- yes, I just suggested that an incredibly oppressive government could resemble something we think of as a “paradise.”

The concept of utopia comes from Sir Thomas More’s book of the same name; it describes an ideal community. It is a place where everyone is happy, safe, and has complete freedom to their actions. However the members of the community magically only foster positive thoughts (probably mostly made up of inspirational speakers), and never misuse the freedom to harm others.

While these characteristics seem  alien to the Leviathan, there is an interesting thing about Hobbes’s social contract: it’s not forced. The people willingly sign an agreement to bring to power an authoritarian leader with unlimited power. Why? Fear of the natural state: a period of such utter chaos and turmoil, characterized by war and the ultimate dog-eat-dog world, that any chance of their happiness is destroyed by constant fear and paranoia.

While we discussed the censorship, and lack of rights etc. that exist during the sovereign’s reign, what we often forget is another key element: order. Law is incredibly prevalent in this society. While it is law created and executed by a sole individual (therefore not being very fair), it still is a universal law: it has a purpose of protecting everyone bound by the social contract.

In a strange way, one could expect the people to have a certain amount of happiness in the social contract, from the assurance that their lives are safe. Under the social contract, a man is protected from his neighbor slitting his throat at night by the laws the sovereign constructs, which will punish his neighbor. And in a similar fashion, members of the society governed by a social contract have a freedom that those in the natural state do not: a freedom from an “unjust fear.” While those under the sovereign are supposed to fear their leader (and from that, follow him), it is also true that the subjects of the sovereign do not have too much to fear as long as they follow the laws of the society. Compare this to the natural state, where a person can die at any moment in the eternal war and strife that characterize it. Yes, Hobbes stated that the sovereign retains the right to execute anyone he pleases without a reason, but Hobbes never advocates random executions a la Robespierre just for the purpose of creating fear. In fact from reading the Leviathan Hobbes justifies the existence of arbitrary executions more than he justifies their use.

I’m not advocating a sovereign-run government, but if we choose to subscribe to Hobbes’s views of human nature (ex. humans are selfish and only concerned with their well being, willing to do anything to achieve comfort), then it seems that anything other than strict authoritarian rule would be chaos. According to Hobbes in the state of nature, our instinctive tendencies would leave us unable to achieve happiness, since we would constantly fear the harms others might inflict on us in order to satisfy their desires. And so in a completely twisted way, the social contract is a utopia in that it offers its members a level of happiness, safety, and freedom that their inner nature prevents them from having in the natural state.


Halper, Thomas, and Douglas Muzzio. “Hobbes in the City: Urban Dystopias in American Movies.” The Journal of American Culture 30, no. 4 (2007): 379-390.

Thomas More. Utopia. Elibron Classics.

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Politically speaking, can you have dirty hands even though you are not per say “politically involved” in a direct way?  Just because the mayor decided to corrupt the system by taking money from taxpayers of the city, does not mean that he/she is the only one who has in a political aspect “dirty hands”.  In fact shouldn’t we blame the citizens who voted for him, or even the committee who nominated them in the first place?  That raises some curiosity as to if we as the voters or “tax payers” are involved in what we would call having politically dirty hands in a more indirect manner.  But to be convicted with dirty hands even though we are only but voting, why aren’t we directly involved with the politics?  Is it a case of being guilty by association, or do we have a destined curse of having dirty hands intentionally?

As Martin L. Gross Quotes “We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy” (A Call for Revolution 1993), we as Americans show that it is the philosophers that has sculpted and predicted what our modern day political system is of, and the flaws of how human error could cause what is now “dirty hands”, but of my opinion is just pure sin.  Socrates argued that the way the government was run in Athens was in inadequately governed.  Dr. Martian Luther King fought hard and long just for African Americans to have the same equality as the white man had, as the government and political system was inaccurate and unsatisfactory as well. Its as if we set ourselves up for political error.  I mean I know that sometimes you are put in difficult situations in which you have to make effective and logical decisions, but you also have to think of how effective the outcome will be.  We as tax payers must make the logical decisions as to who we must wisely put in the political office not knowing if we will in the future have dirty hands.  So that raises the question as to how could we avoid dirty hands?  We as Americans as well as me as an African American male would be letting Dr. King down for giving up my privilege to vote, after he waited and died for this vivid vision.

It’s just a hex or a curse that is put on us as humans.  All around the world people might not know it, but we all have dirty hands whether we are politically involved a direct or an indirect way.  We force the blame mainly on the politicians when it is the people as well as we as the taxpayers who are the masterminds behind getting the politicians hands dirty in the first place.  We nominate these figures from Nixon to Bush, and yet we blame all of these political errors, mistakes, sins on the same figures that we (the tax payers) have elected into office, thus we dirty our own hands.  It’s lose lose situation in this system, and I believe that with logical conversation and convincing, that we could make an effort to come up with a new political term of our own “hands of honor” in which we can satisfy Americans and Passover both political and other world problems that hinder us from taking politics to the next level.

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