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Locke vs. Hobbes — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 7, 2024
John Locke believed in limited government and the protection of individual rights, whereas Thomas Hobbes advocated for a strong, absolute government as a necessity for societal order.
Locke vs. Hobbes — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Locke and Hobbes


Key Differences

John Locke argued that governments should be limited and based on the consent of the governed, emphasizing individual rights and freedoms. In contrast, Thomas Hobbes believed that an absolute monarchy was necessary to maintain order and prevent the chaos of a "state of nature."
Locke's philosophy posits that individuals inherently have the right to life, liberty, and property, which the government must protect. Hobbes, on the other hand, viewed human beings as naturally selfish and quick to violence, necessitating a powerful sovereign to maintain peace and security.
While Locke advocated for a separation of powers within government to prevent tyranny, Hobbes argued that a singular, undivided government was the best safeguard against civil war and unrest.
In Locke's view, if a government fails to protect its citizens' rights, the people have the right to overthrow it. Whereas, Hobbes maintained that the sovereign's authority should be unquestionable to ensure stability.
Locke influenced modern democratic thought and the concept of a social contract that benefits all, while Hobbes' ideas supported the structure of more authoritarian regimes, emphasizing security over freedom.

Comparison Chart

View on Human Nature

Optimistic, sees humans as reasonable
Pessimistic, views humans as selfish and brutish

Ideal Government

Limited, constitutional monarchy
Absolute monarchy

Purpose of Government

Protect individual rights
Prevent chaos, provide order

Right to Overthrow

Yes, if government fails duties
No, sovereignty must be absolute


Liberal democracy

Compare with Definitions


Proponent of tabula rasa, the idea that humans are born without innate ideas.
Locke believed our knowledge comes from experience.


Advocate for absolute sovereignty as the only kind of government that could resolve problems caused by the selfishness of human beings.
Hobbes believed a strong, undivided government could impose order.


Political philosopher advocating for rights and liberal government.
Locke's theories are foundational in modern democratic governance.


Proponent of social contract theory, albeit with a focus on security over rights.
Hobbes' social contract involves individuals giving up certain freedoms for safety.


Influencer of Enlightenment thinking, especially regarding social contract theory.
Locke's ideas were crucial in shaping political thought in the 17th century.


Theorist on the nature of man and political order.
Hobbes held that without government, life would be a constant battle.


Theorist of value of labor in property rights.
Locke held that property rights derive from personal labor.


Political philosopher known for his bleak view of human nature.
Hobbes described human life in natural condition as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.


Advocate for separation of church and state.
Locke argued that religious beliefs should not govern political decisions.


Author of "Leviathan," a fundamental text in the study of Western political philosophy.
In Leviathan, Hobbes outlines his theories on society and governance.


Archaic spelling of lock


English materialist and political philosopher who advocated absolute sovereignty as the only kind of government that could resolve problems caused by the selfishness of human beings (1588-1679)


English empiricist philosopher who believed that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience (1632-1704)

Common Curiosities

How did Thomas Hobbes view human nature?

Hobbes had a pessimistic view, believing that humans are naturally selfish and prone to violence.

What are John Locke's main contributions to political theory?

Locke contributed significantly to liberal political theory, particularly regarding individual rights and the government's role in protecting these rights.

How do Locke and Hobbes differ in their views on revolution?

Locke believed that people have the right to revolt against a government that fails to protect their rights, while Hobbes opposed such uprisings, valuing stability over freedom.

Why did Thomas Hobbes advocate for an absolute monarchy?

Hobbes believed that a strong, undivided rule was necessary to maintain order and prevent the chaos of a natural state.

What government did John Locke favor?

Locke favored a government with limited powers that is subject to the consent of the governed.

Can Hobbes' philosophy be seen in modern governance?

Yes, his advocacy for a strong central authority can be seen in various forms of governance, especially in authoritarian regimes.

What is the foundation of Locke's social contract?

It is based on mutual obligations: the government protects individual rights, and in return, the citizens obey the laws.

What influenced John Locke's political philosophies?

Locke was influenced by the Enlightenment and earlier philosophers like John Milton and Hugo Grotius.

What is the significance of Locke's "tabula rasa" theory?

It suggests that all knowledge comes from experience, contrasting with the notion of innate ideas.

Did Thomas Hobbes believe in the separation of powers?

No, Hobbes believed in a concentrated form of power to prevent division and civil war.

How do Locke and Hobbes' views on the state of nature differ?

Locke viewed the state of nature as a state of equality and freedom, whereas Hobbes saw it as violent and chaotic.

What relevance do Hobbes' views hold for contemporary political debates?

His ideas are relevant in discussions about the balance between security and freedom in state governance.

What impact did Locke have on the U.S. Constitution?

Locke's theories, especially regarding the separation of powers and rights, influenced the framers of the Constitution.

What role does morality play in Hobbes' political theory?

For Hobbes, morality is dictated by the sovereign to maintain order, rather than stemming from natural law.

How do Locke and Hobbes differ in their understanding of liberty?

Locke sees liberty as freedom within the law, essential for personal development, while Hobbes views liberty as whatever the law does not explicitly forbid.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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