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Essay Hobbes and Goldman: The Good Life and Political Legitimacy

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The nature of a good life and its relation to political legitimacy is a subject which both Thomas Hobbes and Emma Goldman examine in their writings. Hobbes claims that only basic survival is necessary to live a good life because ultimately life is more valuable than comfort. Goldman on the other hand claims that freedom is far more important than simply living and a good life can only be lived by someone who is free to do as they please. In order for a political theorist to understand how legitimate governments and communities aught treat their citizens these theories are essential. For example, if a community holds a Hobbesian view than they will have a strong authoritarian leadership, whereas in a Goldman inspired community would have…show more content…
Stemming from his theories regarding the definition of a good life, Hobbes’ view of political legitimacy is very centered on the ability of the ruler to effectively govern. The first and most important aspect of Hobbes’ view of legitimacy is the idea of a “social contract.” A social contract an agreement between those who are in power and those who are ruled which is a framework which one can view societal relations within. In Hobbes’ ideal government the citizens are free to do anything that is not proscribed by the state; however, if the sovereign creates laws or “chains,” citizens must accept them as legitimate because of the social contract that they tacitly agree to. Citizens give up their rights to resources and freedom of action in exchange for the benefits of peace as well as the protection of the sovereign. In essence, according to Hobbes, any government which can provide stability for its people is legitimate (although he also claims there may be benefits to an autocratic monarchy as opposed to more democratic forms of government.). Furthermore, Hobbes disputes the idea that people need to give explicit consent to be legitimately governed. In the utopian “Commonwealth” that Hobbes proposes a ruler can become legitimate not only through a concordat with the populace but also through strength of arms. If a ruler acquires power though coercive means then, according to Hobbes, he has total
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