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Role of Government as a Socializing Agent and the Role of Morality in Effective Social Control

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"Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) maintained that for social control to exist, there must be strong government to ensure moral and social harmony. Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince) however, contended that social benefits for social stability and security can be achieved in the face of moral corruption."

In about 2000 words, write an essay based on research found in the two books above that talks about the role of government as a socializing agent and the role of morality in effective social control.

The basis of both Leviathan written by Thomas Hobbes and Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince revolves around the use of Natural Law as well as the methods of governing people vis-Ðo-vis the writers' perspectives on virtues and morality in the existence of a monarch. In my understanding, both books provide an interactive and discursive yet subjective extension towards the idea of government and its people, more so to the rights as well as the nature of human beings. Both books give insights to the intellectual minds of their writers, allowing me to delve into issues which I have never thought before, some of which are still applicable till today. I shall begin with my version of practical criticism on Leviathan, thereafter move to Machiavelli's The Prince, giving my perspectives on what I feel is a better form of government and the reasons I deem as appropriate to answer the requirement of this assignment; on the role of government as a socializing agent as well as the role of morality in the effectiveness of social control.

Leviathan by Hobbes from how I've read and interpreted is generally the ideal, morally upright ideas or conventions rising from the need to voice out opinions in relation to the exisiting Civil War that was still persisting in times when the writer expresses himself through the words found in the book. I may be judgmental when stating the above, however I feel that the ideas and thoughts brought forward by Hobbes are not all utopic, I will mention and elaborate further on what I feel is right and thus agree with what Hobbes has to say, but also in applying to my environment and my belief is vital in contributing towards the effectiveness of social control, I want to, and feel that it takes more than just a strong government and an ethical one to add to that.

Before I move on further into the ideas of ethics and role of government in the perspective of Hobbes, I will touch upon the natural law as proposed in the chapters preceding the second half of the book, Chapter 13 of Leviathan in particular. Hobbes states that the right of nature, "is the liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing anything which, in his own judgment and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto." (Chapter XIV). Hobbes brings forward the idea of Natural Law as simply put, 'do not do harm to others, so that others will do no harm to you'. The concept of Natural Law, and the need for a strong government is birthed out of the idea that human beings are hedonistic creatures, that according to Hobbes, "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.", there is therefore a need to govern man, who are perpetually at war with himself and others around him. Man needs control, because naturally, there is a tendency for man to defend himself, when threatened, for example, with a violent death. For Man is a helpless creature, that everyone despite the individual differences, will eventually respond the same way in the face of death, that is to defend himself. It is thereby important for a control to exist to protect Man and to have equality.

The need for a strong and central government comes clear from the understanding of Man as put forward in the first part of his book. In order for a community to have equal rights, to attain peace, power is needed and has to be given to a single leader or a sovereign. There must be a huge, powerful government whose role revolves around the undertaking of civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical powers. The sovereign must be a Leviathan, a biblical reference to a monster, that connotes a huge, powerful authority that is responsible for the matters that are linked to aggression, man at war with another, or anything that pertains to the state. This centralized form of power is what we call the Leviathan state, where the government is above all else, the main authority that decides, use his power and ways to promote peace and attain a common defense for his people.

I can understand Hobbes's point of view, in terms of the need for a strong government to exist such that control is present to govern the people of the state. The argument of the book is that the sovereign must have great authority, like Leviathan, if peace is to be attained and kept in balance. Hobbes uses two key ideas: the state of nature, and the law of nature. He asks the reader to imagine what life would be like if there were no sovereign, the strong, powerful government, and argues that the sovereign must have enough power to enforce the Law of nature if this unhappy condition, (whereby Man, is by nature creatures who seek and act in the interest of himself, and thus could possibly bring about harm) is to be ended.

However he also includes control over ecclesiastical powers, the idea of morality stems in from here. Why is there a need for government to ensure morality and to link it to the affairs of the state, rather a responsibility on the part of the government to ensure equal moral rights are placed upon the people is a highly subjective view. It is nonetheless clear as Hobbes reiterates in his book, that government, and morals go hand in hand, that morality is the basis for good government, which I personally think do not have to be so.

The reasons being, morality in itself is not measureable. And to say that a good ruler has to be moral, or that the basis of good government lies in morality, how then do we judge whether the government is 'good enough'? For morality I believe, is in essence, a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. It is a system, man-made. It is not something that is borne out of divine rights, morality thus lies in the ideas of the government, the Leviathan who decides on what is right and what is not. Yes, there is a measure to control the people in terms of putting in place, a system of organization, a system of control. However let's move on to the ruler, the leader who in character, has to be moral in order to rule the people, in order to be responsible over the control of all the abovementioned aspects, of civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical



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