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Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill’ Views on Leadership Essay


Thomas Hobbes attempts to explain and classify the nature of man into three categories. These are competition, diffidence and glory. The three classifications have been used to quantitatively describe the foundation of western political philosophy. In terms of the modern political power, Hobbes (57) notes that natural power emanates from either the body or mind. However, regardless of the source of power, the degree of eloquence, nobility, literacy as well as strength are prudent. Additionally, the author asserts that the way power is exercised in the current political world is largely divided into two main areas namely natural and civil powers (Hobbes 57).

The two types of powers constitute the commonwealth and largely depend on willingness of parties involved. However, the most predominant theme portrayed by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan is that the natural state of man in leadership is war. The latter is perceived as the point at which man can gain and cling to power whether legally or illegally. Most importantly, Thomas Hobbes highlights the overall importance of monarchy and its state of rule. On the other hand, Mills has also provided a very interesting perspective of power and leadership. It is against this background that this paper analyzes major ideas conceptualized by Thomas Hobbes on Leviathan and today’s leadership as well as John Stuart Mill’s perception on modern leaders.

Leadership and condition of ‘war’

On leviathan, Thomas Hobbes is categorical that men live in awe and in a continuous state of war. In most cases, the concept of living in war is not all about hurting others. It refers to fierce competition that helps people rise to power and maintain the glory associated with leadership. War is described by Hobbes as the political and moral philosophy that men carry along in their quest for leadership. This is the kind of today’s leaders and the nature of leadership as portrayed by Thomas Hobbes. The series Lost season 2 exemplifies this theme and it is played throughout to the end after a tumultuous 48 day period. Thomas Hobbes is categorical that civil wars are not only in battle fields. Neither is the act demonstrated in fighting per se. It is also evident during in-fighting among mankind as they try to sustain themselves in power. In the present world, there is a strong will to contend in the political battles even though the fruits are quite often uncertain.

Absolute monarchy as ideal form of governance

Thomas Hobbes advocated for unrestrained and pure monarchy as ideal forms of governance. According to Finn (66), the political agenda of Thomas Hobbes could be described as inclined to influence and political relevance. His philosophies were that a monarch government has the ability to exert lots of influence and real political relevance. However, Thomas Hobbes is clear that monarchy does not provide the much needed forms of governance that can result into targeted development. He continues to argue that most of the leadership challenges that come along with governance are not attributable to this form of government (Finn 65).

Most problems tend to be similar whether in aristocracy or in democracy. This form of governance is capable of producing security for the people and peace (Finn 58). The present leadership has leaders who can destroy peace and tranquility of a country. That is why Hobbes advocated for a form of governance that is centralized and that can counter selfishness and greed of political leaders.

Leadership and materialism of man

Today’s political leaders are inclined towards gaining favors and material resources. Thomas Hobbes has a strong belief that all things and phenomena in the world can be explained using interactions and motions of the material bodies. That is what the present world of politics and leadership is made of. Participants engage in these leadership positions due to foreseen gains. Hobbes was influenced by the likes of Kepler and Galileo who had discovered laws pertaining motions of the planet. The teachings of Hobbes are that modern people pursue vested interests whenever they are seeking positions and mostly in the political arenas. They however do these by using all means attainable and at the same time trying to avoid pain as much as possible. Hobbes introduces the concept of common wealth or the society which operates as per the directions of men and people at the helm of leaderships.

Leadership and the appetite of evil

Evil is not a practice that anybody would love to undertake. However, it is has become a common phenomena for purposes of gaining material wealth, power and political influence. Hobbes had a belief that quite often, mankind tends to remain in the natural state, and that moral ideas are not present in real sense. In cases whereby morals are absent, it becomes apparent that evil dominates. According to Martel (112), Hobbes equates sovereignty to necessary evil.

Whenever power and politics seem to be coming to a dead end, men refer to evil for the sake of containing it. Martel (112) writes of Thomas Hobbes who noted that any state continues to lie on crucial matters. These lies are put in a way that they are seen as favorable or preferable for development of the society. The theme brought out is that man is in perpetual evil society. This is the kind of society that is present in the world. The trend is real to an extent that some leaders keep themselves into power for unnecessarily long.

John Stuart Mill and today’s leaders

John Mill introduces the concept of liberty of will. Mill was a strong believer of sovereignty and argues that a society is comprised of legitimate persons. In the present world of leadership, men have progressed to a point that they have derived the kind of desires they had of legitimate societies. Nonetheless, minorities have exercised tyranny in the practice of liberty and that is how few men have turned liberty into oppression. According to Daniel (2), liberty is a measure of power exercised by people in the society. Liberty is a perfect example of opposites of monarchies that were advocated by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes. However, John Stuart Mill refutes that democracy in the present world brings in liberty in governance. This paper analyzes the concept of liberty as argued out by John Stuart Mill and correlates this with the present form of leadership as exercised by leaders.

Civil or social Liberty and today’s leaders

John Stuart Mill advocated for what he termed as civil liberty. He argued that restraining people to do what they desire goes against social liberty or freedom of choice. According to Daniel (65), civil liberty can be equated to social liberty whereby there must be a line and boundary between societal legitimacies and individual liberty. The society should not interfere with individual liberty. As well, individual liberty should not interfere with what the society is obligated to do.

The society can only interfere with individual’s liberty when this liberty is bound to harm others. This is the ideal situation John Stuart Mill conceptualized, where, everyone has the right to do something. There should be a clear demarcation between social liberty and freedom of individuals. This is contrary to what the world has in some quarters. Leaders are known to violate rights of individuals, and where the society or government should facilitate individual rights, some violate these choices. The teachings of John Mill are against such kind of violence on the majority.

Liberty of will and today’s leaders

Mill advocated for free will and personal liberty. Daniel (72) expounds that while liberty and society cannot be separated, free will may never be ignored. This is what is violated by politicians and society leaders in the present world. They fail to respect the will of people, and instead, invoke and impose their rules on people without their consent. While social liberty exercised by leaders is important, it is crucial to link with the desires of people. Hamburger (3) notes that John Stuart Mill intended general liberty to embrace control. However, this control should not exceed limits and violate the desires of people in society. In essence, any exercise meant to control liberty should augur well with what people desire. It should be a planned authority and civilized control.

Unitarianism and liberty

John Stuart Mill advocated for universal suffrage. On the same note, he was a spokesman for liberalism, while on ethics; he was supportive of utilitarianism forms of governance. The lesson learnt from this concept is that each member of society should act in a way that will not offend other people. Utilitarianism can be argued to be another form of governance which makes use of liberalism. This is whereby powers that were initially vested in a monarch being significantly reduced.

In its place are people’s power and freedom of people to choose their leaders. According to Hamburger (154), John Mill gave a revised version of utilitarianism as recognizing superiority of pleasures over self indulgence, low and pig like pleasures. One of these pleasures is happiness. Mill teaches that it should be reasonable and which does not violate the rights of others. This is the kind of future leadership that he foresaw. However, today’s leaders take maximum pleasure as everything when it comes to leadership. They do this with total disregard of the feelings and liberty of the majority and the society at large.

Living together, liberty and today’s leadership

In all the concepts advocated by John Stuart Mill, the basic theme is that of respecting other people’s freedom and which in the long run, enhances living together. In the series lost season 2, the characters seem to be working towards an end of living together. Nonetheless, there are various challenges which emerge on the way resulting into disintegration of the society. A stratified society is incapable of building itself. Therefore, the present leadership combines all of these concepts. However, some developing societies are still practicing autocracy and monarchy form of governance. They go against the basic principle of enhancing.

Works Cited

Daniel, David. John Stuart Mill’s on Liberty. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Web.

Finn, Stephen. Thomas Hobbes and politics of natural philosophy. London: Continuum International Publishing, 2006. Web.

Hamburger, Joseph. John Stuart Mill on Liberty and control. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001. Web.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. New York: Forgotten Books, 2008. Web.

Martel, James. Subverting the leviathan: Reading Thomas Hobbes as a radical democrat. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 28). Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill' Views on Leadership. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/thomas-hobbes-and-john-stuart-mill-views-on-leadership/

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill' Views on Leadership." May 28, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/thomas-hobbes-and-john-stuart-mill-views-on-leadership/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill' Views on Leadership'. 28 May.

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