Politics, Society, Hobbes, And The Tea Party
September 14, 2010 1 Comment
In one of my business classes today, we discussed the Social Contract as a basis of society (some of the thoughts below are developed based on statements of my professors). It is clear that this is true whether one thinks about company norms, the Bill of Rights, parliamentary procedure, codes of conduct, etc. All of these, and more, are based, at some level, on the Social Contract. Our current notion of the Social Contract is based on Rousseau, but some claim that it is “almost as old as philosophy itself”. Regardless of its origins, the Social Contract is a negotiation of control between “man” and “nature”.
Law and structure are the basis of society. Without them, we fall into a state of chaos, controlled by nature only. When each is out for the self and there are no controls, moral or otherwise, it leads to the destruction of society. Hobbes described this in graphic terms. When there is no Social Contract,
“…there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death…”
– Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan Chapter 13
The Social Contract extends to politics – although Hobbes says Hobbes is the primary reason for the Social Contract. It seems as though our government leaders have forgotten how to be civil towards one another and perhaps, they need to reread the Social Contract. I have read countless articles lately on the topic (most recently in Newsweek, I think?) and you would think that politicians would get the idea. There is a reason public opinion of Congress is so low – and it is not just about the policies that are or are not being made.
Personality differences seem to have been exacerbated over the past year or so by politicians on all sides of the aisle.There really is no reason for this. I cannot help but think though, that such (unnecessary) personal attacks seem to have increased with the invention(?) of the Tea Party. Whether or not I always agree or disagree with the politics of the Tea Party, I certainly disagree with some of the Tea Party’s tactics. They certainly are effective, but they are effective because these tactics exist in the world without a Social Contract. They feed on the “state of nature” and contribute to the “the life of man” quickly becoming “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.