Key Thinkers on Law, Order, Justice and Obligation

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Karl Marx

 (5 – Obligation): Believed that there should be no social contract and that the function of the state was to protect individual rights – not the interests of the ruling class. Political obligation was part of the delusion to try to ensure that the proletariat remained exploited in the capitalist system.

John Locke

(5 – Natural Law): Described the state of nature as a state of society with free and equal men already observing the natural law.

(5 – Obligation): He believed that political obligation was based on a social contract where citizens sacrificed part of their liberty in order to have order and stability. The second element was trust in which the state undertook to protect the natural rights of its citizens. He therefore implied that obedience was conditional.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

(5 – Original Sin): He believed that human beings are born pure and do not have original sin, but it was society that corrupted them; “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains” (The Social Contract 1762) – he believed there to be a link between social deprivation and crime.


(5 – Natural Law): Aristotle held that what was ‘just by nature’ was not always ‘just by law’, also that there was a natural justice valid everywhere with the same force.

Thomas Hobbes

(5 – State of Nature): Defined the right of nature to be “the liberty each man hath to use his own power for the preservation of his own nature” and the law of nature to be “a precept of general rule found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life”.

(5 – Absolute Government): Hobbes believed that absolute government was the only way in which order could be maintained. He believed that humans had a “perpetual and restless desire for power, which ceases only in death”.

(5 – Absolute Obligation): Suggested that citizens have an absolute obligation to obey political authority regardless of the behaviour of the government. Believed citizens to have an obligation but the state did not – having any type of state was better than not having a state and that any form of protest could bring about the collapse of authority and a return to anarchy.

(5 – Civil Disobedience): He believed that a decision made by the sovereign must be fair and just but, once a decision has been made, it is binding thus making active civil disobedience prohibited.

Edmund Burke

(5 – Organic Society): Burke saw society as an organic living entity; each part of society is inextricably linked to one another and in a delicate state of balance. He believed that the glue that holds society together is the traditional institutions that establish culture, tradition, custom and religion – these are the fabric of society. He would hold that social order is of vital importance, but is a fragile concept.


(5 – Natural Law): He believed that the Ideas (known only by


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