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How do the views of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Grotius differ and what aspect of society influenced these theories - Essay Example

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Machiavelli, Hobbes and Grotius were all thinkers who engaged with different notions of the law and, beyond that, the state which oversaw and administered the law. However, these three thinkers approach the problems of the law - on what basis does the law stand, how should the law be administered, what is the nature of the state when it comes into contact with the law - in widely different ways…
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How do the views of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Grotius differ and what aspect of society influenced these theories

Download file to see previous pages... To his mind the law was a necessary and rational perversion of nature, part of the civil contract that governed all societies - a compromise in order for men to live peacefully. Grotius, on the other hand, would not accept the separation of nature and the law - the true law arose out of human nature and, more pertinently to him, the nature of God. As such, the law is not merely a series of arbitrary rules with which those in a social group (say, the state) are forced to comply. It is a base for all interaction, including interaction between states. As such Grotius points to a law than can be transnational, one that binds all cultures and societies.
Machiavelli portrayed a system of government that, unlike the systems of government that had been propounded before, was based entirely on pragmatic concerns. In his writings there is a large gap between the concept of things that are morally correct, and those things which are politic and advisable. As he says when regarding the way a leader chooses to rule his people, "it is a sound maxim that reprehensible actions may be justified by their effects" (Brown et al. 266). This, then, completely changes the landscape of how one is to understand the law, which before Machiavelli had been considered the inscription of rules barring those practices which are immoral or against the common good. In other words, people had seen the law as something which was used to protect society from those members of it who wished to harm the rest. The only way the law is a consideration in Machiavelli's philosophy is if the prince needs to pacify the populace and, by doing so, retain control of a kingdom. The rule of law, then, is merely used by the leader as an appeasement to the collective might of the masses. However - Machiavelli is quite clear - the law can be suspended at any time the prince sees fit, and it should offer no protection from the violence he might wish to inflict - "It should be observed here that men should either be caressed or crushed" (Brown et al. 260).
An example that Machiavelli uses is the annexation of Milan by Louis XII and its subsequent loss to Ludovico. When Louis had taken the principality, the people expected certain favours from him but, in actuality, he ruled as a tyrant. This made it nearly impossible for him to hold the Milan when a new attack came from without. "For when the people who had opened the gate to Louis found that they did not receive the benefits they expected, they could not endure the oppressive rule of the new master" (Brown et al. 258). Notice that Machiavelli does not treat the law (and other benefits, such as governmental structures, a wealthy privileged class, etc.) as a result of the organic growth of society. Rather, it is a tactical means of a prince retaining power. Machiavelli does not identify the rule of just law as a prerequisite of the state, quite the opposite, it is one weapon in the arsenal that a ruler might use in order to perpetuate his rule.
As we will soon find, Hobbes sees the law as a treaty between a group of people - a little like a social contract - which grows of necessity when enough people congregate. For Machiavelli, however, the rule of law is applied from above, by the prince or emperor. The rule of law is intrinsic to the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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