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Philosophical Teachings About the State


The state is the leading central institution of society, which is a political and territorial organization of public power that has a special apparatus capable of making its dictates binding and exercising its governance. Philosophers tend to discuss their own opinions about what they think is the state and exactly how it functions. The twentieth century became one of the most significant in the history of political thought and was marked by the names of the greatest philosophers and scientists, such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Engels, and others. Every philosopher sees the state in its own light, yet the state is an integral component that provides people with certain political freedom and provides certain guarantees.

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One of the fathers of modern liberal political ideology is John Locke. He was one of the first to substantiate the basic concepts of liberalism and thereby laid the foundations of liberal political thought. Locke became one of the most prominent defenders of bourgeois revolutions in Europe and an ardent opponent of absolutism. His theories are a summing up of the revolutionary era after establishing the constitutional monarchy. Revealing his theory, John Locke turns to the category of freedom. He understands freedom in two ways – as natural freedom in society. Fixing the connection between property and labor, John Locke does not draw clear boundaries between different historical property types. One can notice the difference in Locke’s understanding of property and real private property, which becomes more striking, the longer capitalism has existed. From his point of view, the state is freedom, and it should not have a repressive effect on society. Nevertheless, it is designed to ensure political order in one way or another.

Nicolo Machiavelli proposed a completely new understanding of the state and its relationship with moral and religious values. Unlike classical, medieval concepts, Machiavelli’s political teaching was free from theological ideas about the state and politics. He practically excludes the spiritual point of view from the arsenal of his explanatory means. For him, all states and elements of people’s social life are subject exclusively to earthly laws. Along with this, Machiavelli recognized religion as the most important means of politics, capable of influencing the minds and mores of people. That is why all the founders of states and wise legislators referred to the gods’ will. A significant part of Machiavelli’s reasoning is devoted to the figure of the ideal ruler: purposeful, coolly calculating, cruel, with an indomitable will, endowed with cunning. This theory cannot provide a certain harmony of classes, but it can control them through certain decisions made by the heads of churches or other religious entities.

To grant unity and unlimited sovereignty to the supreme power, Hobbes rejected mixed forms of government because he could not even think that sovereignty could belong to several people and not to one person. The supreme power can be threefold – aristocratic, monarchical, and democratic. Hobbes was sympathetic to royal absolutism, and state absolutism was, in principle, necessary for him. Hobbes defended the supreme power as a means of protecting the civil order, not paying attention to the pros and cons of each of the forms of government in which this or that power is manifested. The monarchy is the best government, and the elite becomes better the closer it is to the monarchical form. Under the monarchy, there is a high probability of the existence of both a harmonious society and the provision of specific class control.

According to Rousseau’s theory, the political ideal is a small state organized on democratic principles since only in small states is the idea of direct democracy possible. In countries with large territories, the institution of popular representation is viable. According to Rousseau, the state is a creation that is designed by rich people who rule, and the poor obey them. However, even in this case, the deputies elected by the people are authorized only by the people and their servants, and their decisions can acquire the force of law only after their universal approval. Rousseau adhered to the ideals of egalitarianism, preaching universal equality in the organization of public life. The principle of property equality in Rousseau does not mean absolute equality. The thinker defended the idea of small-scale labor property, seeking to prevent its growth, avoid aggravating inequality, and turn this property into an instrument of enslavement of one person by another, thereby ensuring harmony in the classes.

Marx and Engels have always attached great importance to the disclosure of the class essence of the state and law. The specificity of the Marxist approach to the study of the state and regulation lies in the analysis of the phenomena of political and legal life primarily as organic components of the class socio-historical formation. In addition, it consists of the rejection of discretion in political and legal institutions of religious, psychological, ethnic, and similar phenomena. For them, the state is equal to a protective shell for citizens of all classes and social statuses. This approach is based on the idea of the dependence of the state and law primarily and mainly on the level of the social division of labor, class structure, and the ratio of class forces in society.


In conclusion, based on the teachings of various philosophers about the state, it can be concluded that the state is precisely the organization that monitors the welfare of its citizens. In addition, it is designed to punish the guilty, that is, those who have committed illegal acts, but in turn, guarantee inevitable political damage. Even though modern society strives for a certain autonomy, it still somehow depends on the political system of the country.

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