The Use of Fear as a Means of Social Control: Machiavelli and Hobbes

1. Introduction

The problem of using fear as a means of social control has long been of interest to philosophers and statesmen. In this essay, the ideas of two great thinkers of the Renaissance – Machiavelli and Hobbes – on this issue will be considered. I will try to find out what place fear occupies in the state policy of these philosophers, what goals they pursue by using it.

2. Machiavelli’s ideas about fear as a part of state policy

Machiavelli was one of the first to put forward the idea that fear can and should be used as a tool of state policy. In his work “The Prince”, he wrote: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both” (Machiavelli, 1532). This statement became famous and is often quoted by those who support the idea that it is necessary to rule through terror.

Machiavelli believes that love and fear are two different things and it is impossible to combine them. He writes that people are afraid of those who do them harm, while they love those who do them good. Fear, in his opinion, is a more reliable feeling than love, since it is not subject to change: “Love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage”, – he writes (Machiavelli, 1532). In other words, people can always find a reason to stop loving, but they will never stop being afraid of those who can harm them.

The Florentine philosopher believes that it is much easier for a ruler to maintain power over his subjects through fear than through love. He gives an example from Ancient Rome: “Nero had kill Tigellinus; Domitian, Clementina; Caligula, Macro; but because their cruelty was insufficient to make them feared, they were not obeyed” (Machiavelli, 1532). That is, according to Machiavelli, good deeds are not enough for a ruler – it is important for him to instill terror in his subjects in order to be obeyed.

Thus, we can say that for Machiavelli the main goal of using fear as a social lever is to ensure obedience on the part of the people. It should be noted that he wrote about this in connection with the specific period in which he lived – the Renaissance. At that time there was a strong player on the European political arena – the Church. The papal throne was occupied by representatives of different aristocratic families who were interested in maintaining power and influence primarily within Italy. The wars between the Italian city-states were also quite frequent at that time. Therefore, for Machiavelli, it was important above all to keep people obedient and prevent them from rebelling against those in power.

3. Hobbes’ ideas about fear as a part of state policy

Hobbes also believes that fear can play an important role in state policy. But unlike Machiavelli, he sees this feeling not only as a means of ensuring compliance with the authorities, but also as a more general mechanism for social cohesion and stability. In his work “Leviathan”, Hobbes writes: “Fear gives rise not only to obedience but also to society itself” (Hobbes, 1651).

The English philosopher believes that people are afraid of death and this feeling serves as the main factor that drives them to unite in a society. Hobbes gives a detailed description of the “state of nature”, where people live without any rules or laws. In such a situation, he says, people are constantly at war with each other, trying to snatch everything they can from each other. They are motivated solely by the desire to preserve their own lives and improve their own material well-being.

Hobbes believes that the only way to escape from this “state of nature” is to create a strong state power that will be able to keep people in check and prevent them from harming each other. This power should instill terror in its subjects, so that they are afraid not only of external enemies, but also of each other. Only in this case, according to Hobbes, it will be possible to achieve some stability in society.

Thus, we can say that for Hobbes the main goal of using fear as a part of state policy is to ensure social cohesion and stability. It should be noted that he wrote about this in connection with the specific period in which he lived – the time of religious wars in Europe. At that time, there was a lot of instability and violence in society. Therefore, it was important for Hobbes to find a way to calm people down and prevent them from harming each other.

4. Comparison of the points of view of the philosophers Machiavelli and Hobbes about fear as a part of state policy
As we can see from the above analysis, Machiavelli and Hobbes had different ideas about fear as a part of state policy. For Machiavelli, it was primarily a means of ensuring obedience on the part of the people. For Hobbes, it was a more general mechanism for social cohesion and stability.

It should be noted that these ideas were shaped by the specific historical conditions in which the philosophers lived. Machiavelli lived in the Renaissance, when Italy was torn apart by wars between the city-states. In such a situation, it was important above all to keep people obedient and prevent them from rebelling against those in power. Hobbes lived in the time of religious wars in Europe. At that time, there was a lot of instability and violence in society. Therefore, it was important for him to find a way to calm people down and prevent them from harming each other.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to say that both Machiavelli and Hobbes were great thinkers who made a significant contribution to the development of political thought. Their ideas about fear as a part of state policy still remain relevant today. In our time, when various extremist groups are trying to destabilize society, the question of how to use fear as a means of social control is particularly relevant.

FAQ

The theory of fear as a part of public policy posits that policymakers use fear to manipulate and control the population.

This theory can be used to explain why some policies are implemented, such as security measures taken after a terrorist attack. It can also help to explain why some policies are not implemented, such as gun control measures that might make people feel safer but which are opposed by gun lobby groups.

Some criticisms of this theory include that it is overly cynical and that it does not take into account the many other factors that influence public policymaking.

This theory could help us to better understand why some policies are enacted and how we can improve public policymaking by taking into account the role of fear in decision-making.