Theoretical reflections on the hobbesian problematique as an issue of legitimation crisis

Topic: Theoretical Reflections on the Hobbesian Problematique as an Issue of Legitimation Crisis. by Olusi Ahmed Adepeju

ABSTRACT Hobbesian Problematique is an issue raised by a great British philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 16th century. He raised the issue on how social order is possible that became a Central focus of sociological theorizing. Hobbes postulates what life will be without a government a condition he called the state of nature with a negative conception about human to be wicked and selfish. From the stand point of his postulation, there is suppose to be a mechanism for social order. The state therefore emerges to establish social order with the view of ameliorating the human condition. Inherent in the formation of the state is the notion of social contract. The paper links the ability of the state to perform its responsibility and its acceptability by the populace and the failure of the state to perform its responsibilities that would lead to legitimation crisis.

INTRODUCTION Hobbesian Problematique is one of the major concerns of sociological theorizing. The central focus of this theorizing can be traced to the 16th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. He was born in England on the 5th of April 1588 and has contributed to various field of study. Hobbes in his 1651 book leviathan raised the question about social order based on what he conceives as the nature of human (Mc Cleland, 1996). In his theory about the “State of Nature”, Hobbes describes the condition with a negative conception about man. The state of nature is a period human lived prior to the setting up of organized society. In that state of nature, there were no laws, no authority, no morality, no sense of justice and injustice, no security, no progress and development. According to Hobbes, this state of nature will lead to state of “war of all against all” “Bellum omnium contra omnes”, therefore life will be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short (Ritzer 1996; Omoregbe 1993) for man to escape from this state of nature, man came together and willingly submitted to a common power inform of a state to tame this condition of anomie so as to create some semblance of orderliness. (Ninalowo 2004) This is what Hobbes summarized as social contract. The notion of social contract was to confer all the people’s power and strength and their right to the use of force against one another; upon one man or upon an assembly of men. (Ekiran, 2005) that is social contract implies that the people give up sovereignty to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law. It can also be the thought of an agreement by the governed on a set of rules by which they are governed. Hobbesian Problematique has remained enduring to sociological theorizing. Given the natural inclination on the part of human being to be competitive, selfish, and destructive; how is social order possible? It is this pertinent question that make the Hobbesian Problematique a central issue to sociological theorizing; for sociology itself is an intellectual enterprise dedicated to the establishment of social order and the amelioration of the human condition.

THE EMERGENCE OF THE STATE IN RESPONSE TO HOBBESIAN PROBLEMATIQUE. Beginning from a mechanistic understanding of human being; Hobbes postulates what life would be like without a government. A condition he called the state of nature. In that state, each person would have right or license, to everything in the world. Thomas Hobbes argues that the state of nature is a condition, where 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; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (Thomas Hobbes 1651). As a result of insecurity of lives and properties, men decided to come together to form an organized society in order to provide for social order and security of lives. Consequently, men decided to renounce their individualistic right and invested it to a sovereign authority for the sake of protection; and any abuse of power by this authority is to be accepted as the price of peace (Kindersley, 1990) thereby creating a social contract. The sovereign authority which can also be referred to as a state therefore emerges to bring about orderliness in order to prevent the condition of Anomie (Normlessness). By virtue of the historical antecedent, social contract gave rise to the formation of the state. The state is a political state, with the responsibility of creating and maintaining law and order and to provide instrumentality for the Amelioration of the human condition by fulfilling their basic needs and aspiration and the attainment of social political freedom in all its essential ramifications. The routine operation and functions of a successful political state would normally align with popular development aspirations of improving the human condition that has to do with readily available access to individual personal security basic formal education, health care communication and mass transit facilities as well as general democratic permissiveness and tolerance. (Ninalowo, 2010) On the other hand, the citizenry is expected to perform their own role of the social contract by paying their taxes regularly to the state, discharge of communal obligations and obey the call to national service. The extent to which a given political state is able to fulfill that global historical mandate of promoting or enhancing the quality of life of the citizenry is a fundamental measure as to the degree to which a political state is designated to be legitimate otherwise; there would be a state of Legitimation crisis.

THE NOTION OF THE STATE AND ITS ORGANS The raison d’être of the state is supposed to nurture and cater for the general interests of individuals and groups, without regard to class origins (Ninalowo 2004). The state is conceived here as a political form of human association by which a society is organized under the agency of a government that claims legitimate sovereignty over a territorial area and all over the members of the society and posses the right to use physical violence when necessary to ensure the effective exercise of its legitimate control (Abererombie etal 1984). In a more specific term, the state is the aggregation of the formal institutions of governance. The major hallmark is that it makes binding decisions within defined borders and over a population and acts as the institutional system of political domination (Ninalowo 1999). The Organs of the state includes: (i) The Executive:- This is the arm of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The executive, together with its ministries and department implement state’s policies and programmes that are supposed to benefit the masses. The head of the executive is referred to as the head of government or head of state depending on the type of government that is been practiced in the country. The role of the executive is to enforce the law as written by the legislature. (ii) The Legislature: - The legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise taxes and adopt the budget and other money bills. The legislature can be divided into unicameral legislature and bicameral legislature. The former has only one chamber while the latter has two chambers. Nigeria is an example of country with bicameral legislature. Whatever manner of legislature a state has, the global historical mission of the legislature is to enact laws towards the general improvement of the condition of the citizenry. (iii) The Judiciary: - The judiciary is an arm of government that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary generally does not make law (that is in a plenary fashion, which is the responsibility of the legislature) or enforce law (which is the responsibility of the executive) but rather interprets law and applies it to the facts of each case. This branch of government is often tasked with ensuring equal justice under law. One major problem of this component is the delays that sometimes characterize its processes. It may take years for an injustice addressed or reversed such as what we witnessed in Nigeria with reference to the various petitions following the April 2007 gubernatorial elections. It was just late last year (2010) that the Appeal Court granted the fact that it was Eng. Rauf Aregbesola that actually won the gubernatorial polls and nullified Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as Osun State Governor. (iv) Autonomous Fourth Estate: - This can be referred to as the combination of both print and Electronic mass media. (Ninalowo, 2010) It is perceived as being outside of the state. Nevertheless, it is a vital component of the state which acts as a watch dog on the activities of other components of the state. At same time, it serves as the mouth piece of the people. (v) Coercive Security Apparatus: - The primary function of the state is to protect lives and properties of the citizen as well as to protect the state from external aggression. The institution that is responsible for this function is been referred to as the Security Apparatus or according to Louis Althusser (1971) “The Repressive State Apparatus”. (cited by Ninalowo, 2010) The coercive security Apparatus is the assemblage of the armed forces, the police, the intelligence/surveillance unit (Ninalowo, 2010). The armed forces are supposed to protect and defend the national sovereignty as well as the territorial integrity against potential or actual onslaught or aggression, the police is for the maintenance and enforcement of law and order internally. The intelligence/surveillance unit has the responsibility for monitoring any acts of potential or actual infringement against the security or orderliness of the state and society. (Ninalowo, 2004)

LEGITIMATION AND LEGITIMATION CRISIS Legitimation is a mechanism by which the ruling class tries to gain allegiance and loyalty of a given population (Ninalowo, 1999). Legitimation refers to a situation whereby an act, process, ideology becomes legitimate by its attachment to norms and value within a given society. It is the process of making something acceptable and normative to a group or audience. To secure loyalty by the ruling class from the civil society, the government of a state provides social incentives like good pipe borne water facilities, regular electric power supply and e.t.c. For example the creation of Local Government Council Development Area’s during the Tinubu Civilian regime in Lagos State, is designed to solve community grassroots problems. Legitimation system is set up to elicit mass loyalty from citizens but avoid their actual participation As far as the ruling class or governing council is fulfilling its social, political and economic responsibilities in the State and the citizen take up their respective duties, social disorderliness will be minimized. Failure of the ruling class to succeed can cause the validity of the State system to be questioned thus undermine its legitimacy or can be referred to as legitimation crisis. (Ninalowo, 2010) Legitimation crisis is a condition during which the ruling class of a state is unable to evoke sufficient commitment on sense of authority to properly govern. Hence forth, the government is no longer seen as legitimate. Examples are the recent socio-political crisis in Egypt and in Tunisia. The key underlying factor is the negation or non fulfillment of popular vested interests, leading to legitimation crisis. The main raison d’être (reason for being) of the state is to maintain social order; the followings are different modes of legitimation: (1) Constitutional Enacted Legitimation It is to be noted that the most common form by which the state seeks legitimation of power or moment of domination is premised on the principle of legalization or through legal/rational means ala Max Weber (1978). The guiding principle behind this legitimation is based on “social contract”. The constitution of a State expresses the duties of the government and the civil society. It also expresses the historical identity of state and provides a structure for changing this identity. A State survival depends on both its sense of the past and the capacity for development and transformation. In order for the constitution of a State to prevail, there must be an enabling environment for the success of the rule of law. There must be symbiotic relationship between the State and Civil society. Otherwise incongruence between these parties will reproduce a stressful relationship in the political and economic world (UNDP, 1998, 2000, 2002) which is a condition of legitimation crisis. (Ninalowo, 2007) (2) Extra Constitutional Mode of Legitimation This mode of legitimation enables a government or regime that unconstitutional dominates the state power with coercive means to legitimize itself through extra-constitutional modes of legitimation. It is a type of domination that has some element of legality but is not constitutionally based. Most of this forms are usually established through coups d’état by members of the armed forces from the civilian regime. It is an infringement of the democratic process and this means of legitimation is invariably counter-productive to people development because the rule of law and separation of power are not inexistence rather the rule by Law is the ultimate. As far as human development is concerned, constitutional legalized legitimation is far better option to the extra constitutional type because it enables the free will of the populace to choose the state representative rather than coercive means of usurpation of power. However, there are instance in history where regimes that came to power through extra constitutional means, using extra constitutional mode of legitimation are able to inspire acceptance from the populace to the extent that they are taken by their people as legitimate because they seems to be oriented towards provision of essential social services for the masses. Such example may include Cuba Fidel Castro came to power through unpopular means, but are perceived by their people as Hero and champion against oppressive system. Any mode of legitimation of moments of domination may or may not invoke loyalty from the populace depending on whether the ruler-ship is oriented towards the general interest of the masses. However, there are features which when observed in the act of governance, no matter the mode of domination, provoke cries and disloyalty from the masses; asking the ruler-ship to relinquish power. That in essence, is an unmistakable manifest of instance of legitimation crisis. Some of these features include: (1) Sit tight Syndrome: - This phenomenon has been in existence from the medieval day in Europe. It was after the French and industrial revolution that this factor was changed. This is a situation where leaders refuse to voluntarily leave office after end of tenure. Some of them who came to power through coup d’état would want to convert themselves to civilian president with a view to making themselves life president. Examples are President Honsi Mubarak of Egypt who spend thirty years in office as well as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

(2) Corruption The notion of corruption refers to illicit misappropriation of privileges, opportunities and other benefits, either tangible or intangible for personal gain or to the advantage of others; whom those in particular positions of authority favour (Ninalowo, 2010) (3) Class interest over popular interest This is a situation whereby the ruling class by virtue of their power manipulates the state policies to favour those in the ruling class against the popular interest. The implication is that there will be a gap between the ruling class and the populace which may lead the people to become disenchanted with the status quo.

MITIGATION AGAINST LEGITIMATION CRISIS Accruing from our discussion on legitimation crisis, Legitimation crisis will only come to been when the state fail to compel to the yearning of the people in the state by not providing the basic needs of the people such as construction of good roads, creation of job opportunities to the citizens of the state. So therefore for their not to be legitimation crisis in the state there are some certain attributes that will help to reduce legitimation crisis. Likewise some policies should be put in place to provide adjustment and rudiment of government. (1) Rule Of Law:- The supremacy and enforcement of the rule of law should be deemed as sacrosanct and inviolable. For this is crucial in ensuring the sanctity of fundamental human rights, thereby mitigating possibilities for legitimation crisis (Ninalowo 2007). (2) Transparency:- This implies that the activities of government should not be surrounded in secrecy, there should be freedom of information to allow the governed have information on how the state is being administered and how national resources are being utilized such access to information has tendering to make people believe that they are been carried along therefore rather than being translucent, state official should be transparent in their activities. (3) Autonomous Mass Media: - Both Electronics and print media should be encourage to play their roles as watchdogs in their own capacity to forestall Equity, social justices and other democratic values (Ninalowo 2007). (4) Gender Empowerment:- There should be an opportunities for women to participate along with men to bring social development and realities of social values for life. (5) The Role Of None State Actors:- In order to reduce immanent areas of legitimation crisis, non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), civil society organization (CSO) and grassroots social groups should be mobilized and encouraged in favour of democratic values and ideas (Ninalowo 2007). CONCLUDING REMARKS This Essay began with the reflection of Thomas Hobbles postulation about the human society. In his view Hobbes sees the state of Nature has been brutish, wicked, destructive, selfish and competitive. In other for human to escape from this state of Nature, there is need for the creation of state, thereby creating a social contract between the citizenry and the state. The state is responsible for the protection of life and property of the citizen as well as the provision of basic social amenities such as healthcare, facilities, waters electricity e.t.c. At the other hand the citizen are expected to play their own role of the social contract such as paying of taxes to the state, discharge of communal obligation and obey the call to national services and these will enable the state to sufficiently meets its obligation and perform its functions to the citizenry of the state. If the state fails to meets it obligation it will bring about conflict within the state and civil society. In such situation the citizen will end up withdrawing their loyalty to the state because the state has failed discharging its responsibilities. In conclusion, it is advisable for the state to abide by the lay down rules that is binding the civil society and the state, in other to avoid legitimation crisis and to promote social orderliness in the society.

References Abererombie, N. S Hill and B.S. Turner (1984): Dictionary of Sociology London: penguin Books.

Althusser, Louis (1971): “Ideology and ideological state Apparatuses”. In Lenin and philosophy and other essays. ( Cited in Ninalowo. A (2010): “The State Qua State as antidote to failure: A sociological inquiry into underdevelopment. Lagos: Nigeria. University of Lagos Press

Ekiran, M.A (2005): “philosophical parameters for social contract and human development” in Development crisis and social change. Ed. Felicia Oyekanmi; Lagos: Nigeria.

Kindersley Dorling (1999): “1000 makers of the millennium” as cited in (

Mc Cleland J.S (1996): A history of western political thought.

London: routledge

Ninalowo, Adebayo (Editor). 1999: crisis of legitimation: the State vested

interests. Lagos: Obaroh and First academic publishers

Ninalowo, Adebayo (2004): “Essay on the state and civil society” Lagos: Nigeria: Foresight press and First Academic Publishers

Ninalowo, Adebayo (2007): “On the crisis of underdevelopment” Lagos: Nigeria: prime publications.

Ninalowo, Adebayo (2010): “The State Qua State as antidote to failure: A Sociological inquiry into underdevelopment. Lagos: Nigeria. University of Lagos Press

Omoregbe, J.O (1993): “Ethnics a systematic and Historical study”. Maryland, Lagos: Joja press Limited.

Ritzer, G (1996): Sociological Theory. Singapore: Mchraw Hills.



Thomas Hobbes (1651): The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; Vol. III (leviathan). ed. Williams molesworth, Bart, (London: Bohn 1839-45) II Vol. Vol.3 cited in Online library of Liberty (

UN Development programme (1998). Human development Report: New York: Oxford. Cited in Ninalowo, Adebayo (2007): “On the crisis of underdevelopment” Lagos: Nigeria: prime publications

UN Development programme (2000). Human development Report: New York: Oxford. Cited in Ninalowo, Adebayo (2007): “On the crisis of underdevelopment” Lagos: Nigeria: prime publications

UN Development programme (2002). Human development Report: New York: Oxford. Cited in Ninalowo, Adebayo (2007): “On the crisis of underdevelopment” Lagos: Nigeria: prime publications

Weber, Max (1978): Economic and society. Berkeley: university of California press.