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Hobbes, Locke, and my life

November 4, 2010

Public blogs with multiple authors tend to be big on anonymity. Who is “webutler” or “lrib12”? No one knows. (Well, some people may know, because they themselves, may be these two authors—and to you, I apologize and hope you do not mind that I mentioned your username, I simply chose the two names who had posted most recently on the Life Examinations blog) And that may be the magic of blog-writing: screaming out your opinions over cyberspace and getting all of your thoughts out in an arena where nobody can interrupt you and you don’t feel the pressures of public speaking. However, in this post, I am willing to forgo all of those simple pleasures in an application of Thomas Hobbes’, John Locke’s political theories to my own life.
My name is Valerie, and I am the President of South Quad Hall Council. Here at the University of Michigan, every residence hall has its own Hall Council—a form of student government that puts on events, provides funding for other campus organizations, and addresses residents’ concerns to administrators and other staff. Hall Councils are funded by the residents of that building: when each student signs up to live in University of Michigan’s housing, they must pay rent, and some of that money goes to Hall Councils and Multicultural Councils.
Why live in a residence hall? For some students, it is the promise of safety and protection of property: why risk living in an apartment where the armed robbers that the UM Emergency Alerts informed us about could easily break into your room and steal your ATM card? It would be much safer if Hobbes’ “sovereign” could protect you and your stuff! There is safety in numbers here, people—plus the nice, large security guard that sits on the bench outside South Quad’s locked doors is a nice bonus, too. The Department of Public Safety sends officers through South Quad’s hallways as well, just to patrol and make sure everything’s peaceful. So in this case, the “sovereign” is the Housing department here at U of M.
But, there is some justice to this governing system. Residents have the right to speak up about their preferences, their opinions, and their rights within the residence hall. This sovereign is not absolute, and can be influenced. In the beginning of each school year, residents have the opportunity to vote for their representatives: other students in the building that want to be members of Hall Council. Just as in the Second Treatise of Government,

“The first and fundamental positive law of all commonwealths is the establishing of the legislative power … the legislative that the public has chosen and appointed” (Locke, 322).

South Quad Hall Council representatives are established by the commonwealth, voted in by their peers and equals in the society. And the purpose of the legislative is to watch out for their fellow residents and remember that put the people’s best interest as the first priority.
Hobbes’ and Locke’s writings may be old, but they are in no way outdated. Conscious, alert readers can similarly apply their concepts of government and civil societies to their everyday lives. I challenge you, blog reader to attempt to do the same.


  1. November 4, 2010 5:52 PM

    I haven’t wanted to complain about the anonymity, but I am happy to see someone else do it. Thanks, Valerie. Indeed, the intrepid and enterprising might take the further step (two mouse clicks) and enter their full names and maybe even an avatar photo — easily cooler than mine — to their info!

  2. Nick Weeks permalink
    November 4, 2010 11:15 PM

    Interesting take upon Hobbes and the modern world. One different thought in the idea of the protection of property, Doesn’t the theft of our property rest with us in this situation. The Housing office provides the lock and door, but we must use them ourselves to protect our property on our own. Also, there is the whole new layer of the roommate who has essentially the same right ti this protection as you do but they might use it differently than you and has the same right to the property of the room as you do. I totally agree with your stance on Hobbes, just offering a differing perspective.

  3. November 5, 2010 6:12 PM

    Interesting post here. I myself lived in West Quad residence hall last year and this year decided to move into an apartment building. Looking through Hobbes and Lockes perspective I now understand why people find themselves staying in the confines of a residence hall for four years, but I also agree with Nick Weeks comment about roommates. For sure, by living in the Michigan sponsored housing you are protected with their given security but the idea of a roommate limits this protection. He has the same right to the room as you do and in the end who has the final say? For example, my friends roommate last year liked to sleep with music on and he did not. Who decides what? Who gets their way? Each person must look out for themselves when dealing with overall “sovereignty.”

  4. arjunindianhongkongkid permalink
    November 9, 2010 12:18 AM

    I understand your perspective as a Hall council president. Me being a Treasurer at Baits II can relate to that. Hobbesian soverign as the notion of protection in South quad seems applicable but a Lockeian view point is more astute here. Locke divides powers as Legislative, Executive and Federative and similarly the hall director and his peers can be regarded as the legislative board who takes care of setting the rules and regulations of living in the residence halls while they are also in charge of the Executive, who are in charge of enforcement of these rules and regulations in the residence halls in the names of RAs, hall councils etc. The Federative is the people who takes care of how we are united with other residence halls of University of Michigan

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