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Diploma in the Founders of Western Political Thought

In this free online course, learn how the founders of western political thought achieved the basic rights we have today.

Publisher: NPTEL
Are you interested in learning how the western world achieved compiling a list of basic rights? This free online course explores the founders of western political thought and will give you insight into various philosophers’ works such as Machiavelli, Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke. The course will address some prominent themes such as freedom, right to life, and property. You will learn about their thoughts on politics, government, and sovereignty.
Diploma in the Founders of Western Political Thought
  • Duration

    10-15 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation






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The basic rights we enjoy today resulted from the thoughts of famous philosophers. Considered as the founders of modern political philosophers, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau contributed significantly to the western culture and the rule of law. Freedom, which is cherished by everybody today was a core value they explored. As you will learn, Machiavelli considered freedom as the right to have a family, friends, and relations. For him, freedom was a natural right to have possessions, meaningful goods or property. In his works, he made it clear that any ruler who would like the citizens to sustain his rule must respect such fundamental rights. By protecting citizens’ possessions and families from any usurpation, be it internal or external, they could participate fully in the state’s economic, or even political, life. That participation of theirs could allow defending the republic and freedom. You will also learn that Machiavelli was a ruthless pragmatic thinker. According to him all means, be they ethical or not, must be used by rulers to achieve their political goals. These rulers should not hesitate to resort to violence if necessary, as exposed in “The Prince”.     

Likewise, Hobbes thinks that to establish the required peace and order for citizens to enjoy freedom, there is a need for a sovereign with absolute power. You will be taught that the monarch is not necessarily one ruler. The sovereign must represent all the subjects that are free, equal, and who decide to unite to constitute it. The sovereign must also be representative of the will of all the people, with one unified voice. The authority of the sovereign as envisaged by Hobbes is unquestionably absolute and unbreakable, which will allow achieving peace, order and freedom. You will notice that, in extending the social contract tradition started by Hobbes, Locke did not acknowledge any divine right to the sovereign power. He instead advocated the government’s limit, along with its consent-based legitimacy, as you can see in the present liberal democratic form of government. In Locke’s opinion, citizens are entitled to universal rights: the right to life, liberty and property. Following the formation of the political society and state, these rights are unquestionably fundamental, hence the inescapable responsibility of the state or sovereign to protect them.

Next, you will be taught about Rousseau. He was a votary for liberty, equality and direct democracy. Although many considered that his philosophy was contrary to enlightenment, the French revolution of 1789 resulted from his philosophy. In his “Social Contract” Rousseau devised an association that could defend and protect the person and the possession of each associate. In that association, while each person united with all, they may still obey themselves and remain as free as before. Rousseau considered that the general will should be binding to everybody in the republic, and in case of refusal to abide by it, a citizen shall be forced to do so. It is worthy to note that Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau addressed each in his own way, which is somewhat different from that of another thinker, the natural and inalienable rights as known today. Likewise, they argued out about the ruler’s role or sovereignty regarding how these rights might or should be protected. This course will be of interest to anybody specialising in philosophy. Students specialising in political sciences will find the course particularly interesting. Start this course today to better your knowledge of the founders of western political thought.

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