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Perceptions of Human Nature by Locke, Marx and Machiavelli

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Locke, Marx and Machiavelli have different perceptions of human nature. While Locke and Marx have faith in human reasoning, Machiavelli does not have trust in human intentions. Their view on human reasoning plays a role in their different opinions on human nature. Locke and Marx both believe human nature is portrayed as good, Locke believes in equality and freedom between all people, while Marx believes that a class system forms inequality between people and believes they too also deserve equality. Later on, capitalism eventually develops into socialism, which solves this conflict of class un-equality. Machiavelli believes that humans are self-serving and that those in power deserve to have control and act in a certain way in order maintain their power.

Machiavelli does not put trust in human reasoning. In Chapter 6 on page 12 he claims that, “…nature of the people is variable and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that persuasion”. In this part of his book, Machiavelli’s conception of human nature is that they are easily convinced to believe a certain situation. This allows him to have control over people by having the opportunity to convince them to believe in beliefs that Machiavelli wants them to believe in. Machiavelli’s opinion of people are negative and he considers them to be self- serving and self- centered; therefore, Machiavelli feels that since people obtain these characteristics, in order for a ruler to maintain their power they have to act stricter otherwise they can easily loose their position. Since people are naturally this way he has a right to control them the way he does. This proves that Machiavelli does not trust human nature or human reasoning simply because he feels that people aren’t reasonable and act in ways that they may think are best for them, when it actually is not for their best interest. This can cause people to unconsciously self-sabotage themselves.

Machiavelli feels that the people need a ruler that can keep check on the best interest of their people. In chapter 18 on page 39 the author states, “Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reason that caused him to pledge it exist no longer””. This statement claims that a ruler makes rules; however, if breaking them is more favorable for them it is acceptable to do so. In other words, a ruler can do whatever it takes for them to maintain their power, even if it means to lie or deceive them. This demonstrates that Machiavelli doesn’t trust human character, which is why he feels the need of such superiority in order to prevent them from making choices that can end up potentially hurting them.

Later on in the essay he states that a ruler can either be feared or loved, but never both. This is an example of how Machiavelli feels that he needs to be “God-like”, however as stated previously his actions and intent of making individuals fear him is simply because he doesn’t trust human nature and feels that he needs to use a form of control over them to make sure his power in maintained. In chapter 17 on page 37 the author states, “Whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved”. This statement is basically stating that in order for a leader to gain better control, its best to use fear on individuals rather than love because it’s a stronger guarantee that they would obtain control. This is another example that shows that Machiavelli does not trust human reasoning because he feels that humans can not make wise decisions for themselves and therefore needs to have them fear him in order to teach them to be able to make better decisions for themselves.

These are common examples as how Machiavelli demonstrates that he doesn’t trust human reasoning and he feels that they need to be controlled for their “bad nature” and therefore can not make the best choices for themselves. Although Machiavelli doesn’t trust human reason, Locke and Marx’s feel otherwise. Rather than Machiavelli, Locke felt that the people should have equal say in the government and supported the rights of people, mainly because he supported reasoning. On chapter 8 section 95 Locke states, “Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent”. Locke felt that “all men are created equally”. He was against the ideology that the King or Queen was “chosen by god” and therefor took a stance to claim that the government should be ruled by “human nature” and that no one is able to take away ones liberty, and if anyone were to take their rights away they are able to stand up for themselves, according to Locke’s statement. This quote identifies that Locke trust’s human nature and feels that humans are good and therefor deserve equal rights and freedom privileges regardless of their status and ranking in society. Naturally Locke feels that people deserve freedom and rights, since we are naturally born good.

Locke was against an absolute monarchy because he felt that the government was taking their rights away. In chapter 7 section 90 Locke states, “Hence it is evident, that absolute monarchy, which by some men is counted the only government in the world, is indeed inconsistent with civil society, and so can be no form of civil-government at all…”. Locke is against absolute monarchy simply because it gives the government more power, and the people less power. The end of Locke’s book discusses the social contact, which is a list of various liberties and freedoms that individuals deserve, which is an agreement between people and the government to sacrifice some rights in order to protect other individuals.

He also claims that since the people are in control it’s important that they agree to these terms before creating a social contract. In chapter 8 section 95, Locke states, “The only way whereby anyone divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living…”. This is important because it means that the people also have a say in creating the social contract and gives people power to establish their freedom to the government. This is another example that demonstrates how Locke believes in good within human nature and believes that the change of liberty is for the better.

Similar to Locke, Karl Marx puts trust towards human reasoning. He feels that humans should get equal rights especially in the workplace and supported class war and felt that people should get paid based on how much work they put into their job. In chapter one, page 5 Marx’s claims, “Freeman and slave… stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”. In this quote, Karl Marx is stating that in society the rich tend to have more authority and rights in comparison towards those who are poor. Karl Marx’s does not support this form of society and feels that every individual in society regardless of status should have the same freedom rights. This helps prove that Marx supports human intentions and feel that in the work place they should get equal rights. In relation to human nature, he feels that “alienation” would occur if society is not interdependent and can therefore cause conflict.

Karl Marx’s doesn’t only feel that there should be equality between humans in the work place but in relation to other factors such as race and gender as well. In Chapter One page 5, Karl Marx’s says, “The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society, has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of old ones”. Under Marxism, workers are fair; however, they later realized that they are being abused and Marx feels the best way to respond to this would be through a revolution. This demonstrates that he supports class equality. Eventually, he gets rid of capitalism, which leads to classes eventually disappearing. Karl Marx’s feels like other problems emerged in the process of bring equality between social classes. This statement is essential to understanding Marx’s interpretation of human nature because he feels that since humans are good, people all deserve equal rights and that social class shouldn’t prevent lower classes to not get the equality they deserve compared to those of a higher class. Not only between social classes, but also between race and gender as well because that is what they deserve as their rights as humans.

It is important to note that all three intellectuals mentioned above all have different perspectives on human reasoning, which played a role in their future actions towards human freedom. Locke, Marx, and Machiavelli, they all felt that based on their perspective of human nature, they took the next time to what they felt was best towards people in society at the time.

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Perceptions of Human Nature by Locke, Marx and Machiavelli. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from
“Perceptions of Human Nature by Locke, Marx and Machiavelli.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
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