Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Harlan Garnett Wilson


Trust, Goals, Politics, Groups, Government, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes


It is not possible to discuss politics without assuming a degree, however minimal, of trust. To deny the existence of any trust at all is to assume, as Hobbes does, a war, whether hot or cold, of all against all. While it is possible for people to live in such a condition, they cannot live together in any sense that can be called political. Even in societies which are divided into hostile groups, people either align themselves with a group, expressing their loyalty to its goals. Alternatively, they may withdraw from the political sphere, rejecting it completely, or wait until a stable government emerges which they may trust. If government is based entirely on force, it is, as Burke points out, not governing, but subduing. For others, who focus not on force as it may supplant trust, but on a commonly shared vision of politics, trust may almost seem to be a negative starting point because it is something that many political thinkers accept as a given. To speak of trust is to call into question all of the other possibilities that politics might offer, as it is a precondition for them.