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Hobbes is a tricky one. One could use his 'Leviathan' as an argument for the minimal state (as James M. Buchanan does). Or one could see in him an early advocate of the welfare state (as Quentin Skinner does).

Same goes for Hobbes and international affairs. The 'Leviathan' he conceived was an almost machine-like structure to quell and control religious conflicts and sectarian violence WITHIN a state. Hobbes said very little about how various Leviathans (i.e. nation-states) would interact with each other. Could be an indication that it went without saying for him that they indeed do act like the proverbial wolves in 'homo homini lupus' (cf. the wolves in the Bush/Cheney television ad in 2004). Others, like Norberto Bobbio, thought it logical to transfer the Hobbesian model from the nation-state to a world-state. Here's a quote from Bobbio's book 'Thomas Hobbes and the Natural Law Tradition' (1993):

'There is a clear analogy between the multitudo [multitude] of individuals who must become a populus [people], and the multitudo of states which must become the populus of sovereign powers, in order to give life to a truly global commonwealth.'

There is no doubt that Cheney and the neo-cons see themselves as 'Hobbesians' - and are being seen as such. Robert Kagan helped to popularize this notion with his juxtapositioning of weak, Kant-reading Europeans and tough, Hobbes-following Americans. And there is even a Thomas Hobbes-Carl Schmitt-Leo Strauss-Paul Wolfowitz connection!

However, it remains to be asked, if we haven't entered a 'post-Hobbesian' era after 9/11 (as David Runciman suggests). After all, the Hobbesian Leviathan promised to guarantee security in exchange for liberty. But no state can really guarantee the security of its citizens today -- not in an age of suitcase/backpack nukes and deadly germs...  

For more on all this see my website:


by Linksverbinder (agitpop at gmail dot com) on Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 10:42:55 AM EST

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