Hobbes on the liberty of subjects

  • Patricia Springborg, Centre for British Studies Humboldt University, Alemania, Alemania


Only recently –perhaps due to the menacing rise of modern populism– it has become remarkably evident that the problem of freedom for Hobbes is almost immediately converted into the problem of anarchy. We have thus a spate of recent books on Hobbes’s theory of the State and anarchy, including Ioannis D. Evrigenis’ (2014) Images of Anarchy. The Rhetoric and Science in Hobbes’s State of Nature, Theodore Christov’s (2015) Before Anarchy, Daniel Lee’s (2016) Popular Sovereignty in Early Modern Constitutional Thought, and Quentin Skinner’s (2018) From Humanism to Hobbes: Studies in Rhetoric and Politics. Skinner argues that Hobbes’s depiction of the state of nature as anarchic is exaggerated, even by his own standards, although he overplays it in order to show up the pamphleteers he is parodying. These refer to the London parliamentary pamphlets, which parroted some of the most exaggerated arguments for popular sovereignty of the radical French Huguenots, whose arguments Hobbes was so desperately concerned to refute. The reason why Hobbes insists that the person of the State is artificial, the seat of power, is because the person of the State is crafted, and it does not precede the social contract that brings it into being. It is neither the collectivity of the people, who exist only as a disaggregated multitude before the contract, nor the person of the sovereign, who is merely its representative. The person of the State must be artificial and abstract, because if it were the collectivity of the people, his theory of the State would enshrine popular sovereignty, and if it were the person of the sovereign it would enshrine monarchical absolutism, and this Hobbes will not do.

Como citar Springborg, Patricia. 2019. “Hobbes on the liberty of subjects”. Estudios Públicos 155.

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