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Hobbes's commitment to society as a product of sovereignty: A basis for a Hobbesian sociology

Wickham, G. (2014) Hobbes's commitment to society as a product of sovereignty: A basis for a Hobbesian sociology. Journal of Classical Sociology, 14 (2). pp. 139-155.

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There is a commitment in Thomas Hobbes’s work which is largely neglected by sociology, a commitment to society as a product of sovereignty. Hobbes makes this commitment in line with his strident opposition to the scholastic idea of the dominance of reason in nature. For Hobbes, society is not based on natural reason. Drawing on his distinctive Epicurean anthropology, he argues that the small amount of reason that nature supplies to humans is enough to give them a limited capacity for sociability – enough, that is, to achieve a rudimentary level of self-preservation – but not nearly enough to produce society. He builds this argument directly against the scholastic argument that nature in fact supplies to humans so much reason that, were they to apply it in the manner in which nature intends, they would achieve a perfect society. In forging his particular direction against the scholastics, Hobbes draws mostly on his Epicurean political philosophy, whereby the rule of a strong authority, the sovereign, disciplines the wills of subjects in order to properly balance their passions, to the extent that a distinct domain of peace and security is created and maintained, a domain he mostly calls simply ‘society’. His account of society is normative in only one respect, a very important respect – its dedication to the fundamental importance of peace and security.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Sage Publications
Copyright: 2013 The Author
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