Hobbes and Absolute Sovereignty

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Hobbes and Absolute Sovereignty


A state is sovereign when its magistrate owes allegiance to no superior power, and he or she is supreme within the legal order of the state. It may be assumed that in every human society where there is a system of law there is also to be found, latent beneath the variety of political forms, in a democracy as much as in a absolute monarchy, a simple relationship between subjects rendering habitual obedience, and a sovereign who renders obedience to none. This vertical structure, of sovereign and subjects, according to this theory, is analogous to the backbone of a man. The structure constitutes an essential part of any human society which possesses a system of law, as the backbone comprises an essential part of the man.

Where this structure is present we may legitimately speak of human society, together with its sovereign, as a single independent state, and we may also speak of its law. Where this structure is absent we cannot legitimately apply those expressions, because the relation of the sovereign to the subjects constitutes, according to this theory, part of the very meaning of those expressions [2].

Thomas Hobbes' theory of government

Hobbes expressed a clear personal confidence in his position as the 'author or originator of an authentic political science'. It was in De Cive, published in 1647, that he made a preliminary and tentative claim to have discovered a way of 'rationalising enquiry into political behaviour,; and that he had also created a 'new science' — a science of politics [3]. Hobbes began his study of civil government by investigating its central subject, the human being as a natural and social animal, and then proceeded to define its origin...

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...ntrary to the designe they had in he Institution-' Leviathan, 18, 4

[22] Hampton, 1986, p.189

Works Cited:

Boucher, David & Kelly, Paul The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls London 1994

Ewin, R E Virtues and Rights, The Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes Boulder 1991

Goodin & Pettit (Eds.) A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy Oxford 1993

Hampton, Jean Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition Cambridge 1986

Hart, H L A The Concept of Law Second Edition, Oxford 1994

Hobbes, Thomas Leviathan London 1968

Martinich, A P A Hobbes Dictionary Oxford 1995

Oldfield, Adrian Citizenship and Community Civil Republicanism and the Modern World London 1990

Reik Miriam M The Golden Lands of Thomas Hobbes Detroit, 1977.

Selbourne, David The Principle of Duty, An Essay on the Foundations of the Civic Order London 1994

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