Ameritopia Quote 10 – Hobbes’ Leviathan

Hobbes argued that as men live in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and conflict, they could not be trusted to govern themselves. As such, a “Sovereign” must be given absolute power over men (“Subjects”) to protect them against themselves and outside invaders (a Sovereign can either be a single person such as a Monarch, or an assembly of men). The Sovereign was an all-powerful Leviathan—a totalitarian state with a vast bureaucracy controlling the lives of its Subjects. Submission to the Leviathan (or Commonwealth) meant transferring one’s rights to the Sovereign. That way, Hobbes believed men could live in peace, stability, and contentment. The rights transferred included, among others, control of the judicial system (what is right or wrong), control of Subjects’ free will (what Subjects could or could not do), control of Subjects’ possessions (what goods the Subject could enjoy), distribution of materials such as land, and control over foreign trade. Hobbes described this relationship as a social contract or compact.

Hobbes seems to be saying that man’s nature cannot be trusted but the nature of a ruler or a ruling assembly of men can be trusted.

As in the Republic and Utopia, absolute power over the individual requires a far-reaching police state.

As in Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia, in Leviathan Hobbes rejects self-government because, he believes, the individual and man generally cannot be trusted to govern themselves. Hobbes designs another inhuman utopian structure that devours the individual.


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