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Article: Hobbes on justice, property rights and self-ownership

Johan Olsthoorn: ‘Hobbes on justice, property rights and self-ownership’, History of Political Thought, vol. 36, no 3 (2015).

Abstract: This article explores the conceptual relations Hobbes perceived between justice, law and property rights. I argue that Hobbes developed three distinct arguments for the State-dependency of property over time: the Security Argument, Precision Argument and Creation Argument. On the last and most radical argument, the sovereign creates all property rights ex nihilo through distributive civil laws. Hobbes did not achieve this radically conventionalist position easily: it was not defended consistently until the redefinition of distributive justice as a virtue of arbitrators in Leviathan. The argument is partly advanced as a critique of C.B. Macpherson’s possessive individualist reading of Hobbes.