PRQ 2

Article: The Laughing Body Politic: The Counter-Sovereign Politics of Hobbes’s Theory of Laughter

Patrick T. Giamario: ‘The Laughing Body Politic: The Counter-Sovereign Politics of Hobbes’s Theory of Laughter’, Political Research QuarterlyOnline First (2016).

Abstract: This article turns to Hobbes’s theory of laughter to determine the role collective laughter plays in democratic politics. After examining the political themes in Hobbes’s various accounts of laughter as well as the appearances laughter makes in his political philosophy, I argue that the Hobbesian body politic is a laughing body politic at the moment of its foundation. The individuals who contract with one another to establish a commonwealth perform the same sudden, “vainglorious,” and counter-sovereign political enactment as the laughing individual in Hobbes. This notion of a “laughing body politic” illuminates how Hobbes—the philosophical champion of sovereign power—provides resources for theorizing the counter-sovereign, democratic possibilities of collective laughter today.