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Chapter: Hobbes and Frank on Why Democracy is Overrated

Steven Michels: ‘Hobbes and Frank on Why Democracy is Overrated’ in J. Edward Hackett (ed.)  House of Cards and Philosophy: Underwood’s Republic (Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, 2015).

Abstract: Thomas Hobbes envisioned a “state of nature”, the period before the establishment of civil society, where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As a remedy, Hobbes preferred a hereditary monarchy. Frank Underwood is Hobbesian to the core. He wants to use the harsh and violent reality of political life to satisfy his desire for power and the glory that comes with it. Democracy, as he sees it, is little more than the state of nature with elections. Frank exploits the inherent shortcomings of democracy on his way to the presidency. The petty partisanship in Washington has led to an Underwood administration, which quickly and not unexpectedly flouts the Constitution. But tyranny is just another word for getting things done. As Underwood puts it, “Democracy is so overrated”.