Article: Forget Hobbes

Ondrej Ditrych: ‘Forget Hobbes’, International Politics, 53,3 (2016).

Abstract: This article has a threefold aim. First, it criticises the instrumentalisation of intellectual history in international relations (IR) that clouds issues of contemporary politics rather than illuminating them. Second, benefiting from the recent advances in Hobbes’ studies in the field of political theory and emphasising the importance of both textual plausibility and authorial intentions for preserving the ‘horizon’ of the possible interpretations, it suggests that ‘IR’ were of no particular concern to Hobbes, and the few scattered remarks on the ‘superpolitical’ state of the many governments interacting with each other are functionally subservient to the purpose of demonstrating the reality of the state of nature. Third, by pointing to the ‘security continuum’ of various states present in his political theory, the article challenges the reading of Hobbes as authoring the discipline’s foundational inside/outside difference. It concludes by making a case that the field would benefit from curing itself from the ‘Hobsession’ it seems to be suffering and from forgetting Hobbes to open space for rethinking international politics.

Book: Literature and the Law of Nations 1580-1680

Christopher N. WarrenLiterature and the Law of Nations 1580-1680 (Oxford University Press, 2015)

About this Book: In this groundbreaking study, Christopher Warren argues that early modern literary genres were deeply tied to debates about global legal order and that today’s international law owes many of its most basic suppositions to early modern literary culture. Literature and the Law of Nations shows how the separation of scholarship on law from scholarship on literature has limited the understanding of international law on both sides. Warren suggests that both literary and legal scholars have tacitly accepted tendentious but politically consequential assumptions about whether international law is “real” law. Literature and the Law of Nations recognizes the specific nature of early modern international law by showing how major writers of the English Renaissance-including Shakespeare, Milton, and Hobbes-deployed genres like epic, tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, and history to shore up the canonical subjects and objects of modern international law. Warren demonstrates how Renaissance literary genres informed modern categories like public international law, private international law, international legal personality, and human rights. Students and scholars of Renaissance literature, intellectual history, the history of international law, and the history of political thought will find in Literature and the Law of Nations a rich interdisciplinary argument that challenges the usual accounts by charting a new literary history of international law.

Contains the chapter ‘From Imperial History to International Law: Thucydides, Hobbes, and the Law of Nations’.

Essay: The Domestic Analogy Revisited: Hobbes on International Order

David Singh Grewal, ‘The Domestic Analogy Revisited: Hobbes on International Order’, Yale Law Journal, 125, 3 (2016).

Abstract: This Essay reexamines Thomas Hobbes’s understanding of international order. Hobbes defended the establishment of an all-powerful sovereign as the solution to interpersonal conflict, and he advanced an analogy between persons and states. Extending this “domestic analogy,” theorists following Hobbes have supposed that a global sovereign would prove the solution to interstate conflict. Yet Hobbes himself never proposed a global sovereign, which has led some scholars to diagnose an apparent inconsistency in his philosophy.

This Essay seeks to resolve that inconsistency, drawing on Hobbes’s theory of the passions and his hope for radical political transformation. Hobbes believed that the solution to international disorder was not analogous but rather identical to the solution to domestic strife: both would be overcome through the establishment of a “well-ordered commonwealth.” Hobbes argued that a state capable of securing peace within its borders was unlikely to make aggressive war outside them. The radical transformation he envisaged in domestic politics would thus in itself mitigate and perhaps even overcome international conflict.

This “realist-utopian” position aligns Hobbes more closely with later social-contract theorists, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls. It also invites a reconsideration of the foundational principles of international law, with implications for contemporary problems from humanitarian intervention to economic integration. Hobbes’s realist-utopianism provides a needed corrective not only to the narrowly defined realism that has long claimed his imprimatur, but also to realism’s rivals, which unwittingly share its premises.