New book contrasting Hobbes with Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Marx

James, David (2021): Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History. From Hobbes to Marx, OUP

By means of careful analysis of relevant writings by Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, David James argues that the concept of practical necessity is key to understanding the nature and extent of human freedom. Practical necessity means being, or believing oneself to be, constrained to perform certain actions in the absence (whether real or imagined) of other, more attractive options, or by the high costs involved in pursuing other options. Agents become subject to practical necessity as a result of economic, social, and historical forces over which they have, or appear to have, no effective control, and the extent to which they are subject to it varies according to the amount of economic and social power that one agent possesses relative to other agents. The concept of practical necessity is also shown to take into account how the beliefs and attitudes of social agents are in large part determined by social and historical processes in which they are caught up, and that the type of motivation that we attribute to agents must recognize this. Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History: From Hobbes to Marx shows how Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, in contrast to Hobbes, explain the emergence of the conditions of a free society in terms of a historical process that is initially governed by practical necessity. The role that this form of necessity plays in explaining history necessity invites the following question: to what extent are historical agents genuinely subject to both practical and historical necessity?

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.