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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.

Article: Leviathan No More: The Right of Nature and the Limits of Sovereignty in Hobbes

Christopher R. Hallenbrook: ‘Leviathan No More: The Right of Nature and the Limits of Sovereignty in Hobbes’, The Review of Politics, 78, 2 (2016).

Abstract: This article challenges the prevailing interpretations of Hobbes’s thought as providing only minimal protection for the natural right of individuals in political society. Natural right requires the protection of not just the subjects’ lives, but their ability to live commodiously, and as a result the protection that natural right receives in political society places substantive constraints on the actions of the sovereign. When those entrusted with sovereign power overstep this constraint, they cease to be sovereign and the former subjects are returned to the state of nature to seek protection as each judges fit. I develop the substance of commodious living more thoroughly than similar analyses and demonstrate that this understanding is not limited to Leviathan but can be found in Hobbes’s earlier political work as well.

Book: Before Anarchy: Hobbes and his Critics in Modern International Thought

Theodore ChristovBefore Anarchy Hobbes and his Critics in Modern International Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

About this Book: How did the ‘Hobbesian state of nature’ and the ‘discourse of anarchy’ – separated by three centuries – come to be seen as virtually synonymous? Before Anarchy offers a novel account of Hobbes’s interpersonal and international state of nature and rejects two dominant views. In one, international relations is a warlike Hobbesian anarchy, and in the other, state sovereignty eradicates the state of nature. In combining the contextualist method in the history of political thought and the historiographical method in international relations theory, Before Anarchy traces Hobbes’s analogy between natural men and sovereign states and its reception by Pufendorf, Rousseau and Vattel in showing their intellectual convergence with Hobbes. Far from defending a ‘realist’ international theory, the leading political thinkers of early modernity were precursors of the most enlightened liberal theory of international society today. By demolishing twentieth-century anachronisms, Before Anarchy bridges the divide between political theory, international relations and intellectual history.

Article: Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis

Hun Chung: ‘Hobbes’s State of Nature: A Modern Bayesian Game-Theoretic Analysis’ Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1, 3 (2015)

Abstract: Hobbes’s own justification for the existence of governments relies on the assumption that without a government our lives in the state of nature would result in a state of war of every man against every man. Many contemporary scholars have tried to explain why universal war is unavoidable in Hobbes’s state of nature by utilizing modern game theory. However, most game-theoretic models that have been presented so far do not accurately capture what Hobbes deems to be the primary cause of conflict in the state of nature—namely, uncertainty, rather than people’s egoistic psychology. Therefore, I claim that any game-theoretic model that does not incorporate uncertainty into the picture is the wrong model. In this paper, I use Bayesian game theory to show how universal conflict can break out in the state of nature—even when the majority of the population would strictly prefer to cooperate and seek peace with other people—due to uncertainty about what type of person the other player is. Along the way, I show that the valuation of one’s own life is one of the central mechanisms that drives Hobbes’s pessimistic conclusion.