April 13, 2008

Book for Consideration: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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Summary (from Wikipedia):

Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, commonly called Leviathan is a book written by Thomas Hobbes which was published in 1651. The book concerns the structure of society (as represented figuratively by the frontispiece, showing the state giant made up of individuals), as is evidenced by the full title.

In the book, Thomas Hobbes argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Influenced by the English Civil War, Hobbes wrote that chaos or civil war — situations identified with a state of nature and the famous motto Bellum omnium contra omnes ("the war of all against all") — could only be averted by strong central government. He thus denied any right of rebellion toward the social contract, which would be later added by John Locke and conserved by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. However, Hobbes did discuss the possible dissolution of the State. As the social contract was made to institute a state that would provide for the "peace and defence" of the people, the contract would become void if the government no longer protected its citizens. In such a case, man would automatically return to a state of nature until the creation of a new social contract.

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