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October 9, 2010

Was Hobbes supporting monarchies to lead the country out of such a civil mess England was left in? It seemed like he preferred to restore one’s governing power to take charge of all. How so? Hobbes wrote, “it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man should say to every man, in such manner, as if every man should say to every man, I authorize and give up my right of governing myself, to this man, or to this assembly of men.”

Analyzing what Hobbes wrote, the unity between men refers to the “commonwealth” which Hobbes presented to everyone as a general term for public. The other key word covenant depicted that there was one thing in between the governing power and man which Hobbes explained as the nature of law in which people follows laws as they believed in order and how the society would maintain in order with laws. However, whose covenant is this? Is this a covenant with the ancestors of man’s previous ancestors or is it just an order in life where people have to follow? Rather than looking for a way to explain the reason why we are following rules, Hobbes presented us with this thought of a covenant to “order”.

Hobbes believed in the rights of the sovereign and its ability and responsibility to judge people. The Leviathan was published at 1651 which was two years after King Charles I was being executed. England was in total chaos because of the English Civil War. As we knew, Oliver Cromwell slowly gained power as the conquests and battles were fought. Cromwell was named Lord Protector of England at the year 1653, which was two years after the publishing of Leviathan. The odd timing of Hobbes’ Leviathan being published might suggest that Hobbes supported the old monarch and actually looked to restore the monarch because of the order that was once-existing.

Hobbes mentioned that people give consent to the sovereign power. Through which such ways can the sovereign receive the consent at all? Absolutely through one specific power which stood up and proclaimed its leadership to all. Thus, Hobbes was actually proposing to keep the leading power going. The monarchies were the one that have the power and will most probably arise. They will come up and retrieve their throne since they are the ones with military power. People had no other choices but to listen and obey to the stronger ones because this was the “covenant” of order.

Was Hobbes an actual support of the commonwealth or did he just wanted to remind everyone that law and order is necessary within the society? It seems like Leviathan pushed towards the actual goal of persuading people to think clearly and listen to the law to restore peace and order in the society.


P.S: I might have interpreted Hobbes wrongly because I did not finish the entire book of Leviathan. My thoughts are limited to what I have read no offense whatsoever.

Illustration by “Dwig” from the
Dave Thomson collection

“Dwig” cartoon from SUCCESS MAGAZINE, September 1907
Original cartoon owned by the Mark Twain Museum, Hannibal, MO.

  1. crorey permalink
    October 10, 2010 6:49 PM

    I interpretted Hobbes’ statement on Monarchies having the most order as inapplicable in our day and age. It may have been feasable hundreds of years ago for one person to keep the order of the lesser-powered people, but since there have been so many more advances on human rights and equality, it is obviously impossible for a monarchy to keep the peace in today’s world. People don’t want to be oppressed, and not everyone is going to agree with everything a monarch does, so there would surely be a lot of dissatisfaction among citizens if they were under the rule of a monarch. The people would undoubtedly overthrow or impeach him. But this is only possible because people are treated more as equals than they were back in the mid 1600s when this book was published. Back then, since the Leviathan (sovereign) had so much power, they could just kill or exile anyone who opposed him.

    Leviathan, although it means sovereign in this case, is used in the bible to describe a monster, and after reading this section of Hobbes’ book, it becomes apparent that this text truly is monstrous.

  2. Deepa permalink
    October 10, 2010 11:58 PM

    In my opinion, Hobbes supported the commonwealth because he believed that it was essential to maintain order. At the time, he supported the Royalists. However, I think that barring his views, a modern audience can arrive at the interpretation of how law is necessary for a government to create and maintain order. His political theory can be an important tool at deriving the perfect equation for a successful government.

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