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A Communist Hobbes?

November 1, 2010

While reading Hobbes and Locke recently, I began to wonder how either of them would justify the class system in America, why some people get to make more money then others, why those with less or happen to be from certain areas can gain a leg up in applications through affirmative action, etc… At first I deduced both would agree that income earned should directly correlate to the importance of the job in society along with time spent engaging in said job. Locke may support unionizing to determine wages, while Hobbes preferred the Mr. Smithers all powerful plant manager; yet these were simply semantics. However, it was then I realized the difficulty in reasoning what qualified a job as being more important than another. Certainly we all need doctors but aren’t policemen, firemen, or teachers just as fundamentally important to society. For that matter, perhaps garbage men are more important for their disposable of a waste that if left in the streets, would cause most of us to get sick beyond a doctors capability. While I never did find an answering for my musing, it was during my mulling over this question that I came to startling revelation: Hobbes was a commie.

Now, Hobbes was not really a follower of the Communist party, but I do believe if he had been around to read Karl Marx’s work he would have seen how well his ideas integrate with the philosophy. As we have read, Hobbes urged in his Leviathan the importance of a sovereign leader to whom the people would give over all ruling power through a covenant. Furthermore, the power of this leader, Hobbes asserts, should never be challenged regardless of his or her actions. Read in the context that this leader is a single human or small group of individuals, this comes as a startling and frightening claim. Wouldn’t this leader be susceptible to corruption, easily influenced by the strong human emotions of greed, narcissism, and power hungry? Certainly this is a genuine concern, that even Hobbes himself must have considered and perhaps simply accepted as an inevitable evil that arises when from covenants. Yet, what if this sovereign entity was everyone?

Indeed, the Leviathan that adorns the cover of the text is composed of many smaller people, so Hobbes new the importance of the majority in a government body. If the sovereign leader was the people themselves, then there would be no concern for corruption, as the people would always choose in their best interest. The Hobbesian/Communist would be set up as follows: Every person would make a covenant with each other to form a commonwealth and thus remove themselves from our natural state. In this original covenant, everyone would present ideas that are of the utmost importance to them. If any form of voting took place it would be done out in the open. A person would be allowed to preside over the event only for the sake of keeping it orderly, but this person would have no actual power. Anyone who wants to talk would be allowed to talk. From then on, the society as a whole would determine collectively how things would operate, what occupation would garnish what wages, etc… Economically, the society would always push towards reason, for the individuals would never choose to undermine a profession, say again a doctor, for fear of degrading the quality of work and thus potentially damaging their health.

Now the actual way in which such a government would operate is definitely much more complex, but its interesting to see how the two concepts would fuse together. Does anyone else see a clearer distinction in how the philosophies differ/are alike communism or others we have not discussed yet?

  1. aaronyan1123 permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:17 PM

    From reading your post, I think you are over-reacted to the word ‘communist’. A communism community is not as bad as you think. Being a communist is not equal being a USSR communist party follower. Actually, the ideal communism community is the Utopia. Every individual in the Utopia share their property and jobs. However, Utopia is an ideal society possessing a perfect system which everyone wants. Therefore, there should not be any negative comments whether Hobbes is a communist or not.

  2. arjunindianhongkongkid permalink
    November 9, 2010 1:46 AM

    Hobbes’ soverign’s is simply a solution, i feel, for people to get out of the state of nature and form the commonwealth. The idea of communism would certainly be appealing to Hobbes as communism is one of the ways society gets out of the state of nature where man forms a society. Communist leaders urge for equality and equity but Hobbes’ soverign is merely a protector who makes sure that people are in a state of peace. But if Hobbes’ soverign were to go further, the notions of communism might fit. The Soverign will make decisions on what to produce, whom to produce and how to produce and here is in hope the soverign will know all these answers and will have the ability to provide satisfying amount of goods and services to the people as whole. Would Hobbes support communist ideology? Certainly, for communism can be argued as a form of absolutism and you just made that argument in your blog.

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