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Stephen King, the Modern Hobbes

March 6, 2011

One of the numerous novels by Stephen King was filmed in 2007, The Mist.
The story takes place in a small town, where a portion of citizens is stuck in the supermarket when a misery mist storm approaches. They become foods of some blood-thirsted creatures that have never been seen. People at this supermarket do whatever it takes to survive.

It’s such a great movie that it takes me another turn to watch it over again after some acquaintance to Hobbes’ and Locke’s’ view about the state of nature. After a second watch of this film, I think Stephen King is more a fan of Hobbes than Locke’s.


From the plot, characters are going through the state of nature in the supermarket where there is no authority or governance. People depend on themselves to keep themselves away and alive from the unknown creatures.
Among the trapped citizens, there are two sides, one side lead by a successful New York attorney who insists going out  the supermarket and check what’s going on; one (main characters) insists its wiser to stay in where they are. People with same thoughts group together and figure what can be done to survive. Clearly Stephen King is buying Hobbes’ idea that people in the state of nature has the right to preserve oneself based on his/her own judgment for what is right and what is wrong.
Under this unpredictable and chaos situation, everyone is scared and some irrational too. There are several scenes depicting how people just care for their own lives when it comes to extreme and dreadful situation.
Besides, a zealous and religious extremist (Mrs. Carmody) provoked to sacrifice a soldier and a boy. This projects Hobbes’ theory that conflict will be further enhanced by disagreement in religious views and moral judgments in the state of nature.
At the end, the government takes a large-scale rescue to look for the remaining survivors and brings the movie to the end.

In my own perspective, Stephen King agrees a lot on Hobbes about human nature based on what he depicts in his novels; that human natures are flawed creatures, and based on this particular circumstance, a state of governance is necessary to maintain the society by power.

  1. Emily Slaga permalink
    March 6, 2011 7:00 PM

    First of all, I really enjoyed reading this post. I thought it was an awesome draw of comparison from pop culture! Now, I haven’t seen the movie, but your brief description and the trailer give me a good idea of what you’re talking about and where you’re coming from (Great use of the trailer clip).
    I agree with you that King is more of a Hobbes man regarding state of nature because the people are all looking out for themselves. Everyone has their own way of thinking and different plans for how they want to get out of the situation, and they all think that they are right. It seems like there is a lot of chaos and fighting going on in the store which reveals the lack of collaboration.
    King displays the concept that in a moment of panic, everyone becomes self-interested and competitive(over what the plan will be to survive/save themselves/etc). That’s clearly a Hobbes idea.

    I’m not sure how many people die in the film, but if it’s a lot, or even more than was necessary, it can be compared to (and reminded me of) the K2 disaster. In both cases, lack of cooperation, sense of trust and camaraderie between everyone lead to unnecessary disaster. Also, I think that in both cases, it shows that in moments of panic, peoples true colors show: that they are competitive and self-interested. This is the Hobbes’ idea, and it seems like the situation in this movie.

  2. Zack Orsini permalink
    March 6, 2011 10:45 PM


    I haven’t seen this movie, but I do love Stephen King, so I am glad that you brought this movie up.

    From what I can tell of what this movie is about, a catastrophic event occurs in which people are thrown into a state of nature (which would be considered equal to a state of war in Hobbes’ opinion according to the notes from lecture on February 21, 2011). Thus, in this natural state of war (without government control), chaos, disorder, destruction, mayhem, pandemonium, sadness, and (insert other word of discontent) ensues. That sounds like a great Stephen King story to me. I will have to go see it!

    I could probably say without seeing the movie that Stephen King tends to have a similar philosophy to Hobbes (at least in the way his stories play out). I know that in other Stephen King stories such as The Shining*, there is a similar removal of authority and a resulting state of war between characters. For those of you who are reading this who haven’t seen The Shining, go see it. It will probably scare you straight out of your socks, but it is definitely one of the better films that man has created.

    An example of a Stephen King story that is possibly more Lockeish (I really don’t think that is the correct adjectival use of Locke’s name, but it’s the best I can come up with) than Hobbesian is The Stand**. The Stand has a situation that is a “state of nature” (that I believe resulted from nuclear war) that results in a “state of war” between the forces of good and evil. Because of the biblical references in the story, I say that it is more like Locke than Hobbes (since Locke was more religious [according to the notes from lecture on February 21, 2011]).


  3. Bobby Marshall permalink
    March 7, 2011 4:51 PM


    I thought this was a great post that was thought-provoking and brought modern culture to Hobbes. I agree with you whole-heartedly that Stephen King is somewhat of a hobbesian. Showing the state of nature, a complete break-down of society, and from that complete break-down emerges a pseudo-society where after dispute the pseudo-society learns to work together to try and survive. Another great example of this I think that is definitely applicable to Hobbes is “Dawn of the Dead.” In this movie zombies take over the world and a small group of people band together in a shopping mall. This, similar to “The Mist,” displays a break-down of society and the effects on a small group of people. The small group of people at first have differing ideas and want to do different things but eventually come to the conclusion that only through working together, reinitiating societal norms, can they possibly escape. In the end the group of people works together and escapes onto the sea. I think this movie is also a good example of Hobbesian ideas in modern culture as it shows the states of nature and also shows that when people coincide and work together. Overall I think you made a great point and in the future I will definitely be looking for traces of Hobbes or Locke in modern day movies.

  4. Jake Winn permalink
    March 7, 2011 6:03 PM

    I think it is very interesting to take a modern movie and compare it to a theory which was developed many years. I strongly agree with your idea that Hobbes state of nature is represented in the peoples self-interest during a time of crisis. In relation to this idea I also agree that Hobbes state of nature can continued to be analyzed through present day events. I never have considered Hobbes state of nature, and the idea of self-interest in movies but I will now have a new perspective when watching modern day films and will have an ability to analyze events through many of the political theories we learn about in this class.

  5. ellerm permalink
    March 7, 2011 10:37 PM

    Great post! I saw this movie a while ago and remember another connection to Hobbes. The man who ends up shooting the religious fanatic seemed to be acting in a manner that is self-preserving (or self preserving to his friends, at least). This reminded me of the Leviathan, where citizens are allowed to rebel against a sovereign that wishes to kill or punish them.

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