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Transcript
Reading social science
G.M. Hawkins
SC1158
2015
Undergraduate study in
Economics, Management,
Finance and the Social Sciences
This is an extract from a subject guide for an undergraduate course offered as part of the
University of London International Programmes in Economics, Management, Finance and
the Social Sciences. Materials for these programmes are developed by academics at the
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
For more information, see: www.londoninternational.ac.uk
This guide was prepared for the University of London International Programmes by:
G.M. Hawkins, PhD, London School of Economics and Political Science.
This is one of a series of subject guides published by the University. We regret that due to
pressure of work the author is unable to enter into any correspondence relating to, or arising
from, the guide. If you have any comments on this subject guide, favourable or unfavourable,
please use the form at the back of this guide.
University of London International Programmes
Publications Office
Stewart House
32 Russell Square
London WC1B 5DN
United Kingdom
www.londoninternational.ac.uk
Published by: University of London
© University of London 2015
The University of London asserts copyright over all material in this subject guide except where
otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form,
or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher. We make every effort to
respect copyright. If you think we have inadvertently used your copyright material, please let
us know.
Contents
Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction........................................................................................... 1
1.1 Route map to the guide............................................................................................ 1
1.2 Introduction to the subject area................................................................................ 2
1.3 Syllabus.................................................................................................................... 4
1.4 Aims and objectives.................................................................................................. 4
1.5 Learning outcomes................................................................................................... 4
1.6 Overview of learning resources................................................................................. 4
1.7 Examination advice.................................................................................................. 9
Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power............................... 11
2.1 Introduction: Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)............................................................ 11
2.2 Hobbes’ life and work: a brief outline...................................................................... 12
2.3 Reading Leviathan.................................................................................................. 13
2.4 A close reading of the text...................................................................................... 14
2.5 Thomas Hobbes and sovereignty............................................................................. 36
2.6 Leviathan’s legacy.................................................................................................. 37
Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract........................................ 39
3.1 Introduction: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78)..................................................... 39
3.2 Rousseau’s life and work: a brief outline................................................................. 40
3.3 Reading The social contract.................................................................................... 41
3.4 A close reading of the text...................................................................................... 41
3.5 Rousseau and governance ..................................................................................... 50
3.6 The social contract’s legacy..................................................................................... 51
Chapter 4: Adam Smith and the invisible hand..................................................... 53
4.1 Introduction: Adam Smith (1723–1790).................................................................. 53
4.2 Smith’s life and work: a brief outline....................................................................... 54
4.3 Reading The wealth of nations................................................................................ 55
4.4 A close reading of the text...................................................................................... 55
4.5 Adam Smith and economic life................................................................................ 68
Chapter 5: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and the manifesto for humanity........ 71
5.1 Introduction: Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895)................. 71
5.2 Marx and Engels’ lives and works: a brief outline.................................................... 72
5.3 Reading The Communist manifesto......................................................................... 73
5.4 A close reading of the text...................................................................................... 73
5.5 Marx and Engels and the call to revolution.............................................................. 97
5.6 The Communist manifesto’s legacy......................................................................... 98
Chapter 6: Georg Simmel and the metropolis ...................................................... 99
6.1 Introduction: Georg Simmel (1858–1918)............................................................... 99
6.2 Simmel’s life and work: a brief outline................................................................... 100
6.3 Reading ‘The metropolis and mental life’............................................................... 101
6.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................... 102
6.5 Georg Simmel and modernity................................................................................ 120
6.6 The metropolis and mental life’s legacy................................................................. 121
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Chapter 7: Sigmund Freud: Civilisation and the individual................................. 123
7.1 Introduction: Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)............................................................ 123
7.2 Freud’s life and work: a brief outline..................................................................... 125
7.3 Reading Civilization and its discontents................................................................. 125
7.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................... 126
7.5 Freud and psychoanalytic society.......................................................................... 142
7.6 Civilization and its discontents’ legacy.................................................................. 143
Chapter 8: Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer: ‘The culture industry’........... 145
8.1 Introduction: Theodor Adorno (1903–69) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973)........ 145
8.2 Adorno and Horkheimer’s lives and works: a brief outline...................................... 146
8.3 Reading ‘The culture industry’............................................................................... 147
8.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................... 148
8.5 Adorno and Horkheimer and mass consumption.................................................... 169
8.6 The dialectic of enlightenment’s legacy................................................................. 170
Chapter 9: Frantz Fanon: the psychopathology of race and racism ................... 171
9.1 Introduction: Frantz Fanon (1925–61)................................................................... 171
9.2 Fanon’s life and work: a brief outline..................................................................... 172
9.3 Reading ‘The Negro and psychopathology’............................................................ 173
9.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................... 174
9.5 Fanon and racialisation......................................................................................... 192
9.6 Black skins, white mask’s legacy........................................................................... 193
Chapter 10: Michel Foucault: Disciplinary power................................................ 195
10.1 Introduction: Michel Foucault (1926–84)............................................................ 195
10.2 Foucault’s life and work: a brief outline............................................................... 196
10.3 Reading Discipline and punish............................................................................ 197
10.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................. 197
10.5 Foucault and disciplinary power.......................................................................... 214
10.6 Discipline and punish’s legacy............................................................................. 215
Chapter 11: Giorgio Agamben: Sovereignty and bare life.................................. 217
11.1 Introduction: Giorgio Agamben (1942–).............................................................. 217
11.2 Agamben’s life and work: a brief outline............................................................. 218
11.3 Reading Homo sacer........................................................................................... 219
11.4 A close reading of the text.................................................................................. 219
11.5 Agamben and the new sovereignty..................................................................... 231
11.6 The response to Homo sacer: sovereign power and bare life................................ 232
Appendix 1: Sample examination paper............................................................. 233
Appendix 2: Examiners’ commentary.................................................................. 237
General remarks......................................................................................................... 237
Part A – Sample answers............................................................................................ 239
Comments on the essay questions.............................................................................. 241
ii
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Route map to the guide
Reading social science is a foundation course offered on the
Economics, Management, Finance and Social Sciences (EMFSS) group of
programmes.
This course has two key and related aims:
• First, the goal is to teach students the highly transferable skills of
careful reading and getting to grips with complex primary material.
This should give you the confidence to recognise and grasp significant
arguments and ideas.
• The second objective of this course is to give you an introduction to
key arguments that have shaped social scientific thought from its
inception in the Enlightenment up to the present day.
Each chapter gives an extract of a key text by a thinker who has had
a major impact on social and political thought. The chapter offers a
backdrop for the text by giving a brief biographical account of the author
and historical account of the text, as well as locating the text within the
author’s other writings. The chapter then provides a very detailed reading
guide to the text, tackling difficult terminology or forms of argumentation.
Finally, you will find a series of activities that are designed to develop your
understanding of how these arguments are made and what they mean.
This brings us to the second purpose of the course, which is to introduce
important and influential themes, arguments and ideas from the
social sciences and to demonstrate how these emerged and how they
have developed. Themes cut across chapters, and there are important
conceptual (and historical) connections between them. Every chapter
addresses at least one major topic. There are also a number of other key
topics that play a role in the work, although in a less obvious direct way. In
this course, you will study arguments about economic and political power,
social order, subjectivity and institutional life, capitalism, urban life and
modernity, social inequality and sovereignty.
The chapters of the guide are as follows:
• Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: the social contract
• Chapter 4: Adam Smith: the invisible hand
• Chapter 5: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: manifesto for humanity
• Chapter 6: Georg Simmel: the metropolis
• Chapter 7: Sigmund Freud: civilisation and the individual
• Chapter 8: Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer: the culture industry
• Chapter 9: Frantz Fanon: the psychology of race and racism
• Chapter 10: Michel Foucault: disciplinary power
• Chapter 11: Giorgio Agamben: sovereignty and bare life.
The subject guide is best used by studying each chapter in the order it
appears in the guide. This will give you a sense of the development of
themes and ideas and how these have recurred in different forms and been
discussed in very different ways. In some cases, the authors are directly
1
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reacting to previous works you will have read in a different chapter in
a positive way, and in other cases, they are reacting against the earlier
works. Later chapters will refer to earlier ones, in order to help grasp the
context of the readings.
You will be expected to familiarise yourself with the extracts indicated
and discussed in the subject guide. You are encouraged to read, analyse,
compare and make links between the readings indicated. You will be
required to identify the arguments, problems and formulate your own
ideas and arguments about what you read. You will also be expected to
familiarise yourself with some related secondary literature (indicated in
the guide) in order to locate the arguments and ideas that you encounter
in their historical and intellectual context.
You will have a selection of at least 10 short texts which have been chosen
for their importance in the development of social scientific thought.
1.2 Introduction to the subject area
The course is divided into 10 chapters which introduce you to the work of:
• Thomas Hobbes, 17th-century English political philosopher
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 18th-century French political philosopher
• Adam Smith, 18th-century Scottish economist
• Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, German 19th-century political
theorists and revolutionaries
• Georg Simmel, German 19-20th-century sociologist, philosopher and
critic
• Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychologist and pioneer of psychoanalysis
• Frantz Fanon, 20th century Afro-French political theorist and
psychiatrist
• Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, German social theorists and
cultural critics
• Michel Foucault, French historian and philosopher
• Giorgio Agamben, contemporary Italian social philosopher.
These writers span an arc from the 17th-century and conclude with a
writer who is currently publishing. Through these texts, we explore how
themes and approaches specific to social scientific thought emerged and
developed over time. This course should help you to place these ideas into
both a conceptual context and a historical context.
One of the aims of introducing you to older texts as well as to more
contemporary ones is to give you an idea of the historical roots of social
scientific thought and to demonstrate how and under what circumstances
it emerged. By demonstrating to yourself that you can successfully read
such older texts you will also gain the confidence to broaden the scope of
your reading and feel able to tackle a wider range of writers. Remember,
it is always better to encounter a writer or a thinker in his or her own
words rather than through secondary sources.
While studying, many students tend to think that the texts that they
have been set to read will be too difficult, too complicated, or even too
irrelevant. However, writers do not set out to baffle, confuse or bore
their readers. If you approach the task of reading with an open mind and
a determination to enter the perspective of the writer then you
will encounter above all interesting and stimulating ideas that will give
2
Chapter 1: Introduction
you much to think about. Reading successfully depends on developing a
positive attitude to the task. It is the aim of this course to help de-mystify
the process of reading and give you the skills and the confidence to tackle
texts of all types.
It is especially designed, however, to give you the confidence that is
necessary to tackle original texts by key writers. However, this is not only
a course in how to read. It also explores the ideas and arguments of the
writers that it covers. In doing so, it allows us to recognise the persistence
of certain key themes and ideas in social scientific thinking and the very
different attitudes and approaches that have been developed to tackle
them. There are five broad themes that surface throughout these texts and
that have had a major impact on shaping the social sciences we employ
now:
• social order, cohesion and power
• economic organisation and social life
• subjectivity and institutional life
• urban life and late capitalism
• sovereignty and social inequality.
We will therefore be looking at questions about ‘human nature’, social and
political order, the ‘self’, knowledge and tradition, social and economic
processes and the question of ‘agency’. These texts have been chosen
because they are very important in their own right. They have also been
chosen because they exemplify the ways in which important questions
about human beings and their societies have been treated in very different
ways over time. The texts on this course are each significant in an area of
the social sciences; however, they are not always the ‘founding texts’ of a
discipline. For example, Chapter 7 is on a text by Freud. While Freud is the
‘father’ of psychoanalysis and his work has been enormously influential
in psychology, sociology, literary studies and philosophy, the text that you
will study is one of his later, lesser studied works. It is important because
it involves Freud’s attempt to situate his individual-focused theory within
the context of social life. Similarly, Chapter 6 is about an article by Georg
Simmel, the least-known of the main founding thinkers of sociology. The
text that you study is about how social life is transformed by the shift
from rural life to urban life. This work is highly suggestive for how social
scientists can appreciate and analyse the rapidly changing conditions of
the global, cosmopolitan world. Finally, the final chapter on a very recent
work by the philosopher Agamben is particularly important because he
asks seemingly timeless questions about the current geopolitical world.
To ask these questions, he draws from a range of significant thinkers in
European thought. The concepts that he is using to talk about the current
legal and moral form of social life are being debated across the humanities
today.
All of this will be of particular use if you who want to go on to study
economics, politics or development. This course links closely with further
sociology courses in historical sociology and sociological theory.
I hope that you enjoy studying this course and that you find it as enjoyable
to work with as I found it to write. I have found that the rewards in
creating this subject guide have outweighed the challenges involved, and
urge you to keep this in mind as you face the range and complexity of the
texts that it contains.
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1.3 Syllabus
The course is structured around a series of short extracts from texts that
are important within, or have shaped, the social scientific tradition. Key
themes that the course addresses through these texts are: subjectivity,
selfhood and society, the ‘problem’ of order and social cohesion, social
stratification and division, and social change. Woven throughout them
are also crucial questions about the contemporary world and how
human societies are formed within it. These themes and questions
are fundamental to the spectrum of social sciences: law, economics,
psychology, politics and geography.
1.4 Aims and objectives
The aims of this course are:
• To develop transferable skills for the close reading and comprehension
of complex original material. This will give you confidence to
recognise and understand important arguments and ideas.
• To give you a sound introduction to some of the key arguments
that have shaped social scientific thought from its inception in the
Enlightenment up to the present day.
1.5 Learning outcomes
At the end of the course and relevant readings you should be able to:
• use investigative skills to engage with the substance of hugely
significant and challenging texts from across social and political
thought
• read the selected texts critically and select key steps in the arguments
for closer evaluation
• describe several major positions on the relationship between the
individual and society
• critically present several key positions on how modern social relations
are distinct from pre-modern relations
• present in clear terms several explanations of the form that social
power takes.
1.6 Overview of learning resources
1.6.1 The subject guide
The subject guide is the main learning resource for 158 Reading social
science course. Because of the nature of this course, it is focused around
guided readings.
Guided readings
Each of the guided readings is designed for you to read paragraph by
paragraph. There are a series of short questions based on the content of
each of these paragraphs and some space in the subject guide below the
questions to write an answer. You may find it more useful to write down
your answers in a notebook. The questions are there to help you focus on
the reading and they have two specific purposes.
First, they are there to help you work out an understanding of difficult
words or phrases. It is very important that you have access to a good
4
Chapter 1: Introduction
dictionary while you are reading and to other reference material so that
you can look up individual words, concepts, names, places, etc. that you
are unfamiliar with. It is important that you write down the answers to
these questions as it will help you to remember them. The questions are
a way of guiding you through the reading. Remember: you will need
to read slowly and carefully! The questions are there to make sure that
you keep stopping to think about what is written and to make sure that
you understand as much of what you read as possible. Of course, if the
answer seems obvious or you know it already, you can read on and ignore
the question. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you know the
answer just because it might seem obvious. Sometimes stopping to think
and actually writing down an answer – especially translating the author’s
ideas into your own words – will allow you to gain a different perspective
on a point that you thought you understood or to see a point more clearly.
The questions are there to help you get as much out of the reading as
possible and not to catch you out.
Secondly, the purpose of the questions is to help you break down complex
arguments and ideas into manageable sections. Often when encountering
a new and unfamiliar text it is difficult to grasp an argument the first,
or even the second time that we read it through. If you think carefully
about the questions in the guided reading sections you might find that
writing down responses helps you when you go back and look again at
your whole paragraph or section of the text that you are focusing on. You
might also find that your answers to some of the questions change once
you have read the text through a number of times as your understanding
of it deepens. Remember, reading is a process and that the more time and
attention that you give to a text, the more you will get out of it.
Use the space in the subject guide to briefly jot down your responses to the
questions. But remember, the questions are there to help you to get the
most out of the reading. It is the aim of this subject guide to allow you to
get the most out of reading texts that you might ordinarily think of as too
difficult or demanding. Thinking about and answering the questions are an
invaluable part of that process.
Interpreting texts is a skill that, like any other skill, will be developed by
practice and effort. Many interpretations – of words, clauses, sentences,
paragraphs and whole texts – are possible. However, this is not to say
that any interpretation is possible. As you get more skilled at reading
closely and describing what you read in your own terms, you will become
better at breaking down a text or passage and building it up again. In the
process, by looking up unusual terms, trying to work out what an author
means by seemingly nonsensical parts of the text, and connecting pieces
of text to other sections of the work or, indeed, other works, you are
developing a more plausible interpretation. A plausible understanding
of a text is one that you can defend well. The first step toward a plausible
interpretation is making sense of the text (or part of a text) and being
comfortable explaining it to another person (either verbally or on paper
through the guided activities). The next step is being able to defend
your interpretation, or parts of your interpretation. There are various
ways to defend an interpretation, and there is more than one plausible
interpretation of a text. You should become increasingly confident in your
interpretation skills as you practise them throughout the readings and
activities in this course. This effort will support you in the exams, where
you will encounter new passages from the same texts that you have been
studying in this course.
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Activities
The Guided readings section contains Activities that are designed to
push your understanding of the texts further. These Activities are more
challenging and time-consuming than the initial reading questions. The
reward, in terms of gaining a critical understanding of primary texts,
is related to the level of challenge. If you complete all of the tasks in
a chapter, you will find your command of the text much stronger. The
Activities ask specific questions about broader aspects of the texts you
are reading and ask you to apply the knowledge that you have gained
from your reading of the text. It is strongly recommended that you attempt
as many of the tasks in each of the chapters as you can. Write out your
answers to questions in a separate workbook. I recommend that you tackle
the Activities in the order that they are set.
Most of the activities are intended to give you the opportunity to think
about what you have read in more depth and to help you to put
the ideas into a context. The Activities will usually ask you to either:
summarise larger sections of the text that you are reading in your
own words; reflect on the meaning of the writer’s arguments in a
wider context (for example, by relating the writer’s ideas to contemporary
events or to your own experience); relate the ideas of one writer with
those of another. Work through each of the Activities methodically and in
order as this will help you to build up a solid understanding of the text
itself and allow you to think about it in relation to the societies that we
live in and in comparison with the ideas of other writers.
These Activities are also set up to help you develop your writing. You are
encouraged to think about how to summarise arguments in your own
words. This is a very valuable skill to learn. The Activities offer step-bystep help in how to make your own arguments. You will be asked to relate
arguments and ideas to your own experience and to compare them with the
arguments and ideas of other writers. The Activities are often quite carefully
structured (through using questions to help guide your thinking). Sometimes
there are suggested word limits to help you. Writing to a word limit is a very
important exercise as it helps you to focus your thinking.
As a way to help you understand how to tackle the questions and the
activities some model answers have been provided in an appendix to
the subject guide. Part of the Guided reading section from the chapter
on Thomas Hobbes has been chosen to demonstrate how to make the
most of the Guided readings. You will find recommendations on how to
answer some of the questions asked about the extract from Hobbes’ book
Leviathan. You will also find suggestions for how to tackle the tasks from
several of the Activities in the rest of the chapters in this guide.
Other chapter sections
You will also find that the chapters you are about to read contain
information about the writer’s life and work and about the historical and
intellectual context in which it was produced. It is important that you
read these as they help to offer context for the texts you are working on.
You will also find Activities to do in these sections that are designed to
help deepen your understanding of the individual writers’ arguments and
to help you make connections between themes and ideas explored in the
different chapters of the guide.
In many chapters of the guide, we also encounter approaches to reading
that widen the context from straightforwardly trying to comprehend
an individual text. We also look at examples of the ways that texts are
6
Chapter 1: Introduction
argued against or used in the work of other writers. It is the aim here
to show how a writer’s ideas can be used and critically responded to.
1.6.2 Essential reading
You do not need to purchase any textbooks for this course as all your
readings are contained within a study pack which you will be provided
with. Alongside the key readings, you will find reference to a single,
short and highly useful secondary text on the author. These works have
been listed under ‘Essential reading’ because they represent the best
supplementary source to learn more about the conceptual and historical
context of the text you will be studying. The examination will not feature
any questions that make reference to these secondary texts. However,
many students will find them extremely useful as a support for the work
that they do through the close reading and Activities. It is recommended
that you read these secondary works after you have worked through the
close reading, in order to better develop your reading and interpretive
skills.
1.6.3 Further reading
If you would like to read about any of the writers in more depth as you
prepare for your examination, the following provide useful background
information and detailed commentaries on their work. You can also find
suggestions for further reading in the bibliography at the start of each of
the chapters in the subject guide.
It is worth finding a companion reader to which will help you to develop
a broader contextual picture of the texts you are studying. Each of the
books listed below has sections on a number of the thinkers featured in
this course, but both miss the earliest thinkers (Hobbes, Rousseau) as well
as Fanon.
Callinicos, A. Social theory: a historical introduction. (London: Polity Press,
2007) second edition [ISBN 9780745638409].
Elliot, A. Contemporary social theory. (London: Routledge, 2014) second edition
[ISBN: 9780415521376].
Ransome, P. Social theory for beginners. (Bristol: Policy Press, 2010)
[ISBN 9781847426741].
For the earlier thinkers, this book offers a solid introduction:
Cohen, M. Political philosophy: from Plato to Mao. (Michigan: Pluto, 2001)
[ISBN 9780745316031].
For longer and more in-depth texts on individual thinkers, the following
provide balanced introductions:
Thomas Hobbes
Martinich, A.P. Hobbes. (London: Routledge, 2005) [ISBN 9780415283281].
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Grayling, A.C. Rousseau. (London: Pocket Books, 2005)
[ISBN 9780743231473].
Adam Smith
Buchan, J. Adam Smith and the pursuit of perfect liberty. (London: Pine Books,
2006) [ISBN 9781861979407].
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Elster, J. An introduction to Karl Marx. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1986) [ISBN 9780521338318].
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SC1158 Reading social science
Georg Simmel
Frisby, D. Georg Simmel. (London: Routledge, 2002) revised edition
[ISBN 9780415285356].
Sigmund Freud
Gay, P. Freud: a life for our time. (London: Dent, 1989) [ISBN 9780333486382].
Frantz Fanon
Macey, D. Frantz Fanon: a biography. (London: Verso, 2012)
[ISBN 9781844677733].
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer
Muller-Doohm, S. Adorno: a biography. (New York: Wiley, 2009)
[ISBN 9780745631096].
Michel Foucault
McNay, L. Foucault: a critical introduction. (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994)
[ISBN 9780745609911].
Giorgio Agamben
Durantaye, L. Agamben: a critical introduction. (Redwood City, CA: Stanford
University Press, 2009) [ISBN 9780804761437].
1.6.4 Online study material
In addition to the subject guide and the Essential reading, you can take
advantage of the study resources that are available online for this course,
including the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the Online Library.
You can access the VLE, the Online Library and your University of London
email account via the Student Portal at:
http://my.londoninternational.ac.uk
You should have received your login details for the Student Portal with
your official offer, which was emailed to the address that you gave on
your application form. You have probably already logged in to the Student
Portal in order to register. As soon as you registered, you will automatically
have been granted access to the VLE, Online Library and your fully
functional University of London email account.
If you have forgotten these login details, please click on the ‘Forgotten
your password’ link on the login page.
The VLE
The VLE, which complements this subject guide, has been designed to
enhance your learning experience, providing additional support and a
sense of community. It forms an important part of your study experience
with the University of London and you should access it regularly.
The VLE provides a range of resources for EMFSS courses:
• Self-testing activities: Doing these allows you to test your own
understanding of subject material.
• Electronic study materials: The printed materials that you receive from
the University of London are available to download, including updated
reading lists and references.
• Past examination papers and Examiners’ commentaries: These provide
advice on how each examination question might best be answered.
• A student discussion forum: This is an open space for you to discuss
interests and experiences, seek support from your peers, work
collaboratively to solve problems and discuss subject material.
8
Chapter 1: Introduction
• Videos: There are recorded academic introductions to the subject,
interviews and debates and, for some courses, audio-visual tutorials
and conclusions.
• Recorded lectures: For some courses, where appropriate, the sessions
from previous years’ Study Weekends have been recorded and made
available.
• Study skills: Expert advice on preparing for examinations and
developing your digital literacy skills.
• Feedback forms.
Some of these resources are available for certain courses only, but we
are expanding our provision all the time and you should check the VLE
regularly for updates.
The Online Library
The Online Library contains a huge array of journal articles and other
resources to help you read widely and extensively.
To access the majority of resources via the Online Library you will either
need to use your University of London Student Portal login details, or you
will be required to register and use an Athens login: http://tinyurl.com/
ollathens
The easiest way to locate relevant content and journal articles in the
Online Library is to use the Summon search engine.
If you are having trouble finding an article listed in a reading list, try
removing any punctuation from the title, such as single quotation marks,
question marks and colons.
For further advice, please see the online help pages: www.external.shl.lon.
ac.uk/summon/about.php
1.7 Examination advice
Important: the information and advice given here are based on the
examination structure used at the time this guide was written. Please
note that subject guides may be used for several years. Because of this
we strongly advise you to always check both the current Regulations for
relevant information about the examination, and the VLE where you
should be advised of any forthcoming changes. You should also carefully
check the rubric/instructions on the paper you actually sit and follow
those instructions.
The examination for this course is two hours long. The examination
paper is split into two sections. Section A consists of a short passage of
text chosen from one of the writers that you have studied in this course.
The text will be chosen from the writer’s work in general and not from
the material covered in the subject guide. You will be asked to answer a
number of short questions on the passage and be expected to demonstrate
that you have clearly understood it.
Section B consists of four shorter passages each taken from one of the
extracts in the course reading pack. You will be asked to choose two of
these passages and to answer questions on them.
A Sample examination paper appears as an appendix to this guide, along
with a sample Examiners’ commentary. The Examiners’ commentaries
contain valuable information about how to approach the examination
and so you are strongly advised to read them carefully. Past examination
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papers and the associated commentaries are valuable resources when
preparing for the examination.
You should ensure that all questions are answered!
Remember, it is important to check the VLE for:
• up-to-date information on examination and assessment arrangements
for this course
• where available, past examination papers and Examiners’ commentaries
for the course which give advice on how each question might best be
answered.
Examination advice
In approaching the examination the most important thing to remember
is that even if you know and fully understand the material, if you cannot
clearly convey this to the Examiner, then this is worthless! The key to clear
expression is simply to practise. Take time to prepare for the examintion
by writing short passages on parts of the readings that you have found the
most challenging.
In the examination itself, try to write as clearly and concisely as possible.
This examination consists of a long comprehension exercise with some
short and quite simple questions about the passage, and a shorter
comprehension exercise, based on a passage from one of the texts in your
reading pack. You will be asked more general questions about how the
ideas in this passage relate to those of other writers you have studied
on the course. The comprehension exercise in Section A is divided into
short questions each of which demands a short but detailed answer
demonstrating that you have fully grasped the text. In Section B your
answers will need to be longer. Remember, with proportionately less time
for each question, you will have to keep your essay very much to the point
and address the question directly in order to convey to the Examiners that
you have fully understood the topic.
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
and sovereign power
2.1 Introduction: Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
In this first chapter, we look at a text by Hobbes who was an English
philosopher–scientist from the 17th century. The extracts that we will
examine are from the most famous of Hobbes’ writings and they are
concerned with political philosophy. The full title of the work is Leviathan
or the matter, forme and power of a common wealth ecclesiasticall and civil.
Hobbes wrote on a variety of subjects including mathematics, optics and
classical literature. Leviathan is the only one of his works that is considered
significant today, and it remains a key work on most introductory courses
in politics, moral philosophy, and law.
Leviathan, as it is usually called, discusses the best form of social
organisation that Hobbes saw as both practicable and natural. The
selections that are the focus of our reading below capture the central
tenets of Hobbes’ political philosophy. The main ideas that are important
to this chapter involve the nature of human nature and of social order,
the character and significance of sovereignty in society and what form a
legitimate government should take. Connected to this are images of social
ranking and how power does and should play a role in social life.
Hobbes worked as a translator, scientist and political philosopher during
a period of major religious and political transformation in England. He
was a student of Francis Bacon and carried out fruitful debates with René
Descartes. He was impressed by the work of Galileo Galilei, and spent time
working on history, geometry, physics, and theology. Hobbes’ major texts
are: The elements of law (1640), De Cive (1642), Tractatus opticus (1641),
Of liberty and necessity (1646), Leviathan, or the matter, forme and power
of a common wealth ecclesiasticall and civil (1651), De corpore (1655), De
homine (1658), and Behemoth or the long parliament (1660).
Hobbes’ work has been the foundation – in both negative and positive
ways – of what is called ‘social contract theory’ in philosophy. He also
contributed to a number of schools that are described loosely by the terms
materialism, empiricism, determinism and moral egoism. The form of
government that he proposes – absolutism – has not had many supporters
throughout the centuries of debate on good government. One consequence
of defending a form of government that many people reject is that Hobbes’
work has gained extra attention. His arguments in Leviathan provide a
political theory that many later political theorists argued against, thus
the fame of the work cannot simply be understood as the popularity of its
argument.
Just a few sentences of Hobbes’ lengthy treatise are commonly quoted.
One of these brief but powerful images is that human life is ‘nasty, brutish
and short’, and another is that we live in a ‘war of all against all’. While
both these ideas play a role in Hobbes’ political philosophy, they need to
be understood within the larger context of the arguments that he makes.
You will encounter this in the text selections below, and should be able to
quote these famous phrases a little more accurately and with a much more
nuanced understanding of what Hobbes meant by them.
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2.1.1 Essential reading (reproduced as Appendix A in Coursepack)
Hobbes, T. Leviathan. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996);
originally published 1651) [ISBN 9780521567978] Chapter XIII, ‘Of the
natural condition of mankind as concerning their felicity, and misery’ and
Chapter XVIII, ‘Of the rights of sovereigns by institution’.
Tuck, R. Hobbes: a very short introduction. (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2002) [ISBN 9780192802552].
2.1.2 Works cited/other reference material
Baumgold, D. Hobbes’s political theory. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1988) [ISBN 9780521341256].
Ewin, R.E. Virtues and rights: the moral philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. (Boulder:
Westview Press, 1991) [ISBN 9780813312385].
Hampton, J. Hobbes and the social contract tradition. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1986) [ISBN 9780521368278].
Locke, J. Two treatises on government. Edited by P. Laslett (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2003; originally published 1689)
[ISBN 9780521375730].
Martinich, A.P. The two gods of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes on religion
and politics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) [ISBN
9780521418492].
Rogers, G.A.J. (ed.) Leviathan: contemporary responses to the political theory of
Thomas Hobbes. (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1997) [ISBN 9781855064065].
Strauss, L., The political philosophy of Hobbes: its basis and genesis. (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1936) [ISBN 9780226776941].
Williams, G. ‘Thomas Hobbes: Moral and political philosophy’, Internet
encyclopedia of philosophy: www.iep.utm.edu, 14 January 2015, first
published 1995 [ISSN 21610002].
2.2 Hobbes’ life and work: a brief outline
Hobbes’ vocation was as a tutor and scholar. During the 17th century,
such a career involved being close to people in powerful positions,
including nobility and English royalty. Hobbes spent his early life working
as a tutor to a young aristocrat, which involved teaching the best of the
knowledge available at the time, but also accompanying his pupil when he
sat in parliament. As a result, while Hobbes was working on intellectual
questions such as mathematical theorems, he was at the same time
observing the system of English government first hand. Hobbes’ writings
on political philosophy are closely connected to the practices of politics at
his time, and these involved profound and violent conflict.
Hobbes got involved in the debates that were being passionately held
at the time he was working as a tutor. Through his writings about
sovereignty, he became aligned with the Royalists. This raised problems for
Hobbes when Charles I was executed in 1649 during the English Civil War.
Hobbes left England for the relative safety of France where he remained
for over a decade. It was during his stay in Paris that Hobbes worked on
Leviathan, which was published in 1651.
Hobbes’ political philosophy is an extension of his broader philosophical
understanding. This philosophy is based upon his scientific studies, which
pre-dates the explosion of experimental science that occurred only a few
decades after Hobbes was actively writing. The understanding of the
universe that was dominant in Hobbes’ time has been called mechanistic
and deterministic. The natural world was imagined to be something like
a great watch with each part of the workings having a specific function
and being able to move only in a pre-established fashion. Human
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
nature, for Hobbes, was something similar to this. He saw humans as
sophisticated physical instruments, in which sensation, perception,
thought and motivation were determined by our physical being. This is
important to grasping what he is arguing for in Leviathan, where the main
question is about the ideal form of government. For Hobbes, the physical
determination of human nature plays a significant role in how we interact.
Social relations are characterised by the conflicts between individuals as
they struggle to meet their physical needs and goals.
In working out how to reduce human struggle and misery through a
specific type of government, Hobbes proposed the first clear exposition of
what is now called ‘social contract theory’. His presentation of the social
contract was of it being a necessity if humanity is to escape the painful,
violent and conflict-ridden natural condition of humanity. Hobbes argued
for absolutist monarchy as the solution to the anguished condition of
human nature. Hobbes’ commitment to absolutism as the best government
was not without personal consequences. His time in France came to an
end because his arguments that the sovereign should be head of religion
as well as state upset the leaders of the Catholic Church. Several years
after Hobbes returned to England, Leviathan was scrutinised by parliament
for evidence of atheism. Hobbes wrote only on non-political topics for the
remaining years of his life.
2.3 Reading Leviathan
This course is designed to both teach you how to read seemingly difficult
texts carefully and systematically in order to engage with the ideas that
they contain. Below you will be guided through a line by line ‘unpicking’
of the key sections of Leviathan, which ought to enable you to grasp some
of the methods Hobbes used to make his arguments. This effort, combined
with the passages below, which provide intellectual and historical context
for Leviathan, should give you tools to set out Hobbes’ position on human
nature, the nature of social order and cohesion and sovereignty. Having
gained this ability to describe Hobbes’ views in your own words, you
should then be able to critically engage with them.
You will need an English dictionary to help you with the reading, as some
of the words will be unfamiliar to you, for several specific reasons. First,
Hobbes wrote so long ago that there are old forms of English which are
confusing for many students encountering such a text for the first time. If
a term has a ‘th’ at the end, this is the older form of ‘s’. For example,
• hath = has.
Replace all the ‘th/eth’ endings with ‘s/es’ in the following words, and the
words become modern:
• proveth, ariseth, requireth, looketh, maketh, consisteth, lieth,
dependeth, beareth, attempteth, representeth, recovereth, receiveth,
preoceedeth, imagineth, doth, acteth, complaineth, punisheth, causeth.
There is another set of words that are simply less used in modern English,
and it will be useful to jot the definitions down onto your text, as you read
through it for the first time, such as:
• thereupon, howsoever, soever, thereby, therein, thereto, withal.
The grammar, or order of the words in the sentence, is another thing
that you may find challenging. There is no simple rule to modernise the
grammatical structure of the text, but the step-by-step questions that guide
you through a close reading should help to give clues that will untangle
even the most stubborn of sentences.
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To help you with this first text, here are some questions to keep in mind as
you read through the piece.
• What is the style of Hobbes’ work: is it prescriptive, descriptive,
suggestive, explanatory or something else?
• Would you describe it more as science or as art, or is this distinction
unhelpful for this text?
• What is the relationship between this work and other studies/texts
by Hobbes? Sometimes you will want to look up a term or idea, and
may find further information about other works useful in clarifying
things about this text. An introductory text that is worth using to look
at Hobbes’ work more generally, as well as in relation to Leviathan, is
Tuck’s Hobbes: a very short introduction, especially Chapter 2.
• What is the special element of Hobbes’ text that will stay with you
as you move on to study the following chapters? (Making a note of
this after a close, intense reading can be helpful when you revisit the
material for revision.)
2.4 A close reading of the text
Now read paragraph one which begins on line 1 and ends on
line 18.
• How does Hobbes’ definition of nature differ from one you would find
in a modern dictionary? What is the additional element?
• Write out the first sentence, lines 1 and 2, in your own words.
• What do you think Hobbes means by ‘Artificial animal’ (remember this
is written in 1651)?
• How does Hobbes define ‘life’ (lines 2–3)?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• What is Hobbes comparing a watch to?
• What are the two qualities that man has, according to Hobbes, so far
in this text (by line 7)?
• How does Hobbes describe a ‘Commonwealth or state’ being made into
an ‘Artificial man’?
• What, in a state, is analogous to the soul of a man?
• What does the soul do for a man, and therefore what does its analogue
do for a state?
• What is the state intended to do?
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• What are the joints of a man analogous to, in a state?
• How do rewards and punishments in a state act like the nerves of a
body?
• What gives the Leviathan its strength?
• What serves as the memory of the Leviathan?
• What are the ‘reason and will’ of the state?
• Write out the attributes of a state that are analogous to health, illness
and death.
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Activity 2.1
Lines 16–18 describe the origin of the state or body politic by reference to God’s creation
of man described in the Christian Bible. What does God do to create man? How does
understanding this affect your understanding of what occurs in the creation of a state? In
a few sentences, present the main features of state creation according to Hobbes.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 19 and ends on
line 24.
• What does Hobbes mean by the first sentence? Try to restate it in your
own words.
• Hobbes is setting up a standard for understanding, if one is to ‘govern
a whole nation’. What is that standard (lines 20–22)?
• What guarantee does Hobbes give for his treatise to be at the standard
necessary for a sovereign to use? In other words, what test can be
applied to show that this work meets the standard Hobbes sets out?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 25 and ends on
line 30.
• Before starting the paragraph, make sure that you understand what
the title means.
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• What do ‘faculties of body and mind’ refer to?
• Are men the same or different in these ‘faculties’?
• Does this mean they are equal or unequal?
• What two tactics are possible to equalise the advantage that physical
strength lends some men?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 31 and ends on
line 43.
• Does Hobbes argue that we are equal or unequal in terms of our
mental abilities?
• What is the relationship between prudence and experience? Ask first
for a definition
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• How does this relate to mental faculties?
• What is the basis of the belief that some people are superior to others
in their mental capabilities, according to Hobbes (sentence beginning
line 36 and ending 39)?
• Is this his view, or not?
• What is the most fundamental quality of mental ability for Hobbes,
and what are three other, less fundamental qualities?
Activity 2.2
1. Focus on the final two sentences in this paragraph. They contain a proof for Hobbes’
main point. Can you restate that proof in your own words?
2. Now that you have restated it, do you agree or disagree with the claim that Hobbes
is making? Does the proof he offers make any difference to your agreement or
disagreement?
3. Take the same type of evidence he is using for support and apply it to another human
quality – for example, kindness. Is the argument now convincing or unconvincing?
This exercise is intended to help you separate the claim an author makes from the support
that the author gives for that claim. Sometimes we strongly agree or disagree with an
author without any need for the author to persuade us. This suggests that we have a bias
that makes us favour or reject the author’s arguments. Learning to recognise the opinions
we have before we read a text is an important step in learning to evaluate texts for their
own merits. Doing this sort of ‘thought experiment’ is one element that develops your
ability to read critically.
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Now read the paragraph which begins on line 44 and ends on
line 51.
• Can you think of another way to say ‘hope of attaining our ends’?
• Between the first and second sentence of this paragraph, a significant
step is taken in Hobbes’ argument. He shifts from talking about
equality to potentially violent competition. Pinpoint this shift.
• What does ‘delectation’ mean?
• Look closely at the penultimate sentence in this paragraph (lines 47
to 50). Why would a farmer having a full harvest bring with it the
likelihood of the farmer being attacked – possibly so violently that he
is killed?
• According to the final sentence, is anyone safe from the hostile
competition of other people?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 52 and ends on
line 60.
• What does ‘diffidence’ mean?
• What do you think Hobbes mean by a ‘man to secure himself…[by]
anticipation’?
• What are the methods that Hobbes describes for men to ‘secure’
themselves? Do these methods have any moral value, or are they
morally neutral?
• When will any man stop trying to ‘secure’ himself?
• What do you think Hobbes means by the term ‘generally allowed’?
• Hobbes gives a reason why people cannot simply stay still and defend
what they have. What is the reason?
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• In the penultimate sentence, Hobbes gives his proof for why people
have to overextend themselves from their own domain (in power).
What is the final sentence of this paragraph stating?
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 61 and ends on
line 73.
• Write out the first sentence of this paragraph in your own words.
• In the first clause of the sentence on lines 62–66, what is Hobbes
saying?
• The second section of this sentence describes how people will act, if
the first part of the sentence is not fulfilled. Can you rewrite the rest of
this sentence in your own words?
Activity 2.3
Write 250 words on what you know so far about Hobbes’ understanding of human
nature.
First, return to the Introduction to remind yourself of what Hobbes considers human
nature to be, before we enter into social relationships. Then look at his descriptions of
the fundamental basis for, and the character of, how we interact with other people. Try
to set out how the two pictures – human nature in isolation, and the character of social
relations – are connected to each other.
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Now read the paragraphs which begins on line 67 and ends on
line 73.
• What are the three characteristics that motivate humans and result in
conflict?
• What are the three objectives that are connected to these
characteristics?
• List the characteristics, the abstract objective and the concrete actions
that follow each one.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 74 and ends on
line 81.
• Line 74 contains the claim for which Hobbes is most famous, and it is
often used to summarise Leviathan. Can you describe it in your own
words?
• What is Hobbes’ definition of war?
Is this definition (in lines 78–81) one that is commonly used?
If not, what is different about it?
• Hobbes’ use of the term?
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• Has he given any specific characteristics to peace, or is it simply the
opposite of war?
Activity 2.4
1. When something is described only by virtue of what it is not (for example, being
wealthy is when you are not impoverished), it can be called a ‘negative definition’.
Has Hobbes given war, or peace, a negative definition?
2. How would a positive definition of this look different? Can you offer a positive
definition?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 82 and ends on
line 89.
• What is Hobbes describing in the first sentence of this paragraph?
• What does Hobbes mean by ‘industry’ in the next sentence?
• List that which is missing in a time of uncertainty/war.
• Describe what there is during this time (lines 88–89).
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Activity 2.5
The final clause of the final sentence in this paragraph is the other phrase that is used
to summarise Hobbes’ perspective and why he argues for monarchist absolutism as the
optimal system of government. One powerful way to critically engage with his position is
to tackle this claim. A good method is to scrutinise the proofs that Hobbes has offered so
far for it (about human nature and the fundamental character of social relations). If you
can find a weakness, or something unconvincing in these proofs, you will be in a strong
position to argue against his broader argument about the nature of good government.
Conversely, if you want to argue in support of Hobbes, you will need to offer a defence
for the foundations of his work. Take time now to look at the proofs and try to challenge
and defend them. You can do this in note form: this is a thinking exercise, rather than a
writing exercise.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 90 and ends on
line 101.
• What sort of passage do you expect based on the first sentence of this
paragraph? What clue does ‘it may seem strange to some’ offer about
what will follow?
• The second part of the first sentence is telling us what? What challenge
is Hobbes telling us that he is meeting?
• Are you persuaded by lines 93–97? Does your ‘experience confirm’
what Hobbes is asserting about human nature and the nature of social
life?
• What does Hobbes mean by this? Do you agree that a way of acting
can be an accusation?
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• If something is a sin, is it morally neutral or morally negative? What
function does describing something as ‘no sin’ have, what happens to
the moral valuation?
• Re-write the final sentence in your own order and your own words,
until it makes sense to you.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 102 and ends
on line 108.
• Look up ‘peradventure’.
• Is Hobbes opening this paragraph by strengthening his main
arguments, or by qualifying them?
• In lines 103–06, it is important to remember the historical context.
This text was published in the middle of the 17th century, and
knowledge of the ‘savage peoples of America’ would have been
limited. What little information was shared was largely inaccurate and
often sensationalist. Bearing this in mind, what is Hobbes’ key point?
• What is Hobbes saying about the stability of government if it lacks a
single authority?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 109 and ends
on line 115.
• According to Hobbes, has human history ever seen a state where every
person was in open conflict with all others?
• Why is this not the case? What is the difference between a state where
every individual is in conflict and the actual state of human history?
• What is the difference between actual war and a posture of war?
• Why is being under the dominion of a jealous, war-posturing sovereign
different from being without any sovereign and in conflict with all
other people one encounters?
• How are liberty and misery connected, according to Hobbes?
Activity 2.6
There are two significant elements in the last paragraph. The first concerns the benefit of
sovereign protection and the second concerns the negative connotations for liberty that
are built into Hobbes’ political philosophy. How are these two elements connected?
Try to write out an answer, including your own critical response to this question in
300 words.
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Now read the paragraph which begins on line 116 and ends
on line 125
• In your understanding, what are the implications of nothing being
unjust in the ‘war of every man against every man’?
• Why is it significant that Hobbes places right and wrong next to justice
and injustice in line 117?
• What is necessary, according to the next sentence, for there to be
justice?
• What does Hobbes mean by saying that force and fraud are virtues in
war?
• Where do justice and injustice derive, if they are not part of our
faculties?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• What is Hobbes’ proof that justice and injustice are not faculties of
human nature (line 122)?
• Does the sentence starting line 120 plausibly follow from the sentence
that precedes it? Why or why not?
• What does Hobbes mean by ‘propriety’, ‘dominion’ and ‘mine and thine
distinct’?
• What do you think Hobbes means by ‘to be man’s that he can get, and
for so long as he can keep it’?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 126 and ends
on line 130.
• Are the ‘passions that incline men to peace’ self-directed, or are they
directed toward others?
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• What offers us a way to find agreements to peace with one another?
• What does Hobbes describe as ‘the laws of nature’?
Before you begin the next section, look closely at the title which shows
what the content of the section is about. You will be looking at significant
extracts of the chapter but not the whole chapter.
Now read the paragraphs which begins on line 131 and ends
on line 138.
• Rewrite the definition of commonwealth (the paragraph) in your own
words. Is there any part of Hobbes’ definition that is confusing or
unclear?
• Does a sovereign power have to be an individual, or can it be a group?
• What is it that ‘confers’ the rights to the sovereign?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 139 and ends
on line 158.
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• Explain what it means to ‘covenant’ something.
• What is the obligation that Hobbes is outlining in the second sentence
of this paragraph?
• Why can subjects not ‘cast off’ monarchy if they have ‘instituted a
Commonwealth’ (lines 143–49)?
• Isolate the clause beginning on line 145 and ending on line 146. Does
Hobbes offer support for why people are ‘bound’ in any of the text that
has gone before? Why are people obliged, as he describes it?
• Can you find support for this obligation in the next clause (lines
146–48)?
• How is deposing a sovereign ‘injustice’?
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• Explain why a person who tries to depose a sovereign and is caught
and killed is, according to Hobbes, the person who legitimates his own
death.
The next argument, about God and sovereignty, is specific to the historical
context of religious discord and political conflicts that were occurring at
the time Hobbes was writing. It is historically, but not logically, significant.
Activity 2.7
Can you set out the steps in Hobbes’ argument from the origin of sovereignty to the
inviolability of the sovereign once established?
Can you defend Hobbes’ definition of sovereignty as set out in this paragraph? Write 400
words defending or criticising Hobbes’ definition of sovereignty.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 159 and ends
on line 177.
• Which rights is Hobbes referring to, that are incommunicable and
inseparable?
• Which rights are transferable, in contrast to the fundamental
sovereign’s right?
• Is the sovereign’s power to protect also a right?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• Is it wise for the sovereign to transfer any of the rights that they can
transfer, or does Hobbes claim that specific problems arise from the
transfer of each of them?
• What happens to a Commonwealth if the sovereign rights (or powers)
are parcelled out to other persons, or assemblies?
• What historical example does Hobbes offer to demonstrate that power
needs to be unitary?
• What other unities follow from unity of sovereign power?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 178 and ends
on line 182.
Look up the word ‘essential’ in an ordinary English dictionary and try
to find a meaning that is relevant to political philosophy. If you cannot
find one that makes sense in political philosophy, find a meaning that is
relevant to philosophy in general. If you are unable to make sense of this
term by using an ordinary English dictionary, try a dictionary of philosophy
(there are several available online such as the Stanford encyclopedia of
philosophy, the Internet encyclopedia of philosophy).
• Why is it impossible to dissociate the specific rights from the
sovereignty itself?
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Now read the paragraph which begins on line 183 and ends
on line 191.
Read the first sentence, skipping over the Latin terms, but reading instead
with the English definitions as they are offered.
• What is the main point of the first sentence?
• Explain why it is absurd if ‘they mean not the collective body as one
person’.
• Explain why it is absurd if ‘they understand them as one person’.
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 192 and ends
on line 197.
• What meaning does honour have in this context?
• Is the sovereign in this paragraph an assembly or an individual?
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
• What is the difference in status accorded to aristocrats in relation to
each other and the sovereign?
Now read the paragraph which begins on line 198 and ends
on line 208.
• Rewrite the sentence in lines 198–99 in your own words. Could you
apply this to any contemporary national leaders (whether monarchs,
despots or elected representatives)?
• Where does the sense of injustice stem from: the form of a government
or something else?
• Begin at the clause that starts on line 203 and write down you own
interpretation of the remainder of this paragraph. What key points did
you draw from it?
Activity 2.8
Write down in your own words Hobbes’ account of the nature of sovereignty. Include as
much detail as you can from the text.
Try to write about 500 words.
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2.5 Thomas Hobbes and sovereignty
Williams summarises Hobbes’ main question and his own answer to it:
His vision of the world is strikingly original and still relevant
to contemporary politics. His main concern is the problem of
social and political order: how human beings can live together
in peace and avoid the danger and fear of civil conflict. He
poses stark alternatives: we should give our obedience to an
unaccountable sovereign (a person or group empowered to
decide every social and political issue). Otherwise what awaits
us is a “state of nature” that closely resembles civil war – a
situation of universal insecurity, where all have reason to fear
violent death and where rewarding human cooperation is all but
impossible. (Internet encyclopedia of philosophy, 1995, http://
www.iep.utm.edu)
How did Hobbes come to be called the ‘founder of modern political
theory’? How did he end up writing Leviathan, a work that is almost
unfailingly regarded as peculiar, and yet also nearly unanimously seen
as hugely significant? Hobbes wrote at an important juncture in science
and politics, which is called the ‘early modern’ period. This period was a
time in which a new form of intellectual inquiry was becoming popular.
The 17th century marked the start of a shift towards empirical science
and away from logical disputation. Many of the opening paragraphs
of Leviathan are significant in this context. The rejection of logical
argumentation on its own is important, but what is more significant is that
Hobbes bases his political philosophy on materialism. This is a view that
emphasises the importance of the physical causes of events rather than
unobservable, immaterial causes. Hobbes’ account of human nature is a
mechanistic and deterministic image which follows from his materialism.
By focusing on the physical basis of human action, Hobbes’ political
philosophy has to focus on the problem of social order. Starting with the
material realm means that Hobbes looks first to individuals and how
each of us handles the problems associated with physical survival. From
this point, other social philosophers have gone in a different direction,
especially Rousseau and Smith, as explored in the next two chapters. The
circumstances around Hobbes may help to explain why social order was
regarded as a problem in need of a solution. Simultaneous to his studies
in mathematics, optics, law, and religion, Hobbes witnessed a bloody,
violent civil war. What was happening around Hobbes was not orderly, nor
unified, nor peaceable. Some of his statements about the failure of certain
forms of sovereignty are drawn directly from his experience of living
through a period of bloody political and religious discord.
Leviathan is an odd text in many ways. Commentators point out that it is
the original social contract theory and, as such, marks a dramatic shift for
political theory. There is an important method involved which Hobbes’ text
laid out: social contract theorists imagine the human condition ‘before’ or
without any form of social organisation. The next step is to argue that a
specific form of government is best and that people explicitly or implicitly
agree to this form.
Unlike the social contract theorists that followed, Hobbes comes to the
astonishing conclusion that absolutism is the best form of government.
This is astonishing because his starting point is the idea of a group
agreeing to subordinate their natural egoism for the general justice. In the
next chapter, we look at a reaction to Hobbes that was taken by another
social contract theorist.
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Chapter 2: Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan and sovereign power
2.6 Leviathan’s legacy
Hobbes was born prematurely as his mother received news of the
impending invasion of the Spanish Armada in England. He is reported to
have said that his mother gave birth to twins on that day: to himself, and
to his fear. The feature that underpins Hobbes social contract theory is a
vision of human nature derived from fear. We have a sound basis to fear
each other, according to Hobbes, since fundamentally we will compete for
our own ends and we are equal in the means we have to attain them. This
has generated a long and healthy debate, as to what human life is in an
imaginary state of nature. Hobbes is one of the few who argues that we
will do violence to each other, as many European thinkers imagined the
life in nature to be blissfully cooperative. This theme returns again in the
chapter on Freud. In Hobbes’ understanding, however, life in the state of
nature is characterised by violence, competition, and suspicion. Order is
something that can only be imposed by someone who people (who become
in a political sense, subjects) universally agree has the power to regulate
social relationships. Fear takes on a productive role in sovereignty, as the
fear of our neighbours is transferred to the fear of the king, the Leviathan.
The materialism and determinism which were discussed in the
Introduction are important as fundamental ideas in Hobbes’ account of
how a people can live peaceably. Society cannot function in the absence
of a guiding power, embodied in the absolute ruler, the monarch. John
Locke, continuing in the vein of social contract theory, argued against the
totalising element of Hobbes in Leviathan. Locke responded to Hobbes in
Two treatises on government, where he offered a softened version of social
contract theory. One of the most vocal replies to Hobbes is to be found in
the text we look at next, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
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Notes
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Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract
Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
The social contract
3.1 Introduction: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78)
Rousseau was an 18th-century Genevan French political philosopher who
wrote on music, morality, and science. He was closely connected with the
group of French scholars (the philosophes) that published a significant
work which is often understood as the intellectual basis of the French
Revolution, the Encyclopedie. Rousseau contributed articles on music and
moral philosophy to the Encyclopedie. The books that he published were
Discourse on the origins of inequality (1755), Julie or the New Heloise
(1761), The social contract (1762), Emile (1762), Emile and Sophie (1780),
The confessions (1782/9), The reveries of the solitary walker (1782), and
Rousseau: judge of Jean-Jacques (1782). The text that remains the most
influential across various social sciences is The social contract, which is
the focus of this chapter. In The social contract, Rousseau is responding
to both Hobbes’ and John Locke’s writings about good governance and
sovereignty. This is described as the development of social contract theory,
but as you will see Rousseau’s vision of just sovereignty is quite different to
that of Hobbes.
Equality, liberty, sovereignty, the will of a people and the will of
individuals – these concepts emerge from The social contract, and they are
the concepts that have attracted so many defenders and detractors. The
social contract can be analysed alone; however, a brief contextual history
clarifies some of the main ideas that underpin it. Rousseau wrote earlier
works which set out how he views human history and the current state
of social life. Like Hobbes, Rousseau uses the idea of a ‘state of nature’
to imagine what social life is, in the absence of government. However,
Rousseau’s state of nature is harmonious and based on mutual empathy.
With the development of private property, inequality enters into social
relations. Violence and mutual envy become possible, and systems for
protecting property emerge which entrench inequality between people.
This is the natural contract, and it is the opposite of the social contract.
This idea of human nature as fundamentally empathetic and peaceable
is one that Marx and Engels share, and it overlaps with the primitive
communism in Marx’s account of the development of political-economic
stages.
Rousseau’s influence is wider than just political philosophy, but that is
where it is felt most directly. The social contract remains a significant
defence for different types of political thinkers, such as liberal theorists
and republican theorists. Rousseau has also been influential for a range
of thinkers. For example, Immanuel Kant took up Rousseau’s ideas about
the faculty of judgement. Rousseau provoked strong criticism from 20thcentury philosophers, such as Hannah Arendt who rejected Rousseau’s
apparent unity of the state as the instrument of law and the nation as the
vessel for the will of the people. Within the history of ideas, Rousseau’s
political philosophy has been as productive in a positive sense (by
stimulating further work for those in broad agreement), as it has been in
a negative way (by stimulating those whom find it repugnant). This seems
to be because Rousseau has managed to touch upon the fundamental
issues of what human nature and social life are in a way that is more
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easily comprehensible than Hobbes or the other thinkers you will find in
subsequent chapters.
Underpinning what appears to be fairly clear and concise writing, however,
are significant ideas about the nature of progress, reason and our natural
condition. Bear this in mind when you begin to read his famous work,
which starts with the well-known line ‘Man is born free, and everywhere
he is in chains’. The text you will be reading below is short, but has
within it significant claims about freedom, sovereignty, how social order is
possible, justice and equality.
3.1.1 Essential reading (reproduced as Appendix B)
Rousseau, J.-J. The social contract. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1997; originally published 1776) [ISBN 9780521424462] Book 1,
Chapter 1, ‘The subject of the first book’; Chapter 6 ‘The social compact’
and Chapter 8 ‘The civil state’.
Wokler, R. Rousseau: a very short introduction. (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2001) [ISBN 9780192801982].
3.1.2 Works cited/other reference material
Cooper, L.D. Rousseau and nature: the problem of the good life. (Pennsylvania:
Penn State University Press, 1999) [ISBN 9780271029887].
Grayling, A.C. Rousseau. (London: Pocket Books, 2005)
[ISBN 9780743231473].
O’Hagan, T. Rousseau. (London: Routledge 2008) [ISBN 9780855205966].
Riley P. The Cambridge companion to Rousseau. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2001) [ISBN 9780521576154].
Starobinski, J. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: transparency and obstruction. (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1988) [ISBN 9780226771281].
3.2 Rousseau’s life and work: a brief outline
Rousseau was as interested in aesthetics as he was in intellectual topics.
He wrote an opera, plays and several novels. These interests were
interconnected, and his first major piece of writing to gain attention was
an essay about arts and sciences that explored the relationship between
aesthetic and intellectual works and morality. Rousseau criticised the
society in which he found himself, arguing against the position that
civilisation represents progress. This idea of the historical decay of social
life is decisive in the The social contract, where it follows on from the claim
that the defence of private property the basis upon which injustice and
inequality could develop.
The main question that troubles Rousseau, however, is not how to return
to a state of nature in which morality remains pure. Instead, he looks at
how to provide freedom for individuals within collective life. Like Hobbes,
Rousseau’s work was not always well received by the powers of the day.
The social contract (and Emile) was banned and Rousseau fled France and
then Switzerland and settled for a period in England through the invitation
of David Hume, another notable political philosopher. He did return to
France and his writings were taken up by the French revolutionaries after
his death in 1778.
Rousseau gained fame from his early writings, but The social contract and
Emile were immediate sensations. The appetite for the ideas Rousseau
was offering was powerful in mid-18th-century France. However, it was
not only his moral philosophy that was popular. He experimented with
style in his Confessions, providing what is now seen as the first text in an
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Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract
autobiographical style. He maintained a lifelong interest in the arts, as
an artist (a composer) and writer (writing an early version of a novel,
Julie). These efforts were interconnected with the moral philosophy he
wrote about simultaneously. The popularity of his works was liberating in
some ways and constraining in others. He faced censors and fled for fear
of prosecution, but he was also in the company of the philosophes, which
offered great stimulation for his work.
3.3 Reading The social contract
The social contract was written in French, and you are encountering
the English translation. This work has been the topic of much debate in
the years since its first publication. As a result, the translation has been
carefully discussed, and specific terminology has led to areas of discussion
in political philosophy. Rousseau’s work stands in contrast to Hobbes in
terms of the clarity of language. There are few unfamiliar terms, and the
grammar is generally much simpler.
This is a good text to start looking at the use of figurative and literal
language. Familiarise yourself with the difference between these two
forms of expression before starting to work on Rousseau’s extract. If
you are uncertain, look up unfamiliar words or terms in a standard
English dictionary and consider the examples that are offered. When you
encounter something that you think is a metaphor or an analogy, make
note of this. Sometimes powerful images will carry arguments further
than direct logical analysis, whereas sometimes they are unnecessary to
make the point. In this text, the use of figurative language is minimal, but
significant. In other chapters, authors use illustrations to offer examples
and these play an important role in the arguments. Identify each instance
of a metaphor or an analogy that you find in the extract below.
3.4 A close reading of the text
Now read the first two paragraphs which begin on line 1 and
end on line 10.
• What sort of chains is Rousseau referring to? Is this literal or
metaphorical, in your view?
• How is it possible for a master ‘of others’ to be a greater slave than his
slaves?
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• What changes is Rousseau referring to?
• What question does Rousseau say he cannot answer, and what
question can he answer?
• Does Rousseau open with a striking image or does he build up to one?
• What kind of force do you think Rousseau is referring to? What are
your clues for this?
• Are there other forms of compulsion than physical force?
• This new phrase, ‘the social order’ is worth noting along with the
characteristics that Rousseau attributes to it.
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• What is the social order established upon?
Note the title of this chapter extract.
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 11 and end on
line 26.
• What do you think Rousseau is referring to when he invokes ‘the state
of nature’?
• What is Rousseau asserting in this first sentence?
• What is his proof in the final sentence of this first paragraph?
• What do you think Rousseau is referring to when he writes ‘engender
new forces’?
• What can we do with our existing forces?
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• What does ‘preserving’ ourselves by means of ‘the formation, by
aggregation’ of ? a sum of forces mean?
• What do we need to do, in order to overcome the obstacles to our
preservation – i.e. our survival?
• What do you think Rousseau means by ‘a single motive power’?
• What are the two ‘chief instruments’ of our survival?
• What paradox does Rousseau relate in terms of our own selfpreservation and the necessity for a ‘sum of forces’?
Activity 3.1
Write out the ‘fundamental problem’ that according to Rousseau The social contract is
aimed at solving in a few sentences. Look back to your work on Hobbes in Chapter 2,
and compare what the two philosophers say that they are drawing up and why.
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Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 27 and end on
line 30.
• What contract is Rousseau referring to?
• What does he mean by ‘determined by the nature of the act’?
• How would it be possible to modify the clauses of this contract? Can
you give an example?
• What clue about the character of this contract do you get when he
writes that the clauses have never ‘been formally set forth’?
• What would violate the social compact?
• What happens to the individual when the social compact is annulled?
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• What is the difference between natural and conventional liberty?
Activity 3.2
Consider natural and conventional liberty. Write 350 words exploring whether these two
forms of liberty are compatible or incompatible.
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 31 and end on
line 43.
• What does Rousseau mean by the term ‘alienation of each associate,
together with his rights’ (lines 32–33)?
• What is the relationship between the individual and the social group,
according to the first half of the sentence on lines 32–33?
• What is the quality that stops people ‘making [the conditions]
burdensome on each other’?
• On the sentence beginning line 36, what does Rousseau mean by
‘alienation being without reserve’?
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Chapter 3: Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The social contract
• Why does the associate have nothing more to demand?
• What rights do people keep in Rousseau’s social compact?
• What is another name for what Rousseau calls a ‘common superior’?
• What sort of relationships do people have in the ‘state of nature’?
• What does Rousseau mean when he writes that ‘each man in giving
himself to all, gives himself to nobody’? How does this compare with
the agreement required of subjects in Hobbes’ commonwealth?
• What is the logic that puts a barrier on domination of some over
others?
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• What are the three ways that Rousseau illustrates the barrier?
Activity 3.3
What sort of an image of human nature does Rousseau assume? Find support in the text
for your answer.
How does this conception relate to the character that the social compact has? Can you
support your answer with specific text references?
Note the title of this section.
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 44 and end on
line 56.
• What are two different circumstances people can find themselves in
which Rousseau sets up as a contrast?
• What change occurs in people when they shift from the first
circumstance to the other?
• In which circumstance are people governed by instinct and immoral?
• In which circumstance, are they governed by justice and do they act
morally?
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• What human faculty directs justice and moral action (line 61)?
• Is morality something connected to individuals, in the absence of
others, or does it seem to be something connected to groups?
Activity 3.4
Focus on the final sentence in this paragraph. Take a moment to sketch out Rousseau’s
image of the civil state. How does this image relate to the first sentence of the text?
Write up your answer in 200–300 words. In your answer, make it clear where you are
drawing direct support from the text and where you need to deduce from elements in the
text, or speculate (for example by using a contrast with Hobbes).
Note the title of this section.
Now read the paragraphs which begin on line 67 and end on
line 77.
• What is the difference between ‘natural liberty’ and ‘civil liberty’?
• Is there any obvious distinction between having ‘an unlimited right to
everything [one] tries to get’ and having ‘proprietorship of all [one]
possesses’?
• What is a general will?
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• Can you distinguish between possession and property?
• What does Rousseau mean when he writes that ‘the mere impulse of
appetite is slavery’?
Activity 3.5
Write an answer on the question below. Time yourself to spend one hour developing an
essay style answer as if you were in an examination hall.
Critically interpret Rousseau’s famous statement that ‘Man is born free, but is everywhere
in chains’ in respect of his claim that ‘man acquires in the civil state, moral liberty, which
alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery’.
Try to write a balanced answer, using evidence from the text where possible. In the
first section, offer a robust interpretation of the key claim/s that are embedded in the
question. In the second part, try to critically engage with the claim/s.
3.5 Rousseau and governance
For Rousseau, the question of good government is motivated by his
commitment to the dignity of individuals before they enter into social
relations. It is significant that Rousseau is concerned with outlining a
government, in any form. His work is not a rejection of human culture
wholesale, although it rests on the rejection of the idea that human
cultures are progressive, that they are improving. Where Hobbes saw
man fundamentally as egoistic, driven by passions (mechanically, almost
logically, it can be said), Rousseau saw human nature as expressive,
compassionate and most importantly, free. Rousseau’s question is how our
fundamental freedom can be protected while we live in community, when
we have inherited systems of injustice and inequality.
Governance is thus working, not to contain the selfish and conflicting
appetites of people as in Hobbes’ view, but to improve the equality and
justice that are inherent objectives of human nature. The main concept
that Rousseau relies upon is the idea of a general will, or a will that unifies
and is greater than the individual wills it is made up of. This concept
makes it possible to imagine individuals coming together in the form
of a ‘sovereign’ that is no longer an actual individual ruler (as it was in
Hobbes), but rather a collective form such as direct democracy.
Rousseau’s work has much to offer for questions about the nature of
human community and government, as well as for the role of individuals
and collectives. Power and economic justice are decisive in both his
Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, and The social contract.
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3.6 The social contract’s legacy
Rousseau has been criticised in various ways from the time he published
The social contract until the present. His writings upset Voltaire, because
Rousseau contrasted the pastoral existence of the country with the
decline of human life through ‘civilisation’. The argument that Rousseau
is setting up an ideal of what is called the ‘Noble Savage’, has however,
been convincingly countered. The concept of the ‘Noble Savage’ is an
idealisation that some European thinkers have had of humanity in a noncivilised state. They imagine that prior to civil society, humans are gentle,
kind and have an innate wisdom. This image was erroneously attributed
to Rousseau at the time of his writing and in the following decades.
Rousseau has been criticised for holding this image, but also some thinkers
approvingly borrowed from it (although it has been quite strongly shown
that it is not what Rousseau argued). The pastoral image of life before the
natural contract was deeply influential for a number of American 19thcentury political philosophers, such as Emerson and Thoreau. On narrower
grounds, there has been much debate on questions about the form and
validity of The social contract and the general will. Embedded in these
postulates are certain ideas about human freedom and sociability that
scholars and political thinkers of various schools react against. Amongst
the earliest such responses was Hume who argued that although the
‘consent of the governed’ was a perfect ideal, it was simply that: an ideal
that could not be realised.
However, Rousseau has also had profound influence on notable Western
thinkers, such as Kant. Kant’s writings on ethics share the premise that
moral actions are those actions which are generalisable. Kant’s moral
imperative relies on rationality where Rousseau is more concerned
with nature and affect (especially sympathy). Marx is also indebted to
Rousseau, taking much from Rousseau’s idea of what the foundation of
human collectives rest upon, and how we ought to live in common.
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Notes
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