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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Is there an Hobbesian tradition in international thought Kersch, T. J.


Hobbes' argument in Leviathan can be viewed as a response to the question of why rational human beings should choose to organize themselves into a state. In Hobbes' words, the argument, in large part, attempts to establish the 'causes' of a 'commonwealth'. However, the fact of the matter is that human beings do not organize themselves into a. state; rather, they organize themselves into a plurality of states. The question then becomes one of determining — again in Hobbes' words — the 'causes' of a plurality of 'commonwealths'. In other words, why do rational human beings choose to organize themselves into separate states? It is not clear to me that Hobbes' answered this question; nor is it clear to me that Hobbes' arguments can be extended in order to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. Since international theory is concerned with the plurality of states, it seems reasonable to suppose that an 'Hobbesian' tradition in international thought would have provided at least some insight into the question of the 'causes' of such a plurality. In other words, an 'Hobbesian' tradition in international thought must have at least considered why it is that several Leviathans would emerge from the state of nature. However, having examined the current conception of the 'Hobbesian' tradition, I found that it was simply the 'realist' tradition under a different label; a tradition to which Hobbes' name had been appropriated. Furthermore, I found that the appropriation of Hobbes' name was justified on the basis of his chapter 13 analogy which compared— albeit in a limited way — his theoretical inference of the state of nature with his observations of relations among sovereigns. I argue that the analogy, being neither a definition nor an inference, has no theoretical relationship with Hobbes' main argument; in which case it cannot form the basis of a genuine Hobbesian tradition. Having established that the current Hobbesian tradition is not a genuine one, I propose that a genuine tradition should a least render an account of the emergence of several Levaithans from the state of nature and conclude that this cannot be done without compromising Hobbes' account of the state.

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