Leviathan in Crisis: An International Symposium on the State, Its Past, Present, and Future

Leviathan in Crisis: An International Symposium on the State, Its Past, Present, and Future

Leviathan in Crisis: An International Symposium on the State, Its Past, Present, and Future

Leviathan in Crisis: An International Symposium on the State, Its Past, Present, and Future

Excerpt

"For by art is created that great 'Leviathan' called a 'Commonwealth' or 'State,' in Latin civitas, which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended." Thus three hundred years ago wrote the Englishman, Thomas Hobbes, in his Introduction to a book destined to exert a most momentous influence upon political theory and practice. Adopting the then prevalent idea of the State as originating in an implicit "contract" between ruler and ruled, Hobbes was the first to erect upon that foundation a plausible philosophical justification for unlimited and inalienable sovereignty of ruler over ruled, as essential to the protection of common men from their own savage and anarchic "state of nature." Though in main effect it thus stoutly fortified the seats of the mighty, his "Leviathan" contained matter so offensive to the upper hierarchy in Church and government of seventeenth century England that at Oxford, in 1683, the Convocation caused his book to be publicly burned. As usual in such demonstrations of official fatuity, Hobbes's ideas proved less combustible than the printed paper which recorded them; and throughout the intervening centuries his theory of absolute State sovereignty everywhere took sturdy root and flourished--to the incalculable and (in our own time) the well-nigh fatal misfortune of mankind.

It is of course with respect to the relations of State with State that this theory, still the holy of hollos in every national tabernacle, is responsible for the most catastrophic or at any rate the most conspicuous evil, and has been the most inexorably maintained. Indeed, the sovereign State as an agency of purely internal association, organization, and control has never proved a rigidly static affair, but from . . .

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