Crediting God: Sovereignty and Religion in the Age of Global Capitalism

By Miguel Vatter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
“The War Has Not Ended”: Thomas Hobbes,
Carl Schmitt, and the Paradoxes of
Countersovereignty

Friedrich Balke

Thomas Hobbes’s political philosophy is based on a paradox: Hobbes, one could say, gives too much and too little to the state at the same time. He can thus be seen in the tradition of Leo Strauss, as the father of liberalism, but also, from a liberal perspective, he is dismissed as the guardian of state absolutism. Hobbes stresses the absoluteness of state power, being the sovereign, that is highest, not surmountable power, so strong that he denies to the subjects aligned with each other in the person of the Leviathan every right to defy a sovereign decision or to doubt its legitimacy. It is impossible to call the legislator to account in the name of the law. Thus, in the person of the sovereign, the power to give law coincides with the “right” to transgress it. Hobbes marks this point of indifference of law and unavoidable lawlessness with this memorable argument:

But it cannot be deny’d but a prince may sometimes have an inclination to
doe wickedly; but grant then that thou hadst given him a power which were
not absolute, but so much onely as suffic’d to defend thee from the injuries
of others, which, if thou wilt be safe, is necessary for thee to give; are not
all the same things to be feared? For he that hath strength enough to
protect all, wants not sufficiency to oppresse all.1

-179-

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