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Monday, 7 December 2009

Leviathan - Doctrine of the Foundation of States and Legitimate Governments

In Leviathan, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of states and legitimate governments - based on social contract theories. Leviathan was written during the English Civil War; much of the book is occupied with demonstrating the necessity of a strong central authority to avoid the evil of discord and civil war.

Beginning from a mechanistic understanding of human beings and the passions, Hobbes postulates what life would be like without government, a condition which he calls the state of nature. In that state, each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world. This inevitably leads to conflict, a "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes), and thus lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".

To escape this state of war, men in the state of nature accede to a social contract and establish a civil society. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede their natural rights for the sake of protection. Any abuses of power by this authority are to be accepted as the price of peace. However, he also states that in severe cases of abuse, rebellion is expected. In particular, the doctrine of separation of powers is rejected: the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial and ecclesiastical powers.

Abstracted from Wikipedia.
You may read more about the Leviathan (1651) by Hobbes here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leviathan_(book)

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