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Hobbesian Sovereignty and the Rights of Subjects: Absolutism Undermined?

Curran, Eleanor (2019) Hobbesian Sovereignty and the Rights of Subjects: Absolutism Undermined? Hobbes Studies, 32 (2). pp. 209-230. ISSN 0921-5891. (doi:10.1163/18750257-03202003) (KAR id:72235)

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Hobbes, in his political writing, is generally understood to be arguing for absolutism. I argue that despite apparently supporting absolutism, Hobbes, in Leviathan, also undermines that absolutism in at least two and possibly three ways. First, he makes sovereignty conditional upon the sovereign’s ability to ensure the safety of the people. Second and crucially, he argues that subjects have inalienable rights, rights that are held even against the sovereign. When the subjects’ preservation is threatened they are no longer obliged to obey the sovereign. Third, there is also a possible limitation on the absolute power of the sovereign in the form of restrictions Hobbes puts in place on what laws he may legitimately make. Finally, Hobbesian absolutism is compared to the absolutism of Carl Schmitt. This exercise demonstrates the limitations that Hobbes places on the power and authority of the sovereign.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1163/18750257-03202003
Uncontrolled keywords: Hobbes; absolutism; sovereignty; rights
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Sian Robertson
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2019 11:24 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 00:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Curran, Eleanor.

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