Hobbes (Classic Thinkers)


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1. The Roots of the Realist Tradition

His work excited intense controversy among his contemporaries and continues to do so in our own time. In a succinct and engaging analysis the book illustrates that the commonly accepted view of Hobbes as holding psychological egoism is not only incompatible with his account of human nature but is also incompatible with the moral and political theories that he puts forward.

Gert shows that for Hobbes, civil society is established by a free-gift of their right of nature by the citizens; it does not involve a mutual contract between citizens and sovereign.

As injustice involves breaking a contract, the sovereign cannot be unjust; however, the sovereign can be guilty of ingratitude, which is immoral. Hobbes: Prince of Peace is likely to become the classic introduction to the work of Thomas Hobbes and will be a valuable resource for scholars and students seeking to understand the importance and relevance of his work today.

Hobbess Moral Theory. This would serve the same socialization function as iteration in an Axelrodian context. The results would be similar in both contexts: both those that stay in the group and potential defectors would continue to face incentives to cooperate Kafka Reason for Hobbes is oriented, as noted above, towards self-preservation.

This evokes not only a clear understanding of yourself, but also how others will behave in response to your actions. It would be clear to the defector by way of reason that others would not be so ignorant of his threat to them as they too have reason. But the shadow of the future may not end with the boundaries of anarchy. In this case, such a possibility might modify the payoffs in the iterated game but would not fundamentally change the form of the strategic interaction.

Interestingly, the possibility of some end-point in the iteration resulting in the commonwealth could even introduce an element of a chain-store paradox into the process. The logic propounded by Hobbes in his response to the fool proposes a drastically different process of strategic interaction than the one adopted by realists from his literal treatment of anarchy in Chapter This is because of the individual optimality of defection no matter what the others do, you are better off defecting.

In fact, you are left with an entirely different scenario of human interaction. The possibility of fooling members of the confederation and exploiting them without bearing the consequences is vitiated by reason, as noted above. Of course, one could try to exploit some confederation in order to acquire some material gain which he or she can carry with them to another confederation. And here Hobbes is silent on whether different confederations actually share information about defectors, so that there may be a possibility of moving from confederation to confederation while accumulating the spoils from the suckers.

But this would be a bold move indeed, as spoils themselves could not be greater than one could carry upon their person, and the risk of doing so exposes the defector to death, which for Hobbes, is certain. But what of a situation where some of the members of the confederation exploit those cooperative individuals who subscribe to Hobbesian reason?

Should reciprocity also be the rule here? In a case where members of the confederation are exploiting each other, reason will surely compel the third-party members not involved in the exploitation to cast the defectors out to perish. Even as a reciprocal act, defection will still confer a reputation of being unreliable. But suppose the defectors are numerous enough to create their own protective confederation so that they can reduce individual vulnerability? In the process they are not so fearful of being cast out of the confederation.

This would be illogical as cooperation must undergird a confederation for it to carry out its protective function effectively, and it would not be expedient to build such cooperation among a group of people that have a history of trying to exploit each other. So this splinter confederation would either be killed or kill itself off.

John Locke: Founding Father of Modern Era Liberalism

One may indeed face death from such exploitation from defectors in the confederation, yet this is not assured. For Hobbes this means certain death. But even if death is not certain, response in kind may still be inferior because it brands you as a defector, which is sure to get you expelled.

POLITICAL THEORY - John Locke

Anything short of death introduces probabilistic thinking that would lean toward cooperation. Would I rather be wounded in a confederation or in the wilds of anarchy? Here the choice would be clear. An individual is always better off staying loyal to the confederation no matter what anyone else does. Indeed, if one were to decompose strategic thinking in actors according to different modes as spelt out by Kafka , maxi-minimization, maximization and disaster-avoidance should deliver the same preference ordering, as all three would be directed towards cooperation as a dominant strategy.

Ashbrook For…

The parallels between confederations in anarchy and the commonwealth are most apparent here. In civil society, there can only be one strategy for Hobbes: the dominant strategy of cooperation. Any sort of defection, even as a response in kind to exploitation assume one kills a person who stole from them is punished through law. So too, in anarchy, does the idea of confederation restrict the choices.

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Hobbes, Thomas: Moral and Political Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Hobbes, Constructivism, Neoliberalism and International Relations. A number of neoliberal and constructivist scholars have critically scrutinized the application of the realist assumption of anarchy. These conditions are: the evolution of norms, possibilities for reciprocity shadows of the future , reputations for honouring commitments and rules credibility , consistency in behaviour, shying away from unilateral postures, conceiving of state interests in the context of joint utility mutuality of interests , the number of actors involved, availability of information, linkages, variable perceptions, and domestic politics.

The very conditions cited above they most embrace are fully manifest in the process of cooperation reflected in Hobbesian confederations in anarchy. First, international confederations can be vehicles for promoting national interests and protection. Repeated interactions convey information about possibilities for cooperation and promote processes of socialization i.

Second, functional interdependence makes cooperation important for realizing mutual gains in that nations co-exist within some form of a division of labour. The need for cooperation is capable of generating norms that then form a life of their own, and thus enhance possibilities for cooperation. The realist assumption of functional equality does not reflect the real world, hence behaving like a classical Hobbesian brute and relying only on self-help denies nations many advantages consistent with their national interests Milner Finally, strategic interdependence renders the fate of nations intertwined in a more fundamental sense than visions of independence in anarchy Milner and Schelling Indeed, Brahms reinforces the possibilities of strategic gains through magnanimity self-restraint and cooperation even in games that present significant risks of exploitation.

As with Hobbesian confederations, all three aspects of the utility of cooperation suggest that there is no fundamental disjuncture between individual and communal goals. Such an approach to norms suggests one of the best foundations for a synthesis between neoliberals and constructivists. Norms develop as coordinating devices to enhance cooperation, and as time passes they gain a life of their own which is distinct from instrumental rationality.

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Given the utility of cooperation in anarchy, soft power which embraces both constructivist and neoliberal categories becomes a valuable asset in the portfolios that nations construct to enhance their influence in world politics Gallarotti and Nye, Such reputation makes one less menacing, thus mitigating security-dilemma reactions that might lead to the emergence of adversaries.

Respect for rules and norms, both in its domestic and international manifestations, enhances cooperative reputation in maximizing potential allies and supporters, as well as minimizing enemies.


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Moreover, it is not clear that policies designed to minimize such outcomes through the mitigation of soft power taking a harder line as realism might prescribe would, in the long run, yield better net benefits than strategies that might accept such risks. Since a more hard-line position would generate menacing consequences also, it is not at all certain that these will not be worse than the consequences of exploitation. Either way, one will be faced with some risk, irrespective of the power orientation one pursues, in maximizing influence.

In any event, short of outright destruction or conquest, an iterated process would follow any exploitative act, thus creating shadow-of-the-future effects that would discourage such acts Axelrod, In view of the utility of soft power, any strategy that would discount such resources in favour of a strict pursuance of hard power in a classically realist mode very much risks victimization through power illusion Gallarotti, and a.

Conclusions: Toward a Theory of Cosmopolitik. The cosmopolitan Hobbes that is manifest in his treatment of the state of nature attests to the fact that Hobbes is far more relevant to IR than many non-realists have averred. Indeed, he is relevant precisely in the categories that they hold most dearly: the possibility or cooperation and normative order. But he still remains highly relevant to even the most defensive realists. Indeed, the idea of complex rationality i. For Hobbes, confederations and reciprocity in anarchy ultimately prove consistent with instrumental rationality.

And this is a simple derivation from an idea that eventually led to the great contributions of John Nash and other game theorists that illuminated processes in which individual rationality was pursued in strategic environments i. In this sense, all of the venerated tenets of realism need not conflict with the fundamental categories of neoliberals and constructivists.

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And this view is vindicated by finding categories of all of three paradigms in the very place scholars once thought the exclusive preserve of only realism: the Hobbesian state of anarchy. The maximization of individual utility, the maximization of influence, the minimization of vulnerability, the absence of definitive authority in the international system, and self-help are all consistent with the group orientations posited by the constructivists and neoliberals. Indeed, in interdependent communities like the international system, truly optimizing these goals for individual nations can be principally accomplished only by conceptualizing individual actions within a group framework.

Not doing so can lead to consequences which debilitate rather than benefit.

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But even self-help can co-exist in a world of complex rationality. But this is a common outcome of market behaviour: there are times when, indeed, individual greed is good for the whole community, but there are also instances where such is not the case. Moreover, the maximization of power or influence can also be consistent with all three paradigms of international relations realism, neoliberalism, and constructivism.

Thinking of power in net-terms i. This can only be done by contemplating power augmentation strategies within a group framework Gallarotti And, more noteworthy, the basis of synthesis comes in the very phenomena that were thought of as being the most responsible for polarizing the three paradigms: the phenomena of anarchy and power. Indeed, this also may carry crucial-case implications for theory synthesis. If indeed common paradigmatic strands can be forged in what were heretofore considered points of greatest contention, the possibilities for synthesizing theories in less contentious issues may hold all the more promise.

Such synthesis would be built on a mutual acknowledgement of the need for more sophisticated and complex understanding of the way international relations unfold in the modern world. This more cosmopolitan vision might itself inspire a new paradigm: cosmopolitik. It is interesting that in finding a prolific muse in Hobbes, we would have in effect had to travel back over three centuries to illuminate our understanding of international politics today and in the future.

Giulio M.


  1. Hobbes’s Political Science?
  2. All You Ever Been Was Good.
  3. Dr. Cappelettis Chorus.
  4. Ashley, Richard. Beer, Francis A. East Lansing: Michigan University Press. Beitz, Charles R. Political Theory and International Relations. Brooks, Stephen G. Bull, Hedley. New York: Columbia University Press. Cohen, Ronald and John Middleton, eds. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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