Title: The Sovereign and the Social: Arendt's Understanding of Hobbes
Authors: Degryse, Annelies # ×
Issue Date: 1-Jun-2008
Publisher: Catholic University of Leuven
Series Title: Ethical Perspectives: Journal of the European Ethics Network vol:15 issue:2 pages:239-258
Abstract: In this article, I claim that Arendt understands Hobbes not only as the theoretical father of totalitarianism, but also of what Arendt calls ‘the social’. I do so by first presenting her view on imperialism and the rise of the bourgeoisie as a general framework. Then, I focus on her reading of Hobbes’s Leviathan. Hobbes gives birth to a state that asks for absolute obedience, depriving all his subjects of political, or (for Arendt) participation rights. This leads to Arendt’s understanding of sovereignty as domination. According to Arendt, Hobbes’s Leviathan not only gives rise to power politics, but also to totalitarianism. Hobbes’s new model of politics is reduced to a function of society and has ‘socialized’ men. Politics is reduced to government, while human beings are reduced to bourgeoisie. As I show, these changes give rise to another monster, the social, or what Pitkin calls 'the Blob'. Thus, Hobbes is not only the theoretical father of totalitarianism, but also of 'the Blob'. This leads me to sketch Arendt’s metaphysics of presence, that is, how only actual acting brings about the political. To do so, I contrast Arendt with Claude Lefort’s theory of democracy.
ISSN: 1370-0049
VABB publication type: VABB-1
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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