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Chapter 7 - Sovereignty and Dominium: The Foundations of Hobbesian Statehood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2019

Robin Douglass
Affiliation:
King's College London
Johan Olsthoorn
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Amsterdam
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Summary

Chapters 8 and 9 of On the Citizen present a theory of sovereignty that Hobbes modeled on the master-slave relationship of dominium. To be a sovereign over a state, according to that theory, is really to be a kind of dominus over slaves. The usual view (based on Leviathan, chapter 20) is that this “despotic” form of sovereignty was limited only to those states described by Hobbes as “natural” or “acquired.” This chapter, however, argues that the despotic model of dominium in alterius personam functioned as a general theory of sovereignty to be found in all sovereign states, even in those states instituted, as Hobbes put it, “by mutual pact.” Indeed, the Hobbesian distinction between “instituted” and “acquired” states was not really a difference in the substance of sovereignty. Rather, it was only a difference in how sovereignty was to be constituted and dissolved. The chapter shows that it was originally intended to map onto the Aristotelian distinction between “correct” and “deviant” constitutions. However a state is constituted, Hobbes’s larger point was that statehood always requires dominium, since it is what ultimately activates the bond of obligation making a state more than just a mere association of duty-free individuals.

Type
Chapter
Information
Hobbes's On the Citizen
A Critical Guide
, pp. 126 - 144
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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