Group dynamics in the state of nature

Erkenntnis 55 (2):169-182 (2001)
Abstract
One common interpretation of the Hobbesian state of nature views itas a social dilemma, a natural extension of the well-knownprisoner''s dilemma to a group context. Kavka (1986)challenges this interpretation, suggesting that the appropriate wayto view the state of nature is as a quasi social dilemma. Iargue that Hobbes''s remarks on the rationality of keeping covenantsin the state of nature indicate that the quasi social dilemma doesnot accurately represent the state of nature. One possiblesolution, I suggest, views the state of nature as a social dilemmabetween groups rather than individuals. Although thiscleanly represents the strategic problem faced in the state ofnature, it also means we should take intergroup dynamics intoaccount when putting forth a solution. I argue that Hobbes''ssolution of commonwealth by institution – the favored solution forHobbesian social contract theories – will not work in the state ofnature viewed this way.
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