Pluralism and the Hobbesian logic of negative constitutionalism

Authors
Duncan Ivison
University of Sydney
Abstract
According to an essentially Hobbesian account of political order, the claims of cultural and national minorities within a state to some form of constitutional or institutional recognition are morally suspect and politically undesirable. Underlying this Hobbesian logic is a particular understanding of the relation between law and politics. `Negative constitutionalism' is focused primarily on limiting the damage government can do. However the pursuit of constitutional minimalism runs up against the challenges presented by deeply diverse political communities. By investigating the manner in which Hobbes has been invoked in arguments concerning the relation between the rule of law and the `politics of recognition', I argue (i) that the distinction between the rule of law and politics is fundamentally unstable, and (ii) that in invoking Hobbes, modern theorists have missed an important element of Hobbes's own argument ± namely, his appreciation of this instability. As an example, I examine the way Hobbes is used in some of John Gray's recent writings on pluralism and liberalism.
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