Thesis Eleven 170 (1):28-42 (2022)

The coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis have highlighted the power of governments in relation to people and the societies in which they live. This article looks at two sociological approaches that together capture the core features of the relationship between sovereignty, society and individual safety. Sociologists of human rights point to the importance of sovereignty for the enforcement of human rights and draw on the work of Arendt, who argues all rights are lost to those who find themselves outside the protection of the state. Wickham’s Hobbesian sociology adds an important social dimension to these ideas. He adopts Hobbes’ argument that sovereignty secures both society and the protection of people. The article recovers additional ideas in Hobbes’ theory of rights that further link these two approaches. For Hobbes, governments hold a responsibility to protect their citizens’ right to survive. The article discusses the relevance of these ideas to the coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis. It argues sociology is well-placed to explore ways in which the continued exercise of sovereign power in relation to society and human survival is shaping humanity’s response to these global crises.
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DOI 10.1177/07255136221093406
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