Hobbes on Sovereignty and Its Strains

In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 236–251 (2021)
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Abstract

Hobbes' theory of sovereignty is in three parts. One is concerned with the causes of the dissolution of commonwealths. Another is concerned with the rights of properly established sovereigns, where the rights in question remedy the causes of the dissolution of commonwealths. The third part consists of a statement of the duties of sovereigns: constraints on the proper exercise of sovereign rights. Even when the rights of sovereigns are exercised properly, sovereignty is fragile. This is because there are problems of making a sovereign power last beyond the lifetimes of a single sovereign or the leading members of a sovereign assembly, because there are always difficulties with putting the interests of a sovereign's subjects before other interests, and because sovereign rights are exercised in at best a permanent cold war with other sovereigns.

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Tom Sorell
University of Warwick

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