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Hobbesian Absolutism And The Paradox In Modern Contractarianism

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Chapter Summary

After examining the genesis of the paradox in Thomas Hobbess thought, this chapter discusses manifestations of it in later contract theory, especially Rawls s, and traces these back to Hobbism. However the chapter lay outs the genesis of this paradoxical combination of voluntarist and analytic arguments. On the intellectual landscape of Stuart England there were two major theorists of absolutism: Jean Bodin and Hugo Grotius. Debating the relationship between Hobbes and Bodin or Hobbes and Grotius misses the key point that his defense of absolutism combines elements from both predecessors theories. It is commonplace to observe that Hobbes transformed contractarianism and inaugurated the genre of abstract, universalizing theorizing that one think of as essentially modern. With respect to Grotius, Bodins strong analytic position provided the inspiration for transforming absolutism from a historical, contingent possibility into a description of the necessary structure of the contractual relationship between ruler and ruled.

Keywords: contract theory; Hobbesian absolutism; Hugo Grotius; Jean Bodin; paradoxical contractarianism



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