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Pacifying Politics: Resistance, Violence, And Accountability In Seventeenth-Century Contract Theory

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Chapter Summary

The right to resist tyrants is one of the great resolved issues in political philosophy. Working out the idea of a pacified society was a principal problem of seventeenth-century social contract theory. This chapter shows that this was a shared preoccupation of Hobbesian and Lockean contract theories. Despite their opposing stands on resistance, Hobbes and Locke were in this significant respect engaged in a common intellectual project. Furthermore, theirs was a Grotian project: the problems concerning the nexus of violence and accountability which their theories work through had been framed by the Dutch jurisprudential thinker in De Jure Belli Ac Pacis. The Grotian problem, which Hobbes and Locke inherited, was to specify the scope and limits of the requisite ban. In focusing, the nonresistance covenant, the chapter brings out the Grotian lineaments of one strand of Hobbesian contractarianism, not to give an overview of his multiple social contract arguments.

Keywords: governmental accountability; Grotian problem; Hobbesian contractarianism; political resistance; political violence; seventeenth-century contract theory



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