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Leviathan Bound; or the Re-education of Thomas Hobbes

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Thomas Hobbes is often credited as the “founder of modern liberalism” for grounding his political theory in individualism, natural right, and the social contract. The irony, of course, is that upon this foundation he built an imposing edifice of absolutism. What has escaped most observers, however, is the extent to which Hobbes' absolutism is mitigated by his own principles, qualifications, and doctrines. Hence, “saving Hobbes from himself,” is not simply a matter of correcting his errors, but requires drawing out the implications of his first principles and identifying the additional supports he provides for an essentially liberal order. In this way it is possible to “bind” Leviathan through a process of internal domestication, as opposed to looking backward to Aristotle or forward to Locke. The result is a “reformed” Hobbes who can be readily acknowledged as “the true ancestor of constitutional liberal democracy.”


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