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Hobbes and the ‘Greek tongues’

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In this paper I wish to illuminate the Hobbesian-Aristotelian controversy from a new angle. I suggest that contrary to what has been assumed from Hobbes's time down to this day, the Greek polis was not a State, or what Hobbes called a Common-wealth, but rather what anthropologists call a stateless community. The latter is characterized by the absence of coercive apparatuses, which means that the ability to apply force is more or less evenly distributed among the armed, or potentially armed, members of the community. In Hobbesian terminology this means that we are dealing with a political community without a ‘common power’ or without a sovereign, or a political community in the ‘state of nature’, but these are, of course, absurdities.

Keywords: Aristotle; Greek polis; Hobbes; Hobbesian-Aristotelian controversy; political community; state; stateless community

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Open University of Israel.

Publication date: January 1, 1996


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