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MACPHERSON RESTORED? HOBBES AND THE QUESTION OF SOCIAL ORIGINS

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Abstract:

This essay reflects on the declining fortunes of C.B. Macpherson's thesis regarding the 'bourgeois' character of Hobbes's political thought. Through a detailed engagement with Macpherson's critics, I argue that determinate transformations of society in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England provide a compelling basis for a revised version of his thesis, if common misinterpretations are corrected and the transition to capitalism is located in the rise of a capitalist aristocracy, as in recent Marxist historiography. Locating Hobbes within this historical frame, allows an account of 'social origins' that penetrates more deeply into the core of his thought than Macpherson's own reading allows: tracing the impact of market imperatives to a specific model of rationalized desire and its fraught relationship with an indeterminate future it perpetually summons up and seeks to master.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Philosophy Department, Southwestern University, 1001 E. University Drive, Georgetown, TX 78626, USA, Email: braym@southwestern.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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