HOBBES THE ROYALIST, HOBBES THE REPUBLICAN

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Abstract:

A number of recent revisionist developments raise new questions about Hobbes's political sympathies and their effect on his political thought. This essay assesses these developments and attempts to place the discussion on a new footing by arguing that Hobbes was a radical royalist in all three of his major works of political philosophy, but that there also was a republican undercurrent of a limited sort in his early works. Influenced perhaps by Richelieu's absolutist vision as well as French juridical and sceptical ideas, Hobbes's support for the Stuarts guided his political philosophy and in key respects tellingly undermined it. But originally he also praised the stability of non-deliberative democracies and aristocracies and formulated a serviceable concept of civil liberty. The two political tendencies collided with each other under the political stresses of the 1640s, the republican tendency perished and he became even more royalist.

Keywords: Bodin; Cromwell; French influence; Independents; Montaigne; Richelieu; Thomas Hobbes; Venice; absolutism; civil wars; counsel; legitimism; lex regia; liberty; original democracy; primitive church; republican; royalist; scepticism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 4439 South 34th Street, Arlington, VA 22206, USA. james_hamilton55@ yahoo.com

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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