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Corruption is a more important idea for Hobbes than has been recognized: a state of nature can result from corruption of the people, corruption of counsellors and corruption of legal processes. Hobbes often uses a 'cognitive' conception of corruption — the distortion of mental processes, by faulty reasoning or improper attitudes. Corruption means that citizens think they benefit from sedition, counsellors advise with self-interested rhetoric rather than impartial logic, witnesses lie and judges settle cases by bribes or pity. Although corruption is often thought to involve the pursuit of private gain, Hobbes only talks about corruption in terms of misjudged private gain, where an individual is motivated by his apparent, short-tem self-interest, rather than his real, long- term self-interest. That is why corruption can lead to a state of nature.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Politics, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, Email:

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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