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«Leviathan-» Between the Wars

Hobbes’ Impact on Early Twentieth Century Political Philosophy


Luc Foisneau, Jean-Christophe Merle and Tom Sorell

The symbol of the Leviathan came to the forefront in political theory, as the structure and the ideological justification of the state underwent radical change in at least three European countries from the early 1920s to the 1940s. Thus, the terrifying image of Leviathan has sometimes given rise to a surprising historiography of twentieth-century totalitarian states, tracing them back to the origins of modern political thought, as if there were a direct line of descent from Hobbes to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin, or, worse still, as if Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) were an exact anticipation of twentieth-century political catastrophes. The differing interpretations of Hobbes proposed by Strauss, Tönnies, Schmitt, Vialatoux, Capitant, Pareto, Collingwood, and Oakeshott, are here interpreted in the perspective of the interwar transformation of Europe. The contributors, who are German, British and French political philosophers, analyse the conditions which have made possible conflicting readings of Hobbes’s political philosophy, and explain why they sometimes don’t do justice to Leviathan.
Contents: Luc Foisneau: Introduction: Hobbes between Enlightenment and Darkness – Martine Pécharman: Strauss: the search for the hidden foundation of modernity in the political philosophy of Hobbes – Jean-Christophe Merle: Tönnies’s view on Hobbes as a theorist of liberal society – Emmanuel Bernard Picavet: The significance of Pareto’s attack on Hobbes and natural-law theorists – Jean-Fabien Spitz: Carré de Malberg’s unHobbesian theory of sovereignty – Luc Foisneau: Authoritarian state vs totalitarian state: Leviathan in an early twentieth-century French debate – Ulrich Steinvorth: On Carl Schmitt’s interpretation of Hobbes – Iain Hampsher-Monk/Keith Zimmerman: Schmitt’s critique of rule-of-law liberalism – Tom Sorell: Schmitt’s unHobbesian politics of emergency – G.A.J. Rogers: Collingwood’s New Leviathan – John Horton: Oakeshott, Hobbes and the politics of scepticism.