Confronting Leviathan: A history of ideas
Profile Books, $39.99 hb, 287 pp
In ‘that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE’, wrote Thomas Hobbes, ‘Soveraignty is an Artificiall Soul … giving life and motion to the whole body’. This ‘Artificiall man’ was to ensure ‘the peoples safety’, and the means at its disposal were limitless. The sovereign was ‘not subject to the Civill Lawes’ and could abrogate any ‘Lawes that trouble him’. Leviathan was published in 1651, written by Hobbes while exiled in France after fleeing the English Civil Wars. The Wars had already produced almost 200,000 deaths, including that of Charles I, beheaded in 1649 following a conviction of treason by Parliament.