Dissecting the Algorithmic Leviathan: On the Socio-Political Anatomy of Algorithmic Governance

  • Pascal D. KönigEmail author
Research Article


A growing literature is taking an institutionalist and governance perspective on how algorithms shape society based on unprecedented capacities for managing social complexity. Algorithmic governance altogether emerges as a novel and distinctive kind of societal steering. It appears to transcend established categories and modes of governance—and thus seems to call for new ways of thinking about how social relations can be regulated and ordered. However, as this paper argues, despite its novel way of realizing outcomes of collective steering and coordination, it can nevertheless be grasped with an old and fundamental figure in political philosophy: that of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. Comparing algorithmic governance with this figure serves to highlight their similarities as socio-political arrangements, and specifically to clarify how algorithmic governance parallels the apolitical traits of the Leviathan—it eliminates the political as it requires compliance and forgoing contestation to best fulfill its role and to produce satisfying outcomes.


Governance Algorithms Regulation Coordination Collective action Complexity Thomas Hobbes 



I would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. Thanks also go to Joschka Frech for assisting with the preparation of an earlier version of themanuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany

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