Introduction: Reading Hobbes as a Theorist of Anarchy and Authority

  • Silviya LechnerEmail author
Part of the International Political Theory book series (IPoT)


This chapter introduces the central thesis of the book: that Hobbes is best read as a theorist of authority (right to rule) and anarchy (‘state of nature’). Anarchy is shown to be the grounding mechanism for the state in Hobbes’s political philosophy. This differentiates Hobbes’s position from that of contemporary political philosophers who justify the state by appealing to moral principles. The chapter warns against reductionist readings of Hobbes’s concept of a state of nature, associated with the image of a ‘war of all against all’. It specifies the interpretive methodology used (analytical hermeneutics). Finally, and crucially, it shows how Hobbes’s political philosophy, augmented with Kantian premises, can be developed into a theory of international relations termed Hobbesian internationalism.


  1. Armitage, David. 2006. Hobbes and the Foundations of Modern International Thought. In Rethinking the Foundations of Modern Political Thought, ed. A. Brett and J. Tully, 219–235. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boucher, David. 1990. Inter-Community and International Relations in the Political Philosophy of Hobbes. Polity 23 (2): 207–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boucher, David. 2018. Appropriating Hobbes: Legacies in Political, Legal and International Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bull, Hedley. 1981. Hobbes and the International Anarchy. Social Research 48 (4): 717–738.Google Scholar
  5. Christov, Theodore. 2015. Before Anarchy: Hobbes and His Critics in Modern International Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Edmundson, William A. (ed.). 1999. The Obligation to Obey the Law. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  7. Eggers, Daniel (2008). Die Naturzustandstheorie des Thomas Hobbes. Berlin: Walter De Guyter.Google Scholar
  8. Evrigenis, Ioannis D. 2014. Images of Anarchy: The Rhetoric and Science in Hobbes’s State of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forsyth, Murray. 1979. Thomas Hobbes and the External Relations of States. British Journal of Inter-National Studies 5 (3): 196–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gert, Bernard. 2001. Hobbes on Reason. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 82 (3–4): 234–257.Google Scholar
  11. Goldsmith, Maurice M. 1969. Introduction to the Second Edition. In The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, 2nd ed, ed. Ferdinand Tönnies, v–xxi. London: Frank Cass.Google Scholar
  12. Hart, H.L.A. 1961. The Concept of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hobbes, Thomas. 1839. De Corpore [Concerning Body]. Volume I in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, ed. William Molesworth. London: John Bohn (Originally published in 1655).Google Scholar
  14. Hobbes, Thomas. 1949. De Cive or the Citizen, ed. Sterling P. Lamprecht. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts (Originally published in 1651).Google Scholar
  15. Hobbes, Thomas. 1968. Leviathan, ed. C.B. Macpherson. London: Penguin (Originally published in 1651).Google Scholar
  16. Hobbes, Thomas. 1969. The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, 2nd ed., ed. Ferdinand Tönnies. London: Frank Cass (Originally published in 1650).Google Scholar
  17. Hohfeld, W.N. 1919. Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Jaede, Maximillian. 2018. Thomas Hobbes’s Conception of Peace. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kant, Immanuel. 1991. Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. In Immanuel Kant, Political Writings, trans. H.B. Nisbet, ed. H. Reiss, 93–130. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Originally published in 1795).Google Scholar
  20. Kant, Immanuel. 1996. The Metaphysics of Morals, ed. Mary Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Originally published in 1797.Google Scholar
  21. Kavka, Gregory S. 1983. Hobbes’s War of All Against All. Ethics 93 (2): 291–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lloyd, Sharon A. (ed.). 2012. Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lloyd, Sharon A. (ed.). 2013. The Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  24. Lloyd, Sharon A. (ed.). 2019. Interpreting Hobbes’s Political Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Locke, John. 1980. Second Treatise of Government, ed. C.B. Macpherson. Indianapolis: Hackett. Originally published in 1690.Google Scholar
  26. Malcolm, Noel. 2002. Hobbes’s Theory of International Relations. In Aspects of Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm, 432–456. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Martinich, A.P. 2015. Leo Strauss’s Olympian Interpretation: Right, Self-preservation, and Law in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. In Reading Between the Lines: Leo Strauss and the History of Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Winfried Schroeder, 77–98. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  28. McNeilly, F.S. 1968. The Anatomy of Leviathan. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  29. Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State, Utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  30. Oakeshott, Michael. 1946. Introduction to Leviathan. In Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1960), ed. Michael Oakeshott, vii–lxvi. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  31. Oakeshott, Michael. 1975a. Introduction to Leviathan. In Hobbes on Civil Association, ed. Michael Oakeshott, 1–79. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  32. Oakeshott, Michael. 1975b. The Moral Life in the Writings of Thomas Hobbes. In Hobbes on Civil Association, ed. Michael Oakeshott, 80–140. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.Google Scholar
  33. Oakeshott, Michael. 1975c. On Human Conduct. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  34. Prokhovnik, Raia, and Gabriella Slomp (eds.). 2010. International Political Theory After Hobbes: Analysis, Interpretation and Orientation. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  35. Raphael, D.D. 2004. Hobbes: Morals and Politics, 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Raz, Joseph (ed.). 1990. Authority. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Ripstein, Arthur. 2009. Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1987. On the Social Contract, trans. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis: Hackett (Originally published in 1762).Google Scholar
  40. Schmidtz, David. 1996. Justifying the State. In For and Against the State, ed. John T. Sanders and Jan Narveson, 81–97. Rowman and Littlefield: Boston.Google Scholar
  41. Simmons, A. John. 1995. On the Edge of Anarchy: Locke, Consent, and the Limits of Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Skinner, Quentin. 1996. Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Slomp, Gabriella. 2011. The Politics of Motion and the Motion of Politics. In International Political Theory After Hobbes: Analysis, Interpretation and Orientation, ed. Raia Prokhovnik and Gabriella Slomp, 19–41. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  44. Sorell, Tom (ed.). 1996. The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Sorell, Tom, and Luc Foisneau (eds.). 2004. Leviathan After 350 Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Springborg, Patricia (ed.). 2007. The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’s Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Strauss, Leo. 1963. The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis. Chicago: The Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Warrender, Howard. 1957. The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: His Theory of Obligation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  49. Watkins, J.W.N. 1965. Hobbes System of Ideas. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  50. Wight, Martin. 1991. International Theory: The Three Traditions, eds. Gabriele Wight and Brian Porter. Leicester: Continuum.Google Scholar
  51. Wolff, Robert Paul. 1970. In Defense of Anarchism. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of War StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations