This article argues that the artificiality of Hobbesian states facilitates their coexistence and eventual reconciliation. In particular, it is suggested that international relations may be characterised by an artificial equality, which has a contrary effect to the natural equality of human beings. Unlike individuals in Hobbes’s account of the state of nature, sovereigns are not compelled to wage war out of fear and distrust, but have prudential reasons to exercise self-restraint. Ultimately rulers serve as disposable figureheads who can be replaced by a foreign invader. Thus, this article highlights the implications of Hobbes’s views on sovereignty by acquisition, which allow for states to be decomposed and reassembled in order to re-establish lasting peace. It is concluded that these findings help to explain why Hobbes does not provide something akin to modern theories of international relations, as foreign affairs appear to be reducible to a matter of either prudence or political philosophy.
See for instance Noel MalcolmAspects of Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon Press2002) pp. 432–456; and Gabriella Slomp “The Politics of Motion and the Motion of Politics” in Raia Prokhovnik and Gabriella Slomp (eds.) International Political Theory After Hobbes: Analysis Interpretation and Orientation (Basingstoke uk: Palgrave Macmillan 2010) pp. 19–41.
HobbesLeviathan p. 126. Cf. n. 10 on the same page for a translation of the Latin version of this passage where Hobbes additionally mentions that oppressive government could be caused by the subjects’ unwillingness to adapt to change.