Towards a Post-Hobbesian Political Community?

Nature, Artifice and the Form-of-Life

in Hobbes Studies
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The article addresses the attempts of contemporary continental philosophy to develop a politics that would move beyond the Hobbesian logic of the constitution of political community. In their readings of Hobbes, Roberto Esposito and Giorgio Agamben emphasize the nihilistic character of Hobbes’s approach to community. For Esposito, Hobbes’s commonwealth is legitimized by a prior negation of the originary human community in the construction of the state of nature as the state of war. Yet, as Agamben shows, this negative state of nature is never fully transcended by the commonwealth, which persistently reproduces it in the state of exception. These critiques emphasize the complex relation between nature and artifice in Hobbes’s thought, which have profound implications for the attempts to arrive at a ‘post-Hobbesian’ mode of political community. Neither a facile search for a truer, more fundamental state of nature nor an affirmation of artifice and denaturation as constitutive of human community are sufficient to evade the Hobbesian constellation. A genuine move beyond Hobbes would rather consist in thoroughly deactivating the very relation between nature and artifice whereby they become indistinct and no longer negate each other.

Towards a Post-Hobbesian Political Community?

Nature, Artifice and the Form-of-Life

in Hobbes Studies



  • 1

    Roberto EspositoCommunitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (Stanford: Stanford University Press2010); Jean-Luc Nancy The Inoperative Community (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press 1991); Giorgio Agamben The Coming Community (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1993).

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  • 2

    Martin HeideggerIntroduction to Metaphysics (New York: Anchor Books1961) 219.

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  • 9

     See also EspositoImmunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life (London: Polity2011) 85.

  • 10

    EspositoCommunitas30. See also Esposito Immunitas 86–87; Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1998) 105–106.

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  • 12

    AgambenHomo Sacer105.

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    HobbesLeviathan400–401. See also Carl Schmitt The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Symbol (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2008) 55–59.

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  • 19

     See AgambenThe Open: Man and Animal (Stanford: Stanford University Press2004) pp. 76–77; Esposito Communitas pp. 14–19.

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    Jacques DerridaOf Grammatology (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press1998) pp. 145–146.

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    AgambenState of Exception (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press2005) 51.

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     See Paolo VirnoMultitude between Innovation and Negation (New York: Semiotext(e)2008) pp. 31–61; Esposito Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life (London: Polity 2011) pp. 80–111.

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  • 24

    Walter BenjaminThe Origin of German Tragic Drama (London: Verso2003) 85.

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     See EspositoLiving Thought: The Origins and Actuality of Italian Philosophy (Stanford: Stanford University Press2013).

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    AgambenHomo Sacer7.

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    AgambenHomo Sacer188.

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    AgambenMeans without End: Notes on Politics (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press2000) 9.

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    AgambenHomo Sacer182.

  • 31

    Martin HeideggerBeing and Time (New York: Harper Collins1962) 67.

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    AgambenHomo Sacer188.

  • 35

    AgambenInfancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (London: Verso2007).

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    AgambenNudities (Stanford: Stanford University Press2010) pp. 91–103.

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    AgambenThe Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press2013).

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    AgambenKingdom and the Glory (Stanford: Stanford University Press2011) pp. 248–250.

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    AgambenThe Signature of All Things33.

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    AgambenThe Coming Community93.

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