‘A State of Lesser Hope’

The Servant in Hobbes’s Natural Common-Wealth

In: Hobbes Studies
Caleb R. Miller Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA93106

Search for other papers by Caleb R. Miller in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Though Hobbes consistently differentiates between the ‘subject’ and ‘servant’ across Elements of Law, On the Citizen, and Leviathan, we currently lack an exhaustive account of the Hobbesian servant. In this paper, I argue that the distinction would have profound consequences for one’s disposition toward both the commonwealth and the community at large. Because the servant joins under the immediate threat of violence and covenants directly with the sovereign, we would expect her initial experience to contribute to a fundamentally more pessimistic attitude toward the commonwealth and atomistic understanding of her place in the body politic. On one level, this distinction could be used to distinguish privileged populations from otherwise marginalized groups. On another level, however, in revealing both the brute reality of sovereign power and the ways in which she is alienated from it, the servant gives us a more accurate understanding of the commonwealth than the subject’s own.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 291 51 2
Full Text Views 175 6 1
PDF Views & Downloads 106 17 3