The Politics of Recognition

Life and Death Struggles in Hobbes and Hegel

In: Hobbes Studies
Author: Browning Gary1
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  • 1 Oxford Brookes University, UK

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Hobbes and Hegel are standardly taken to be contrasting political theorists, who maintain contrasting views on philosophy, individualism, and society. However, Oakeshott’s reading of Hobbes is a reminder that Hobbes can be read in ways that reduce antagonisms between Hobbes and Hegel. Hobbes’s state of nature is an artificial device that is internally related to the significance of political artifice in rendering the social world a reasonable context for interaction just as the struggle for recognition in Hegel shows the need for a political context in which individuals can interact with one another in ways that are productive and equilibrated. Both Hobbes and Hegel invoke notions of mortality, conflict and sociality in their imaginative depictions of life and death struggles. They also share a notion of the sovereignty of nation-states and were doubtful over the viability of international treaties and organisations.

  • 6

    Hegel, On the Scientific Ways of Treating Natural Law, On Its Place in Practical Philosophy and its Relation to the Positive Sciences of Right Natural Law, p. 101.

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  • 9

    Michael Oakeshott, ‘The Moral Life in the Writings of Thomas Hobbes’, in Hobbes on Civil Association (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1975).

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  • 18

    Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, pp. 80–85. See also Terry Pinkard, Hegel’s Phenomenology: The Sociality of Reason (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996) for a convincing account of how the struggle for recognition underpins Hegel’s social account of reason.

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  • 24

    Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 88.

  • 25

    Oakeshott, On Human Conduct, p. 109.

  • 32

     See Bonnie Honig, Emergency Politics- Paradox, Law, Democracy (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2009).

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