The Problem of Sovereignty: Reading Hobbes through the Eyes of Hannah Arendt

In: Hobbes Studies
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In this paper I examine how Hobbes’ philosophy can be read from an Arendtian perspective. I argue that Arendt provided two different interpretations of Hobbes: one set down in The Origins of Totalitarianism, where Hobbes is depicted as the spokesman of the emerging bourgeoisie; and another that she developed later, scattered among various texts such as The Human Condition and Between Past and Future. I focus on this second interpretation and on her analysis of concepts such as common sense, authority and sovereignty. Firstly, I examine how she changes the meaning of common sense, and how this shift is linked to what Arendt understands by the expression “estrangement from the world.” Secondly, I explain how Hobbes redefined the concept of authority and how his notion of sovereignty deliberately conflated the dual concepts of authority and power.

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