Thomas Hobbes and the New Social Contract

We live in a world where change is evident and takes on different forms and representations with the given order of legitimate and elected structures of political spaces. Nothing is immune to this entropy that has in timely phases governed and directed the course of both political and social contours in both chronological as well as logical perspectives. Different political scientists, philosophers, experts have tried to deconstruct and understand this changing nature of both the individual and collective which we call as ‘state’ these days in modern political lexicon. The name that becomes synonymous with the understanding and exploration of these transitioning and confronting  values  is Thomas Hobbes.  Hobbes   dubbed by his critics as   “The Monster of Malmesbury”,  born in Wiltshire, on April 5, 1588 was one of the four citadels of early modern philosophy along with Galileo, Spinoza, Descartes, fashioning and steadying the then festering controversial  divide between medieval stagnation and scientific revolution. Hobbes laid the foundations of modern, secular nationhood appended by the introduction of his ever understood and sometimes misread robust social contract. He had perceptive view on the ‘state of flux’ that happened around us and did a commendable and astute observation of ‘motions’ in the given ‘real space’. For him, our imagination, memory and perception, as well as causation, power, and activity are nothing but motion as beautifully summarised in his remarkable book De Corpore (1655). Hobbes political ideas and thought cannot be understood without taking into consideration his views on natural philosophy. To an extent they are distinct realms, but to undermine the relation between them is to miss the veracity of Hobbes’ thought and to reduce the basic philosophical grounds as to why he thought his political theory was viable. He constantly kept himself in the state of expounding the physicalist/mechanistic nature of structures both natural as well as political. While traversing the broad frontiers of knowledge realms he had a well-meaning  and enlightening  exchanges with his two contemporaries, Descartes(criticized Descartes’ cogito [I think or I am thinking] on the grounds that it needs a subject who thinks) and  John Wallis, Oxford’s Professor of Geometry (, particularly his attempt to square the circle ) .While defending the Cartesian and Aristotelian  pathways to philosophy , to influencing Leibniz in Physics and translating  Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War into English.

Current Political Dispositions and Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes has been regarded as the most consistent thinker of early modern period and  his most thoughts revolve around the well contained interaction of ‘sensation’ thus starting his most celebrated and highly powerful compendium of political dispositions  ‘Leviathan’ with just a ratiocination of ‘phantasm’ (both in the situational and predictive undercurrents) what he calls it. In the currently changing political climates around the world, the dialectics of interface between individual liberty and collective choice Hobbes alerts us that democracy is the ‘invented’ political order and in this curated exercise of functions political structures have ignored the governed masses. In this praxis of invented legitimacy the language becomes the immediate tool of its manufacturing then which can be gauged from the fact that how nation’s  have been deviating away from the real issues and turn to the theatrics of imaginary and sometimes absurd notions of repaying the obligations we serve them . In a way Hobbesian intrinsic ‘state of nature’ and the confounding political representation we are faced with, the dialectics of his ‘phantasm’ becomes imperative as ever. Hobbes’s ideas stirred much debate in his time, and they continue to hold sway in the rather polarised configuration of political ‘spaces’. While mapping the work he has done in the realm of political order and structures there’s seems a rich and active interplay of nature of individual and the obligations to the existing governance apparatus. His systematic focus on realizing pursuits has made possible the prosperity and security that those in modern Western nations enjoy, and the perennial question of how absolute a sovereign should be, given the temptations of modern political absolutism around the world .With the paradoxical exclusion in the political realm there seems a de-subjectivization on account of the excessive securitization of modern civil state differing from the ‘state of nature’ thesis of Hobbes.  Hyphenated the two relevant facets of his political thought sensation and motion still hold the relevance in shaping and streamlining the negative entropies created in the political systems around the world with the powerful sense of Hobbesian ‘perception’. Hobbes had the prognosis of the ‘shifts’ in the interaction of the obligatory and the governmentality dimensions of the Leviathan. Like in the Hobbesian state of nature, there is an urgent  need  of the emancipatory politics of social cooperation which Hobbes had been advocating for keeping the check on the reins of the ‘unchecked knack of tyranny’ . The new preface which is currently in making  a new social contract surely will form the cornerstone of a new civil society specifically post COVID-19. Hobbes contribution to the framework of the modern world makes a study of his work important in understanding our political horizons. Hobbes with his polymath ‘thinking’ spectrum  from the optics to metaphysics still hold cogency and continue to be unmatched to this day.

Mir Sajad is Research Fellow, Department of Geography, University of Kashmir