Hobbes and the Democratic Imaginary
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A critical interrogation of elements of Hobbes's political and natural philosophy and its capacity to enrich our understanding of the nature of democratic life.
At a time when nearly all political actors and observers—despite the nature of their normative commitments—morally appeal to the language of democracy, the particular signification of the term has become obscured. Hobbes and the Democratic Imaginary argues that critical engagement with various elements of the work of Hobbes, a notorious critic of democracy, can deepen our understanding of the problems, stakes, and ethics of democratic life. Firstly, Hobbes's descriptive anatomy of democratic sovereignty reveals what is essential to the institution of this form of government, in the face of the conceptual confusion that characterizes the contemporary deployment of democratic terminology. Secondly, Hobbes's critique of the mechanics of democracy points toward certain fundamental political risks that are internal to its mode of operation. And thirdly, contrary to Hobbes's own intentions, Christopher Holman shows how the selective redeployment of certain Hobbesian categories could help construct a normative ground in which democracy is the ethical choice in relation to other sovereign forms.
Christopher Holman is Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
"Everybody knows that Hobbes opposed democracy. In this new study, Christopher Holman demonstrates the extraordinary depth of that opposition, showing that many of the revisions Hobbes makes to his theory over time are explicable as responses to the worry that he might inadvertently legitimate democratic governance. Ultimately, Holman argues that there is democratic potential in the very diversity and universality of the human desire to participate in governance, a desire that Hobbesian theory cannot fully repress." — Gordon Hull, author of Hobbes and the Making of Modern Political Thought