Blair and Hobbes

I'm a bit of a fan of Hobbes (I love the language in [[Leviathan]]; its like the King James bible. The book itself is a great read, and a wonderful source of ideas and argument. But... would you want to live in a society where, for example it is annexed to the sovereignty to be judge of what opinions and doctrines are averse, and what conducing to peace; and consequently, on what occasions, how far, and what men are to be trusted withal in speaking to multitudes of people; and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they be published?).

I had (independently of many others, I'm sure) the idea that US (foreign) policy is based on Hobbes-type ideas (this briefly mentions the same; I assume its a commonplace). And now Blur is citing him... or so sez the Grauniad: when I read "PM cites Hobbes and Tawney to justify new police powers" I was agog. Which bit does he quote? there can happen no breach of covenant on the part of the sovereign; and consequently none of his subjects, by any pretence of forfeiture, can be freed from his subjection perhaps?

But with characteristic newspaper distain for sourcing, all the paper says is Quoting the 17th-century political thinker Thomas Hobbes and 20th-century social critic RH Tawney, the prime minister hoped the Respect action plan launched yesterday would not be judged on whether or not it was "tough" or populist but as opening a "genuine intellectual debate about the nature of liberty in a modern developed society". Hmmm, I suspect Hobbes would not have been very impressed by a Sovereign with a Respect Action Plan. The Civil Sword was more in his line.

So I'm forced off to the #10 website to find the speech. And Prez Blur sez: More grandly, it is the answer to the most fundamental question of all in politics which is: how do we live together? From the theorists of the Roman state to its fullest expression in Hobbes's Leviathan, the central question of political theory was just this: how do we ensure order? And what are the respective roles of individuals, communities and the state? And thats the only use of Hobbes I can find. So: Blur is *not* quoting Hobbes, only citing him: or rather, invoking H's mighty name in an effort to lend weight to B's pallid policies.

And does he seriously believe that politicial theory attained its fullest expression in Hobbes's Leviathan? Its bizarre. Yes I love the book and the language but you can't use it as a textbook for running a state (I'm sure Blur would love to, but even our supine parliament wouldn't let him go that far).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of Hobbes as well.

OK, OK, thanks for my hat, I'll see myself out! Walks off mumbling to self about what ever happened to humor

John Cross