Hobbes as Possessive Individualist

Jules Townshen

in C. B. Macpherson and the Problem of Liberal Democracy

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9781853312137
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671953 | DOI:
Hobbes as Possessive Individualist

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This chapter analyzes Macpherson's treatment of Hobbes. It discusses Macpherson's initial attempt to correlate Hobbes' thought with the rise of capitalism in 1945; Macpherson's interpretation of Hobbes as a possessive individualist; and criticisms against Macpherson's version of Hobbes. The avalanche of criticism dented Macpherson's hypothesis about Hobbes. The question is whether the hypothesis has become so unsustainable that it should be jettisoned, which is what critics were in effect implying. Critics were at their weakest when proposing the Macpherson characterized Hobbes as a protagonist of a rising bourgeois class. They ignored Macpherson's aim which was not primarily concerned with Hobbes' motives or intentions, but with identifying semi-conscious or unstated social assumptions and their implications. In particular he wanted to tease out the logic of what Hobbes was saying in order to understand his contribution to the possessive market model: if a universal competition of power is postulated, then for it to proceed peacefully, and for society to continue, a state must guarantee exchange.

Keywords: C. B. Macpherson; possessive individualist; Hobbes; capitalism

Chapter.  13483 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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