Why Does Hobbes Argue for Absolute Sovereignty?

Thomas Hobbes is known as an absolutist. He is also known for his famous theory of social contract where he lucidly elucidates lives of people in the state of nature. According to him, life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, brutish, and short.

Under the conditions, nature falls into a state of war; a war of all against all (Duncan). This is because every person has a right to all things, which necessarily invite conflict as people fight for scarce resources such as land (Duncan). Hobbes then holds that the lawlessness (anarchy) is as a result of the lack of absolute sovereignty.

Absolute sovereignty refers to the supreme, unlimited, and uncontrolled powers of a body polity. Hobbes prefers an absolute monarch, who has unlimited and undivided powers. According to him, the subjects should not question the powers of the sovereign. A continuous regress and possible collapse of a government, which will cause a return to the state of nature, is likely to occur if everyone were to have a right to question whether the leader has overstepped his/her mandate.

The Hobbesian trap can best explain the perpetual struggles and wars in the state of nature. The Hobbesian trap is a kind of game theory that elucidates why preemptive strikes occur between two parties where either side fears of an imminent attack from the opponent.

The mutual distrust cause either party to adopt strategies that only further conflict and animosity. Such a condition is inevitable among men without a master and laws to prevent violent, seizure of others’ property, aggression, and revenge. Such a condition will create a hostile environment where comfortable, civilized, and sociable life cannot thrive (Duncan). There will be no industry because the owners will never be sure whether they will stand to benefit from their labor.

Generally, there will be no effort to develop the economy. The only way out of this condition is to establish an absolute sovereign, who will ensure security for all. The sovereign will now guard the guards, thus limiting abuse of power and oppression against the weak.

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