Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 5, No 9 (2016)

Hobbes’ Anti-liberal Individualism.

James Martel


In much of the literature on Hobbes, he is considered a proto-liberal, that is, he is seen as setting up the apparatus that leads to liberalism but his own authoritarian streak makes it impossible for liberals to completely claim him as one of their own (hence the qualifier of proto). In this paper, I argue that, far from being a precursor to liberalism, Hobbes offers a political theory that is implicitly anti-liberal. I do not mean this in the conventional sense that Hobbes was too conservative for liberalism (as Schmitt would argue). On the contrary, I will argue that in his writing, Hobbes evinces a concept of collective interpretation, theories of individualism and the nature and possibilities for democratic politics, that is radical and offers a completely developed alternative to liberalism even as it eschews conservative and reactionary models as well. I focus in particular on the idea of individualism and how the model offered by liberals (in this case specifically Locke) and conservatives (in this case specifically Schmitt) offers far less in terms of individual choice and justice than Hobbes’s own theory does, however paradoxical this may seem.