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Leviathan (Penguin Classics)
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Manufacturer: Penguin Classics
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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 320.1
EAN: 9780140431957
ISBN: 0140431950
Label: Penguin Classics
Manufacturer: Penguin Classics
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 736
Publication Date: 1982-02-25
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Studio: Penguin Classics

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Editorial Reviews:

Hobbes’ classic work has set the tone for the course of political philosophy through to our own day. This new Broadview edition includes the full text of the 1651 edition, together with a wide variety of background documents that help set the work in context. Also included are an introduction, explanatory notes, and a chronology.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A Classic
Comment: While not written yesterday, this classical treatise on politics and society is still as relevant today as it has always been. Required reading on Political Science degree courses the World over, it is almost unthinkable that any serious (or even casual) student of the field would deprive themselves of its insights. Not always the easiest of reads, it, never the less, rewards the reader more than adequately with its insights and observations.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Fun Theory, Obsolete Practice
Comment: I'll preface this review by saying that I've only read Books I-II of Leviathan (about half), but as a close friend recently told me, "That may be a new record." Although the title refers to the ideal leader of state, it could easily be attributed to the book itself; it's a truly exhaustive, and exhausting, development of Hobbes' theory of political government, and it took me more than 2 months to sort through the first 400-odd pages.

Besides its girth, the first thing that I would say usually dissuades readers from Hobbes' masterwork is the fact that many of its theories on government have been discarded over the last 300 years. He was not a fan of representative democracy - he held a largely pessimistic view on collective human nature - and viewed absolute rule under one centralized authority as the only form of government capable of controlling large groups of people with conflicting goals and opinions.

That said, what kept me reading the first two books was how rigorously and completely he develops his theories of government from very basic anatomic principles and universal truths. It goes something like this:

In Book I, entitled "Of Man," Hobbes uses the scientific principles of his time to show how the human body operates in the world, gaining knowledge and competing with other human bodies for supremacy; this is, in the parlance of Locke, Rousseau, Hume and other 16th and 17th Century philosophers, the State of Nature, which in Hobbes words makes every human life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

(I suspect that Hobbes, while using biblical references and terminology, was a closet atheist, as his view of human nature and survival was Darwinist well before Darwin. I've found at least one religious zealot in my book inventory who agrees with me, a missionary named Paul Hutchinson who wrote a book called "The New Leviathan" directly after WWII comparing the communist governments of Russia and China the ideal all-powerful state power Hobbes set forth in Leviathan. Of course, Hutchinson doesn't mind playing both sides of the coin, also referring to the fascist regimes of Mussolini and Hitler in Hobbesian terms in one chapter entitled "The Worship of the `Mortal God'.")

It's interesting and ironic that Hobbes in Book I derides educators and philosophers such as Aristotle, Cicero, and St. Thomas of Aquinas for your use of metaphors, which are to his empirical understanding not absolute and thus not reliable ("For words are wise mens counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the mony of fooles" - Chapter 4), since Book II of Leviathan, "Of Commonwealth," relies entirely upon the metaphor of government functioning as a human body. To his mind, every functional nation of the world is in the state of nature (in other words, the state of war) with every other nation. This, to his mind, is why nations are formed - [CUT] to protect the citizens, i.e., the parts of the body, from harm by other nations, i.e., political bodies.

The only way Hobbes saw to do this - and this is where Hobbes has aged worst - was through enforced dictatorial rule, as the only way to keep people from breaking civil and natural laws was through fear of retribution (to be fair, Hobbes wrote Leviathan while in exile during one of England's bloodiest civil wars, so his primary political motive was ending internal conflict). I think the reason this opinion is universally decried is that most ideologies from either end of the political spectrum have something not to like - free-market advocates see the competition Hobbes wanted to eliminate as the ideal ruling power; his centralized oligarchical rule is exactly what liberal constitutionalists created social contracts against; religious fundamentalists are continually up in arms when the government conflicts with their own tenets.

Jane Jacobs in the introduction to The Death and Life of Great American Cities rails against urban planners of the time she wrote it (it was first published in 1961) as "earnest and learned men, dealing with complex phenomena they do not understand at all and trying to make do with a pseudoscience." I probably wouldn't use such strong language about Hobbes' political philosophy, but the principle is similar - Hobbes may have gotten it all wrong, but he got it wrong better than most of us have gotten it right.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Written thoroughly.
Comment: Hobbes is a master of rhetoric and builds up a convincing arguement that you have to spot early on in order to not be pulled into his flawed statements. Human beings cannot be pigeonholed and I would not choose Stalin and communism over a democratic society even if we were in a state of chaos. And no, I do not think it's such a tragedy that there are no notes. Think for yourself. Come up with your own notes, not someone else's.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Comment: This is not a review of the work itself.

One comment only: surprisingly enough, the editor of this volume, the 'world renowned' Richard Tuck DOES NOT PROVIDE NOTES, please pay attention: the book was originally published in 1651 (or something) but nevertheless the so called Hobbes scholar does not provide scholarly notes... and this is supposed to be a 'student's edition'... ha ha

Shame on you, Mr. Tuck!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: What to do with Modern World
Comment: This huge work is the foundation of classical liberalism; it is the basis for Locke, for Smith, and all economic neo-liberalists all the way up to the current period. Written during the English Reformation, Hobbes was confronted with the problem of absolute individualism; he begins this work of political theory with a demolishment of objective truth swift enough to impress any post-modernist. He then proceeds to demonstrate the logical conclusion of man in a state of nature, and compels the modern world to enter into his social contract, or Leviathan out of necessity and fear. It is tempting to write off Hobbes as a cynic, but who can deny that much of what motivates individuals in the modern world is simply a fear to maintain survival and acceptance. It is the driving force of modern societies in terms of economic competition, and inter-national conflicts. Hobbes was a thinker of true depth and insight, though his ideas are so commonly ingrained in modern society that it is difficult to see why they were revolutionary when they were composed.

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