Hobbes and the Question of Power

SANDRA FIELD
JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 52.1 (2014): 61-85

Abstract: Thomas Hobbes has been hailed as the philosopher of power par excellence; however, I demonstrate that Hobbes’s conceptualization of political power is not stable across his texts. Once the distinction is made between the authorized and the effective power of the sovereign, it is no longer sufficient simply to defend a doctrine of the authorized power of the sovereign; such a doctrine must be robustly complemented by an account of how the effective power commensurate to this authority might be achieved. Nor is this straightforward: for effective political power can fluctuate, sometimes severely. In this light, the prevalent juridical reading of Hobbes’s political philosophy is inadequate.