Thomas Hobbes: Skepticism, Individuality and Chastened Politics (Modernity and Political Thought)

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9780803940802: Thomas Hobbes: Skepticism, Individuality and Chastened Politics (Modernity and Political Thought)

Contemporary political theory has produced a rich body of new ideas, encouraging a reassessment of the history of political thought. In this volume, Flathman examines the provocative political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes in the light of its possible contribution to our understanding of modernity.

Taking Hobbes′ philosophical texts out of their context and placing them in ours, much as Hobbes did to his own predecessors, the author uses them to address questions of present philosophical, moral and political concern.

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About the Author:

Richard E. Flathman is George Armstrong Kelly Memorial Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches political philosophy.

Review:

Richard Flathman is one of today's most provocative and lively political theorists. And Thomas Hobbes is arguably the most interesting political thinker in the Western canon. Put the two together so that you have Flathman on Hobbes and the result is a work that is wonderfully unsettling, undoing some of the standard readings of Hobbes and building the strongest case to date for a liberal/Hobbes theory of politics. Flathman's Hobbes is more complicated than any of those versions in which Hobbesian politics comes down to a question of choosing between the state of nature and the absolute state. In contrast, Flathman quite properly insists that Hobbes saw political life as far more complex―as necessary and regrettable, fearful and inspiring, individualizing and absolutist. In an example of textual exegesis put to work for reasons that can matter to us, Flathman argues that in fact the state of nature and the state of civil society are frequently commingled in Hobbes's thought. This gives rise, in turn, to an entirely original analysis of how dependent the powers of Leviathan are upon its limited ability to use those powers. Flathman's larger ambition in drawing a map of this Hobbesian (dis)order, is to celebrate citizens who both affirm and deny their (Alfonso J. Damico, University of Iowa)

This book is must reading for students of Hobbes' political thought and political theory in general. . . . An important addition to libraries serving advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. (CHOICE)

This is an illuminating companion volume to Flathman's fascinating and highly original book, Willful Liberalism. Flathman develops an interpretation of Hobbes' thought as having as its heart a conception of human beings as willful and self-making creatures that is of the sharpest relevance to current political theory and practice. This is an accomplished and subtly reasoned book that will well repay reading by anyone interested in the modern political condition and in the limits of political action in the contemporary world. (John Gray, philosopher; Oxford University)

Here is Flathman―theorist of a wilful liberalism―at his wilful best. Flathman's Hobbes is a skeptical theorist of minimal sovereignty and robust individuality. This candid and idiosyncratic engagement with Hobbes produces a liberalism that is a valuable antidote to the rationalist varieties that dominate political theory today. (Bonnie Honig, Northwestern University)

Amidst the vogue of rationalist and game-theoretical interpretations of Hobbes, Flathman's book provides a breath of fresh air. Rehabilitating the passions as moving forces of human conduct and presenting Hobbes as a defender of 'robust individuality,' his reading shows that, at the eve of the twenty-first century, the thought of that early modern thinker is more relevant than ever. (Chantal Mouffe, Collége International de Philosophie, Paris)

Richard Flathman is one of today's most provocative and lively political theorists. And Thomas Hobbes is arguably the most interesting political thinker in the Western canon. Put the two together so that you have Flathman on Hobbes and the result is a work that is wonderfully unsettling, undoing some of the standard readings of Hobbes and building the strongest case to date for a liberal/Hobbes theory of politics. Flathman's Hobbes is more complicated than any of those versions in which Hobbesian politics comes down to a question of choosing between the state of nature and the absolute state. In contrast, Flathman quite properly insists that Hobbes saw political life as far more complex―as necessary and regrettable, fearful and inspiring, individualizing and absolutist. In an example of textual exegesis put to work for reasons that can matter to us, Flathman argues that in fact the state of nature and the state of civil society are frequently commingled in Hobbes's thought. This gives rise, in turn, to an entirely original analysis of how dependent the powers of Leviathan are upon its limited ability to use those powers. Flathman's larger ambition in drawing a map of this Hobbesian (dis)order, is to celebrate citizens who both affirm and deny their collective public life. He clearly reserves his admiration for those, like Hobbes, whom he believes are capable of living with the ambiguity inherent in that commitment. Here, as throughout, Flathman's interpretations and arguments consistently rise above secondary analysis to the level of first order political theorizing. (Alfonso J. Damico, University of Iowa)

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