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The Political Theory of Persecution: Augustine and Hobbes

Ronald Christenson
Midwest Journal of Political Science
Vol. 12, No. 3 (Aug., 1968), pp. 419-438
DOI: 10.2307/2110137
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110137
Page Count: 20
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The Political Theory of Persecution: Augustine and Hobbes
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Abstract

A theory of persecution, unlike a theory of punishment, based on the assumption of a civic religion, which makes unity the purpose of public policy, and the assumption that the victims of persecution act out of selfish motives while the persecutors act as public deputies. Augustine defended "righteous persecution" of the Donatists in order to restore the unity of the Church. In their resistance the Donatists became the authors of their own suffering as the emperors became agents of God. Hobbes justified the persecution of "enemies of the commonwealth" by seeing them as either beyond the limits of natural law in a state of war or within the commonwealth and at the arbitrary mercy of the sovereign. Hobbes's dependence upon the corporate analogy and civic religion strengthen his justification of persecution.

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