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Hobbes's Bourgeois Moderation

Peter Hayes
Polity
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 53-74
DOI: 10.2307/3235367
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3235367
Page Count: 22
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Hobbes's Bourgeois Moderation
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Abstract

Arendt, Macpherson, and Strauss have correctly identified Hobbes as a bourgeois theorist, but wrongly treat him as a theorist of narrow self-interest and unbridled competition. All three, for different reasons, fail to recognize his main contribution to the ethical basis of bourgeois society-his advocacy of moderation. Arendt and Macpherson err in thinking that Hobbes transfers the intense competition of the state of nature into the commonwealth while Strauss neglects the influence of Hobbes's egalitarianism. Hobbes seeks to limit competition in three ways: by insisting on the natural equality of all, by including maxims of moderation as part of the laws of nature, and by emphasizing the need to avoid war except as a last resort. Thus he offers a vision of civil society in the commonwealth that protects people from subjugation by relentless power seekers and allows them to develop their own capabilities as they wish.

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