chapter  2
27 Pages

Hobbes’s Symbolic Politics

ByPeter Lomas

The David Runciman shows how, in the land of Shakespeare, in the twentieth century, writers deliberately blurred the agent/actor distinction, adopting a metaphor of masks for disparate groups in competition for influence under existing states. In the "agent-structure debate", in the wake of Cold War Realism, the participants set out to discover how agents and structures could be co-determined and co-influencing: a relation which implicitly would limit states' power and room for maneuver. The culpable loss of humanity in conventional international theory is due, to a mechanistic approach. Self-image is impoverished by making states, instead of people, agents. Thomas Hobbes, by contrast, wants to make states, instead of people, actors. Hobbes's approach, like his language, is deliberately ambiguous and suggestive. It operates conflation on two levels — on the one hand, to merge the professional representative in public affairs with the dramatic actor on the stage; to merge their activity: joining the figurative evocation of human life to literal actions.