chapter  7
24 Pages

Thomas Hobbes and His Critics: Interpretive Implications of Cultural Theory

Withwith Magnus Enzell

Thomas Hobbes's thought must be valuable, for so many modern theorists lay claim to ownership. Hobbes's thought must be pliable, for so many theorists claim it is diametrically different from so many others. Perhaps it is less obvious that the critics of Hobbes can be neatly divided into the three active cultural biases: egalitarianism, individualism, and hierarchy. Least obvious, Hobbes's construction of human nature, viewed from a cultural perspective as part of a rationale for a hierarchical-collectivist commonwealth, turns out to be fatalistic and not individualistic as commonly assumed. To the denizens of each culture, the nature constructed by the others appears irrational, contradicting the way the world "really is," and what people are "really like". The "contradictory certainties" animate the interpretive struggles among Hobbe's critics, and represent an instance of cultural conflict. According to cultural theory, there are five viable ways of life: egalitarian-ism, individualism, hierarchy, fatalism, and autonomy.