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Hobbes and the question of Legitimate Authority in the Leviathan: liberalism or fascism avant la lettre?

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  1. Definition of the terms liberalism and fascism
  2. The authority in Hobbes' view of the world
  3. All power into a single sovereign
  4. A government that monitors and controls forms of public media

Hobbes contends that the human state of nature exists where every man is at war with every other man and in order to free ourselves from this state, we must relinquish all of our rights to one unified authority. The intention of this sovereign body is supposedly to serve the good of the people, but the sovereign himself is not subject to any kind of social law or charges of injustice. Thus, Hobbes advocates an authority that assumes absolute power and exists on a superior plane to the citizens who serve it, yet have no ability to influence it whatsoever; by near definition, Hobbes argues in a favor of a fascist government. In Hobbes's view of the world, the authority is undoubtedly meant to serve over the individual, but issues such as race and gender do not play a role in dividing social power. Hobbes in fact argues for the equality of mankind. Such argument in favor of human equality appears to be one of Hobbes's only truly liberal contentions.

[...] The question of where to categorize Hobbes' political philosophy boils down to examining his presentation of inhumane means (i.e. supreme control over law, lack of checks and balances) as a way of achieving humane ends (i.e. self-preservation, co-existence and peace). The important realization to make when examining this question is that both liberalism and fascism strive to achieve the same goals of peace, order and self- preservation; it is the manner in which they go about achieving these goals that gives them their defining qualities. Hobbes argues consistently throughout Leviathan [...]


[...] His complete neglect of such difficulties reinforces the argument that he is preaching fascism or totalitarianism as the only feasible and effective way to govern. An imperative aspect of fascism is that it mandates severe social regimentations. The Leviathan that Hobbes erects has complete authority to bring about and enforce social reforms, and perhaps the most notable of these is Hobbes's emphasis on the importance of censorship. He contends that the reading of books pertaining to past wars and revolutions leads to the ultimate destruction of monarchies, and it is in no interest of the commonwealth whatsoever to allow such books to circulate amongst the public. [...]

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