The notion of Representation is a key feature in democratic regimes. More stable than the direct participation of the people into political life, it supposes that the institutions of the State reflect the composition and the wishes of the people. A simple look at the title of the book-the Leviathan-is however intriguing. How could a Leviathan-previously known as the sea monster of the book of Job whose powers cannot be restrained by any man- be representative? Isn't the act of Representation the opposite of the absolutism advocated by Hobbes -understood as the concentration of powers in one's hands? The Leviathan; or The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651), exposes Hobbes' doctrine of sovereignty and introduces for the first time the concept of representation to describe the relation between the sovereign and the citizens. We will examine it through a triple prism: Representation in its etymological meaning ("repraesentare" = the act of making something present); Representation as the way of grasping a reality by perception (Representation is here a synonym of image) and Representation as an activity, i.e. the way the sovereign reflects the people's wishes and concerns. What is the significance of the Leviathan and of the process of representation in the construction of Hobbes' theory of political power?
[...] And whereas representation in an Assembly is usually advocated to counterbalance the power of the State, here it enhances it. By “representing”, Hobbes indeed meant performing actions which each man owns (“right of an actor to perform acts owned by each of a body of Human-beings are assimilated to signs: they can represent (when they act) or be represented. As far as the sovereign is concerned, he is the actor who performs the written by the individuals who made the Covenant. [...]
[...] What could stop him doing whatever he fancies in the alleged name of the public? On that point, Hobbes enhances his theory of representation by considering the possibility for the subjects to discharge the Leviathan. Even if the sovereign is considered as a mortal divinity, his authority is only as extended as he manages to prevent misery and insecurity. If the Leviathan does not carry out his obligations properly, the subjects have the right to transfer allegiance to someone else. [...]
[...] by majority rule): if the Representative consists of many men, the voyce of the greater number must be considered as the voyce of them Now that we have analyzed the features of representation- in its etymological meaning, in its abstract signification and in its political sense-, we should study its function(s) in Hobbes conception of political power. II) The functions of representation Representation gives legitimacy to the mortal God of Leviathan In his masterpiece, Hobbes launched the revolutionary idea that a political authority is legitimate only if it acts on behalf of the population. [...]
[...] And even if his view of Representation does not coincide with the contemporary meaning of Representative governments, one must accept and understand Hobbes' view as a radical new approach of political power where the sovereign's authority derives from the initial agreement of the people. Despite his absolutist and monarchical convictions, he therefore launched a revolutionary idea that will durably mark political history and will be used against several European dynasties: the necessary intervention of the people in the constitution of the State. [...]
[...] : The representation (as depiction) of the Leviathan Hobbes describes the supreme sovereign in several ways, which maintains the confusion of the readers. If the Leviathan is indeed elevated to the rank of a mortal God, if it uses biblical references to present him as a king of huge monster with unlimited powers, the Leviathan is also the result of a juristically constructed pact instituting a sovereign- representative person. On that point, Hobbes departs from middle-ages vision of a pre-existent natural order and of a commonwealth governed by God. [...]
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