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What is the function of representation in Hobbes conception of political power as presented in the Leviathan?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The Leviathan and its representation.
    1. Why is representation necessary to protect the individuals' lives?
    2. The covenant as the foundation of the sovereign's authority.
    3. Who is this mortal God? The representation (as depiction) of the Leviathan.
    4. Representation as a political process.
  3. The functions of representation.
    1. Representation gives legitimacy to the mortal God of Leviathan.
    2. A safeguard against the chaos of popular sovereignty and self-government.
    3. A safeguard against arbitrariness.
    4. A criticized and disputed vision of Representation.
  4. Conclusion.

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[9]. [...]


[...] Consequently, and due the scarcity of things in the world, there is a constant, and logical, bellum omnium contra omnes . According to Hobbes, man has therefore a self- interested and materialistic desire to end war "the passions that incline men to peace are Feare of Death, Desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living, and a Hope by their industry to obtain them" . Fear of violent death is the principal motive which causes men to create a state by contracting to surrender their natural rights and to submit to the absolute authority of a sovereign. [...]

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