Entire article in one tweet…

Despite arguments of just how to understand what Hobbes was reflecting, the problem he identified — problem of order — is "transhistorical."

Before going further, who are the main characters here?
Hobbes, Rousseau

Section outline tweeted…


Hobbes presented a thought experiment that portrayed a "state of nature" as something that had to be overcome by society.

Hobbes and Rousseau (17.6)

Sociology accepts Rousseau critique of Hobbes, but don't throw out baby with bathwater.

The Historical Relativization of Hobbes

Subsequent critique of Hobbes centered around idea he was writing "of his time and position" rather than transhistorically.
(question of whether one CAN universalize)

Social Darwinism Revives the Hobbesian Problem

Darwinian image of struggle for survival raises question of how self-preservation is compatible with society. New interest in rules.

The Normative Solution

Alternative to Leviathan and coercion is internalization of common values and institutionalization of practices.

TAKEAWAY: Conflicting billiard balls who need disciplinarian vs. same-thinking, mutually-loving fellow beings. Recognize role for BOTH conflict/force/violence and commonality/social constructs, etc. Different combination of force (Hobbes), complementarity (rational — Locke), and values (Durkheim-Parsons) at different times. SOCIOLOGICAL question of when/how.


English civil war, Cromwell, etc.
Social Darwinism
meta-theoretical commentary
19th century evolutionists (stage theories, development)
norms, normative
institutions (as solutions to problem of order)
division of labor
age old question: individual and society
undersocialized vs. oversocialized
problem of order as rational vs. solution as rational


state of nature
Cromwell, Cromwell's protectorate
English Civil War 1640s
social contract but how to enforce? give one guy all the authority to coerce (monopoly on the legitimate use of force)

state of nature. solitary. and there are things you can't have if so. (15.5)

Tylor "portmanteau definition of culture" whole complex knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, custom, … cf. later "cultural toolkit"

Locke — why create a dictator to save you from your neighbors (profound, actually, since it may well be a tendency we have)
Vico — social contract much more advanced form of reasoning
Montesquieu — never was a pre-social state
Rousseau — yes, presocial, but it was a good time, not a bad one.

Big Q, Hobbes v. sociology: State as savior from natural state, vs. state as outgrowth of social forces

War of all against all.

Hobbes mushroom people. Cf. John Rawls' veil of ignorance.

Hobbes and Rousseau (17.6)

Rousseau — state of nature real (not a thought experiment) — social evolutionist — stages, etc. Very popular in 19th century theory. Rousseau is among the first theorists with a modern sense of history and development — a scientific, empirical sense of evolution.

Rousseau — evidence and story, infer logic from evidence
Locke, Hobbes — logical model, derive predictions.

Argument of Rousseau against Hobbes is quite parallel to the one that Collins presented in our first reading. Hobbes ends up saying that all the tricky stuff people do to/with each other is non- or pre-social.

Conflict = absence of (social) cooperation. As death is the absence of life.

Hobbes/Aristotle : family and private realm as over against "social" or "artificial" (19,2)

Always keep in view what was bugging Hobbes — his country had descended into chaos when the king was dethroned.

nothing > conflict > how to get out of > boss > state
nothing > society > div lab + inequality > social contract

Concept: "undersocialized" vs. "oversocialized"

Comes from article by Wrong written in early 1960s. Socialized here means "full of social values" and so an undersocialized image of humans would be the pre-social, "not much social in 'em" version. Hobbes said that what he was after but if you look at what he assumes, it's got lots of social in it.

These theorists stretched and posited things like pity as a property of humans that got us over the hump.

The Historical Relativization of Hobbes

Early sociology built on rejecting two Hobbsian assumptions

  1. humans with particular attributes could exist outside/before society : reject idea of pre-packaged individual
  2. that society depended upon coercive political authority (21.1) : assert priority of society over state

Malthus Life as permanent struggle over scarce resources with population always growing and so societies running out of resources.
21.5 Malthus, Hobbes, and Locke provide a classical precursor to classical economics with society as aggregation of solitary individuals endowed with wants and readiness to bargain.

MacPherson: Take Hobbes at his word and he'll have you believe he is looking at "man" in vacuo, but in reality it's just the men of his time. Point: Hobbes whole rhetoric is "see that I am right, just look around you" but around me is society already.

22.9 aristocratic vs. bourgeois

Wrong: Macpherson gets a bit carried away in characterizing Hobbes as bourgeois apologist. He wants to portray Hobbes as thinking like a neoclassical economist but he's not talking about used car salesmen but thugs. Even in his time, Hirschman has shown, trade was considered a pacifier.

But Hobbes DOES seem to suggest that we might care as much about our honor and reputation as about our wealth and safety (23.7)

26 Remember section title — discussion here is about how some authors have tried to "relativize" Hobbes. Do we get this? these guys are arguing about whether Hobbes was already living in a bourgeois individvualist society,

(27,3) English exceptionalism — special case…
Basic issue: can Hobbes get away with implicit claim to be making a transhistorical statement? (27,7)

Social Darwinism Revives the Hobbesian Problem

Contrast: Darwinists and Hobbes. Nature to be overcome vs. celebrated. 28-9

Biological Reductionism (29.3)

The Normative Solution

Parsons et al.

Arrive at image of "forces promoting conflict and competition" and "forces promoting cooperation" (norms, institutions)

Hobbesian force, Lockean rational complementarity, Parsonian/Durkheimian common values — mix that changes over space/time. How?

TAKEAWAY: theories go round and round. Levels: theory, meta-theory, meta-meta-theory. Using one theory to talk not about society but about a theory about society.