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Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition (review)
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620 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 27:4 OCTOBER I989 anyone who sticks with him will be rewarded. Glouberman's interpretation is a substantial and considerable contribution to Descartes studies. RICHARD A. WATSON Washington University Jean Hampton. Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Pp. xii + 299. $4~.5o. In Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition Professor Hampton undertakes an "extensive examination" of Hobbes's argument, primarily as stated in Leviathan, for the institution of an absolute sovereign. Hampton, however, is concerned to accomplish more than "a description or explication" of Hobbes's political philosophy. Rather, it is her intention to develop a "rational reconstruction" of Hobbes's argument. Only if one seeks "to get the best possible statement of Hobbes's argument for absolute sovereignty will one be able to understand where and why that argument fails" (2). By providing us with an understanding of why Hobbes's argument fails Hampton hopes "to shed light on the general structure of all social contract arguments." More specifically, by indicating the source of the failure of Hobbes's social contract argument Hampton hopes to help us understand "what structure a social contract argument must have if it is to succeed." In this way, it is argued that "the principal reason for studying Hobbes's work is that doing so will improve our understanding of social contract theories generally" (3)Hampton 's understanding of Hobbes's argument, and why it fails, is based primarily upon a distinction between what she terms "alienation" and "agency" social contract theory. Hobbes, Hampton argues, is a proponent of "alienation" contract theory. According to this account the ruler is instituted when the people surrender their power to him. In these circumstances subjects, when authorizing the sovereign, renounce their rights to all things. Thus, Hampton claims, "there is no doubt that Hobbes considers authorization to be an act of enslavement, and the resulting commonwealth to be a union of slaves (albeit willing slaves) within the will of their master" (122). Hampton opposes her own "alienation" interpretation of Hobbes's argument to the "agency" interpretation favored by David Gauthier. On the "agency" view the ruler's power is only loaned to him. The relationship between sovereign and subject is that of agent and principal, rather than master and slave. "Whereas slaves, when they surrender their right of governing themselves, become mere instruments of their master's will, subjects who authorize their ruler only lend their rights to him and thus never lose their selfrulership " (116). The "agency" model, therefore, represents the sovereign as the instrument of the subjects' wills. This interpretation, Hampton maintains, cannot be rendered consistent with the text. In particular, contrary to what is suggested by the agency model, Hobbes clearly rejects the suggestion that the sovereign is in any way subject to the will or judgment of his or her subjects. To interpret Hobbes along these agencymodel lines is to fundamentally misrepresent his position as that of a Lockean Whig. Hampton believes that there is a problem with Hobbes's argument that has been little recognized in recent years by Hobbes scholars, but which is nevertheless "so BOOK REVIEWS 621 serious that it renders the entire Hobbesian justification for absolute sovereignty invalid " 097). Given Hobbesian psychology, no subject is able to do what is required to create an absolute (i.e., unconditional and permanent) sovereign. More specifically, a subject's obedience to the sovereign is conditional on the sovereign's commands not threatening the life of the subject. That is, Hobbes must expect a subject to disobey any command by the sovereign that would threaten his own bodily survival. Moreover, the subjects are the judges of this question. This means that such people are incapable of letting the sovereign determine their every action. By taking this position Hobbes "makes the subjects the judges of whether or not to obey any of the sovereign's laws" (2ol). Clearly, therefore, Hampton suggests, Hobbes is forced to say that an absolute sovereign reigns at his subjects' pleasure and this, obviously, is not "genuine enslavement at all" (202). Hampton argues that the failure of Hobbes's argument reveals fundamental difficulties with the alienation model in...