To Justify Absolutism, Hobbes Starts From the “Homo Homini Lupus”

Liberalism appears as a reaction to the Absolutist order, and one of the last great theorists of Absolutism was Thomas Hobbes, author of the famous work The Leviathan (1651), who conceived the human being as naturally selfish, if not violent, as we can read in quote that follows:

“In order to justify absolute government, Hobbes starts from the description of the state of nature which, as was commonly believed at that time, would have preceded the social state. Undoubtedly, one finds in the course of this description, traces of the first history book of Thucydides, in which this author tells that in a distant time the Greeks lived of prey and violence, and that the only law was that of the strongest .

Such were, according to Hobbes, the customs of all primitive men. Thus, among these peoples, neither men nor goods ever enjoyed security. Each had to defend himself against the violence of the others, and each man was a wolf to other men, homo homini lupus. Everywhere the fight against everyone broke out – bellum omnium against omnes.

In order to get out of this chaotic state, all individuals would have given up all their rights to the state. Each of them would have put their forces at the service of the state, so that it would have the possibility to end the violence of all and remedy this unbearable state of affairs.” (G. Mosca and G. Bouthoul, History of Political Doctrines, p. 189; emphasis added)

“Leviathan” is the name of a ferocious and very powerful animal, apparently the Nile crocodile, which is described in the Bible, in chapters. 40 and 41 of Job, and about which he writes: “There is no power over the earth to compare it to, because it was made so that he would not fear any.” (Job, 41:24). It is clear that Hobbes, using the figure of “Leviathan”, maintains that a benign role is played by such a power (that of the absolute monarch) which, by frightening everyone, makes it possible “to end the violence of all and remedy this unbearable state of affairs”. (G. Mosca and G. Bouthoul, History of Political Doctrines, p. 192; emphasis added. Quoted in Arnaldo Sisson Filho. What Is Wrong With Politics? Bases for a True Democracy; chapter 4: Liberalism: Premisses and Political System)