Thomas Hobbes’s Sovereign Man: Is he the First Democrat or does Sartre Show him to be a Fascist in Waiting?

By James Cunningham.

Published by The Technology Collection

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This paper compares the Hobbesean and Sartrean views of sovereign man. The thesis is that important similarities between the Hobbesean and Sartrean conceptions
of sovereign man militate against the claim by Hobbes that sovereign man can be educated by an absolute state sovereign to appreciate the connection between obedience to the sovereign and the benefits of peace. This is because, for Hobbes, like Sartre, the actions of sovereign man speak louder than his words and, for all that its educative institutions preach the virtues of obedience to law, the state sovereign is an individual or collection of individuals who live lives that are above the law. Thus does the state sovereign inadvertently teach subjects to regard the state as an enemy and to seek what opportunities
they can to retrieve the sovereign power that they have donated to the state. In conditions of modern capitalism,this opportunity is presented to those who control them by the industries of mass promotion, which give their owners
power sufficient to challenge, overthrow or co-opt the state. The result is the capturing of the state by rapacious fascistic factions: but it is the result that the modern state has educated its citizens to achieve in the first place.

Keywords: Hobbes, Modern, Human Nature, Democratic Man, Promotional Technologies, Mass-Culture, Capitalism, Sartre, Critical Theory

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.159-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 542.314KB).

Dr. James Cunningham

Instructor, Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

James Cunningham graduated from University of Toronto, in 1998, with a PhD in Philosophy of Education. Since January of 2000, he has been an instructor at Ryerson University, where he teaches more than 18 different courses in philosophy. While his interests are primarily in critical theory, Cunningham has also given numerous conference presentations on topics in Existentialism and Phenomenology. He has also presented on Media Ethics.


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