Hobbes, sovereignty, and politics: rethinking international political space

Prokhovnik, Raia (2011). Hobbes, sovereignty, and politics: rethinking international political space. In: Prokhovnik, Raia and Slomp, Gabriella eds. International Political Theory after Hobbes: Analysis, Interpretation and Orientation. International Political Theory. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 189–212.

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Abstract

In this last chapter of the book, Raia Prokhovnik finds support in Hobbes for an argument in favour of the inter-constitution of the concept of sovereignty and politics. She presents evidence that Hobbes has a broader and more complex understanding of politics than is usually acknowledged - an understanding embracing a politics of cooperation, the role of natural law in the international realm, and the recognition of the play of power as political - in the sense of contestation in which to negotiate epistemic indeterminacy and incommensurable difference. Prokhovnik then outlines a theory of the under-acknowledged political dimension of the concept of sovereignty, in terms of how we ask sovereignty to organise politics and the political (for instance in helping to shape the conduct and limits of politics within a specific polity) while being above the fray of politics, and how at the same time sovereignty is deeply political and conditional. On this basis, Prokhovnik develops the case that insight into Hobbes's theory helps advance the idea that the domestic and international realms are both primarily spheres of politics rather than of morality and law. Hobbes had a broader understanding than he is often credited with, of the kinds of politics that are appropriate. And while he sought to eliminate the effects of political contestation, his theorisation of a political rather than normative solution to the problem provides important support for rethinking international political space.

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