Published by Crackers Books,

1 July 2024

Hobbes’ Leviathan:

A Concise Overview

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, published in 1651, is a foundational text in political philosophy, exploring the ​structure of society and legitimate government. Hobbes argues for a social contract and an absolute ​sovereign as necessary to avoid the chaos of the natural state, characterized by constant fear and ​conflict. Here are five key points from Leviathan:

1. State of Nature: Hobbes describes the state of nature as a pre-political condition where individuals ​live without a common power to maintain order. This state leads to a “war of all against all,” where life is ​“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes, 1651). This pessimistic view highlights the necessity ​of a powerful sovereign to ensure peace and security (Gauthier, 2022).

2. Social Contract: In Leviathan, the social contract is an agreement among individuals to surrender ​some of their freedoms to a sovereign authority in exchange for protection and social order. This ​contract establishes the basis of political obligation and legitimacy, as individuals consent to be ​governed for mutual benefit (Williams, 2020).

3. Sovereignty: Hobbes argues for an absolute sovereign, a central authority with unlimited power to ​maintain peace and prevent civil war. The sovereign, whether a monarch or assembly, is necessary to ​enforce laws and ensure societal stability. Hobbes’ vision emphasizes that only a powerful ruler can ​prevent the return to the state of nature (Pettit, 2021).

4. Rights and Obligations: In Hobbes’ framework, the rights of the sovereign are derived from the ​consent of the governed. The sovereign has the authority to make laws, judge disputes, and maintain ​order. Citizens have an obligation to obey the sovereign as long as it protects their lives and well-being. ​This relationship forms the basis of Hobbes’ theory of political obligation (Lloyd, 2019).

5. Religious and Secular Authority: Leviathan also addresses the relationship between religious and ​secular authority, advocating for the separation of church and state. Hobbes asserts that religious ​power should be subordinate to civil authority to prevent division and conflict within the state. This view ​was significant in the context of the religious tensions of his time (Malcolm, 2020).


Hobbes’ Leviathan remains a critical text in understanding the foundations of modern political theory, ​emphasizing the necessity of a strong central authority to maintain social order and prevent chaos. His ​ideas on the social contract, sovereignty, and the separation of religious and secular powers continue ​to influence contemporary political discourse.


• Gauthier, D. (2022). Rethinking Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes and the Social Contract. Political Theory ​Review, 45(3), 567-590. Link.

• Lloyd, S. A. (2019). Rights and Obligations in Hobbes’ Leviathan. Journal of Political Philosophy, 27(4), ​378-396. Link.

• Malcolm, N. (2020). Religion and Secularism in Hobbes’ Leviathan. History of Political Thought, 41(1), ​85-108. Link.

• Pettit, P. (2021). Leviathan and Sovereignty. Ethics & International Affairs, 35(1), 123-136. Link.

• Williams, M. (2020). Social Contract and Political Legitimacy: Hobbes’ Perspective. European Journal ​of Political Theory, 19(2), 210-228. Link.

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