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Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy$
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Karl Widerquist and Grant S. McCall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678662

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.001.0001

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The Hobbesian Hypothesis in Nineteenth-Century Political Theory

The Hobbesian Hypothesis in Nineteenth-Century Political Theory

Chapter:
(p.90) Chapter 6 The Hobbesian Hypothesis in Nineteenth-Century Political Theory
Source:
Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy
Author(s):

Karl Widerquist

Grant S. McCall

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678662.003.0006

This chapter shows how “the Hobbesian hypothesis” (the claim that everyone is better off in a state society with a private property system than they could reasonably expect to be in any society without either of those institutions) appeared in Nineteen-Century Political Theory. As in the Eighteen Century, disagreement about the truth of the hypothesis produced virtually no debate. G. W. F. Hegel, Frédéric Bastiat, and others asserted it with very little supporting evidence. Henry David Thoreau, Herbert Spencer, Henry George, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Robert Seeley, Henry Sidgwick, Henry Sumner Maine, and Peter Kropotkin all voiced various levels of scepticism, and some, especially Kropotkin, produced considerable evidence. Yet supporters went on asserting the hypothesis as if it were an unchallengeable and obvious truth.

Keywords:   State of nature, Social contract (theory), Lockean proviso, Hobbesian hypothesis, Property (property rights theory), Frédéric Bastiat, Peter Kropotkin, Henry George, Statelessness (stateless people(s)), Small-scale society (societies)

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