Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Critical Theory, the Leviathan, and the Necessity of Oppression

In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes (1651) argues that in nature all people have the rights to all things. This results in lives dominated by fear, violence and power. This is the natural state of war that Hobbes describes as:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

As a result society is created by citizens yielding the rights to all for the security of inclusion. This would of course lead to desires that could not be fulfilled by socially accepted means. This is inherently oppressive, as doubtlessly the critical theorists would agree, but fundamental to the existence of society. Not to be an apologist for oppression by any measure, but the general anti-oppressive nature of critical theory cannot seem to account for this necessity.

Is there a discernable manner to judge a form of oppression’s necessity or must we be required to reject either critical or Hobbesian standpoints?

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