What is it about?

Thomas Hobbes is a mainstay in political theory, but his political philosophy is often perceived as being marred by his insistence on absolute power and the rule of one – or the few. In this paper I examine how a reinterpretation and adjustment of the psychological fundament of Hobbes's systematic argument may in fact lead to a new understanding of how a Hobbesian argument could lead to the conclusion that liberalism and democracy are best for achieving order and stability. This re-examination is performed by reinterpreting Hobbes's psychology in light of the writings of Abraham Maslow. Their reputations could hardly be more different, but I show that their theories of individuals are largely compatible, and that incorporating some of Maslow's insights into Hobbes's general framework may lead to a surprisingly modern Hobbesian political theory, because individual's domination by the higher needs, when safe, may entail demands for liberty and self-determination.

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Why is it important?

A Hobbesian liberalism with a more solid psychological foundation, in particular regarding the possibilities of democracy and the value of sociability, is of great importance in a time when both liberalism and democracy face great challenges. I have proposed a Hobbesian theory that favours liberal democracy because it is most conducive to peace. Such a theory is realist in the acknowledgement of the potential for conflict and the primacy of the need to avoid this. However, it departs from Hobbes's original theory in that liberty is not just something we might enjoy if there is anything left when order is provided; it introduces liberty as one of the requirements for securing such order.

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This page is a summary of: Toward a Hobbesian liberal democracy through a Maslowian hierarchy of needs., The Humanistic Psychologist, March 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/hum0000193.
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