Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Blair vs. political philosophy quickie

It's been a few years since I read it, but Blair evoking Leviathan (from his perpective as effective sovereign) would tend to suggest that he wants absolute power over every aspect of society. There is, however, a qualifier in Hobbes - no one has any obligation to obey a sovereign if in doing so their life would be put at risk. *cough*Pissing off the entire Muslim world with Iraq*cough*

I think it's time Tony read up on a bit of Locke - his stuff about "being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions" could be handy for this Respect thing. He should probably skip the bit about "liberty from arbitrary rule" though - load of rubbish, obviously.

Montesquieu might also suit his purposes - political liberty "is that tranquility of spirit which comes from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot fear another citizen." Sounds like the Respect Agenda to me. Sadly, though, old Monty also came up with a load of guff about separation of powers, checks and balances and other such outdated nonsense...

(Originally posted as a comment over at A Big Stick and a Small Carrot)

Oh and have a few more intriguing political parrallels over at Bloog and Treasure...

Update: More Hobbes goodness, from Leviathan Chapter XXI:

“LIBERTY, or freedom, signifieth properly the absence of opposition…”
Heh… On a more worrying note (from the same chapter):
“if we take liberty for an exemption from laws, it is no less absurd for men to demand as they do that liberty by which all other men may be masters of their lives. And yet as absurd as it is, this is it they demand, not knowing that the laws are of no power to protect them without a sword in the hands of a man, or men, to cause those laws to be put in execution.”
See - by opposing this, we’re actively ASKING asking to be mugged by hoodies. We’re poor, foolish, easily led idiots:
“it is an easy thing for men to be deceived by the specious name of liberty; and, for want of judgement to distinguish, mistake that for their private inheritance and birthright which is the right of the public only. And when the same error is confirmed by the authority of men in reputation for their writings on this subject, it is no wonder if it produce sedition”
(Originally posted as a comment to Jarndyce's rather good Sharpener piece, linked up top)

3 Comments:

Blogger Hughes Views said...

I think Mr Blair (who is a great deal more bright than I am) is a tad more interested in political reality than in political theory (but that shouldn't be taken to imply that I think he's not interested in political theory).....

1/12/2006 12:13:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

And of course none of the philosphers mentioned had any experience of far harsher political realities than anything Blair has ever experienced, did they?

Hobbes - lived through a civil war and political exile, plus tutor to Charles II

Locke - lived through a civil war, a coup d'etat and political exile, plus was chief advisor to the Earl of Shaftesbury, the most powerful man in the country (after the King)

Montesquieu - president of the Bordeaux Parliament

The "reality over theory" argument is rarely, if ever, a valid one.

1/12/2006 12:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Cough*. 'Parlement', not 'parliament' - a different sort of thing entirely. Montesquieu didn't have much direct political experience, though he was friends with most of the British opposition to Walpole, especially Bolingbroke. And here ends today's fascinating gobbet of eighteenth-century intellectual history.

1/12/2006 01:56:00 pm  

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