The End Game of Human Conflict Predicted by Hobbes

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Transcript The End Game of Human Conflict Predicted by Hobbes

The End Game of Human Conflict
Predicted by Hobbes
Genocide in Europe
• Holocaust: 6 Millions
Jews Killed by Nazi
Germany: 1939-1945
• 7,000+ Bosnian
Muslims killed by
Serbian forces at
Screbenica in 1995
Genecide in Africa and Asia
• 800,000-1million
Tutsis/Hutus killed in 3
months in 1993 by Hutu
tribal enemies
• Cambodian killing fields
in which ~1.7 million
Cambodians killed by
Khmer Rouge under Pol
Hobbes’ Picture of Human Conflict: The
Presence of Violence in all Human Relations
• (1) Under conditions of interdependence and scarce resources, human
preferences for favorable outcomes of these exchanges are in perpetual
conflict: power, wealth, status, sexual primacy, property, etc
• (2) Failure of appeals to religion, nature, self-interest, custom, or
prevailing law to resolve these conflicts non-coercively reduces a
conflict to an exchange of violence or coercive threats
• (3) Violence as the means to get what one wants has no other object, as
such, than eliminating an opponent or imposing one’s will through
• (4) If human exchanges are reduced to violence, an infinite regress
emerges: a pure relation of exchanges of violence and coercive threats
in which the object(s) sought are reduced to the violent struggle or duel.
The Imperative of Order &
• Hobbes: when human aims are reduced to
violence, humans are reduced to a state of nature
that is “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short”
• The endgame of violent exchanges is a “pure” state
of perpetual and unremitting conflict:
– “. . . During the time that men live without a common
Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that
condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is
of every man against every man”
Hobbes Solution to Human
• Hobbes argues that only a “Leviathan” -- that is
what we mean by a state can resolve human
disputes that lead to violence
• The modern state (Japan/ the United States, etc.) is
Hobbes’ Leviathan: It possess, as sovereign over a
defined territory and people, a monopoly of
legitimate violence to resolve disputes.
The Social Implications of Pure
Violent Conflict
• “Whatsoever. . . is consequent to a time of Warre, where
everyman is Enemy to every man. . . wherein men live
without 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 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.”
Why the imperative of order can only be
resolved provisionally, never completely
• The tendency toward pure conflict is inherent in
interdependent societal exchanges
• Any solution to impede or preclude this tendency by force
or deterrent threats is also vulnerable to violence and
coercive threats
• All solutions to societal order, i.e., the concentration of a
monopoly of violence in a state to arbitrate disputes,
prevent civil war, and protect a nation is provisional and
cannot be be resolved other than by countervailing
violence or its threat.
• The state or its ruling government are also subject to being
overturned by force and violence
Example of Hobbes’ Prediction that a Given
State and Government May Be Overthrown
• Example from Japanese history?
Japanese Civil War 1954-1868
Integrated and Centralized
Government of Japan TodayThe
Greek Peloponnesian War to
Illustrate the Hobbesian Endgame
Peloponnesian War: Athens vs.
Sparta: 431-404 B.C.
Background History
• The Greek City States under the leadership of
Athens defeated the Persian Empire
• Athens is acknowledged as the leading Greek state
• However, as Thucydides relates in his history,
Athenians increasingly fear Sparta as a competitor
and believe they must increase Athen’s power and
subjugate Sparta
States in a Hobbesian World
• The Peloponnesian War: Athens changes from a
consensual to a coercive hegemon
• Relations with adversaries and allies are reduced to power:
“. . . The strong do what they have the power to do and the
weak accept what they have to accept.”
• Limits on power, hitherto accepted and acknowledged by
Athens and those Greek states deferring to its power, are
abandoned by Athens under perceived conditions of a
struggle for survival and leadership of the Peloponnesian
The Result of Athens’ View of a
Power Struggle with Sparta
• The Melian Dialogue illustrate the acceptance by
the Athens that they are in a death struggle for
their survival
• Thus, even peaceful relations with other states
must be put under Athenian control to prevent
them from being an ally of Sparta
• The Melian Dialogue illustrates this tendency to
control and dominate and create an Athenian
The Athenians Reject the Objections
of the Melians to Remain Neutral
• Neutrality is excluded as realistic and a danger to Athens’
• Resistance, however costly to Athens, is futile & a measure
of Athens power -- a lesson to deter defection of its
coerced allies
• Sparta will assist Melos against its interests
• Gods favor Melos and Athens equally and lay down a law
of nature as the strong rule
• Justice is defined by the strong
The Importance of Carl von
Clausewitz’ On War
• On War, like Thucydides’ Peloponnesian
War, moves the Hobbesian endgame of
continued violence to the level of state
relations and conflict
• Clausewitz’ two key concepts: Pure vs. Real