Unnatural Law

Hobbes famously adds a caveat to his absolutist theory of sovereignty, namely that if Leviathan failed to protect the security of its citizens it would forfeit the legitimacy gained in the original Covenant, and the people would be “delivered from their former obligation” (XXI). Some infernal realisation of this seems to have occured in recent times. It seems that the State is not able to protect its citizens from conditions which may issue in “their violent Death” (and not the conditions themselves loudly but emptily trumpeted by the State). Yet in response to this Leviathan seeks all the more absolutely to “Judge both of the means of Peace and Defence” (XVIII), seeing perhaps Rebellion, “a relapse into the condition of Warre” (XXVIII), instead of the legitimate exposure of illegitimacy. Hobbes seems to have imagined the power of Leviathan weakening as the extent of its failure to protect its citizens became clearer, and never to have foreseen a State increasingly willing to back up the Covenant by the sword as the extent of its wider powerlessness became known.