Great Books, Bad Arguments: Republic, Leviathan, and the Communist Manifesto

Glen Newey writes:

Here are the nominees for the greatest bad argument in political theory. They are: Thomas Hobbes, for Leviathan; Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, for The Communist Manifesto; and Plato, for the Republic. Why them? Each of the candidates is hallowed as a Penguin Classic. Each has been foisted on freshman generations in Pol Phil 101. And each could be thought to exemplify, after a fashion, the aristocratic style in political theory. Indeed, each of the three contenders either was a blueblood in his own right, or spent much of his life cheek by receding jowl with them. They have imagined a political theory that comports with their standing as ottimati in their own right, or their counsellors. Plato was an Athenian nob, connected via his mother, Perictione, to several of the Thirty Tyrants. Hobbes spent virtually all his adult life in the service of the Cavendish family, of the earldom (now duchy) of Devonshire. Even Marx, a Rhineland Jew, managed to cop off with the daughter of the Baron von Westphalen.

(LRB 14 July 2011)

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