Rezension: Maximillian Jaede, Thomas Hobbes’s Conception of Peace

Maximilian Jaede, Thomas Hobbes’s Conception of Peace. Civil Society and International Order, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2018.

Rezensiert für den Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung bei H-Soz-u-Kult von: Jan Niklas Rolf, Fakultät Gesellschaft und Ökonomie, Hochschule Rhein-Waal.

In 1977, Hedley Bull published The Anarchical Society in which he pictures Thomas Hobbes as an early proponent of the realist school in International Relations.[1] In this book, which came to define the direction that subsequent readings of Hobbes’s international political thought would take, Bull (mis)uses the English philosopher to demarcate his concept of an anarchical society of states from Hobbes’s international state of nature.

In the book at hand, Maximilian Jaede comes to question the common perception of Hobbes as a predecessor of realism. While he is certainly not the first one to do so, his take is an original one. Against the realist notion of a negative Hobbesian peace, Jaede argues compellingly that peace, for Hobbes, entails more than the mere suppression of private violence by a coercive power. In order to prevent its subjects from revolting and civil society from falling back into a state of war, the sovereign must ensure justice in society. Accordingly, the survival of the sovereign and, as such, the endurance of peace, is not only contingent on the absence of a wrong (war), but also on the presence of a good (justice). It is this very distinction between being and well-being, between merely being alive and living, that distinguishes negative from positive peace and that allows Jaede to portray Hobbes as a visionary of the latter.

If there is anything that Jaede can be accused of, than it is not that he is going too far, but that he is not going far enough. He repeatedly claims that Hobbes “envisions peace in civil society to be maintained in accordance with procedural justice”, even though the English philosopher “does not argue for more expansive social justice” (p. 58, 97). While it is true that Hobbes’s third and fourth law of nature specify principles of procedural or, in his terminology, commutative justice, he also lays out principles of social or, in his terminology, distributive justice that not even hard-nosed Marxists could possibly hope for: The eleventh and twelfth laws of nature – the latter of which Jaede only mentions in a footnote (p. 66) – call for an equal distribution and collective usage of goods. Only those goods that can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common, the thirteenth and fourteenth laws of nature dictate, should be adjudged to the first possessor or first born. This shows that Hobbes deemed both procedural and social justice to be conducive to peace. Not without reason did he call his laws of nature “convenient articles of peace”.[2]Similar to Immanuel Kant, who believed that perpetual peace requires the implementation of his three definitive articles [3], Hobbes thought that a lasting peace can only be guaranteed if individual men transfer their right of nature to a common power (second law of nature) that acts in accordance with procedural (third and fourth law of nature) and social justice (eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth law of nature). weiterlesen

[1] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, 4th edition, Basingstoke 2012 (1st edition 1977).
[2] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by J. C. A. Gaskin, Oxford 1998, p. 86.
[3] Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, in: Chris Brown / Terry Nardin / Nicholas Rengger (eds.), International Relations in Political Thought, Cambridge 2002, p. 442.

Empfohlene Zitierweise
Jan Niklas Rolf: Rezension zu: Jaede, Maximilian: Thomas Hobbes’s Conception of Peace. Civil Society and International Order. Basingstoke  2018 , in: H-Soz-Kult, 22.11.2018, <>.