Machy and Hobbesy

Eric Beck rayrena at
Fri Mar 17 23:40:22 PST 2000


>Neither Hobbes nor Machiavelli is big on "efficiency." For an economic or
>philosophical advocate of "efficiency," you must turn to someone else, like
>Bentham perhaps.

I wasn't really thinking of output or productivity, but the maintenance of the state. Machiavelli said the greatest state is the one that lasts longest; Hobbes said self-preservation is the ultimate objective of the individual and the state. The central concern of the philosophy of both was how to best achieve longevity and self-preservation; "best" meaning with the fewest complications and impediments--efficiently.

>As for the power of the state, Hobbes & Machiavelli lived
>periods of civil wars and (in the case of Machiavelli) warring city states
>& a series of foreign invasions and rules, which made them think much of a
>political solution to the creation of sovereignty. They are creatures of
>their times

Yes, but too much so. Which is why, outside perhaps a few interesting metaphysical features, their philosophy is now irrelevant (and narrow, and tedious, and etc.). In Machy and Hobbesy we have a resigned republican (who, oddly, seemed more loyal to his patron than to his republic) and an eager monarchist. Why is it again that "Leftists are Machiavellians"? What can we possibly learn from him?

>Hobbes was neither egalitarian nor socialistic in his political preference,
>even though his materialist philosophy could have been developed in that

Actually, Hobbes did have egalitarian tendencies. Kind of. The state apparatus was all powerful, but after that everyone was essentially equal. As you pointed out on this list not long ago, he didn't believe that men had natural dominion over women; neither did he dictate an elaborate class system, or anything like it. His vision certainly wasn't a radically democratic or egalitarian one, but there was a general equality. But, as in Machiavelli, it was obtained at the expense of installing an all-powerful "sovereign," a person or (very small) group of people who dictated everything. In other words, these two men of limited imaginations envisioned instituting something close to your "classless, without oppressions based upon gender, race, sexuality, disability, etc" universe in order to *maintain* oppression and control. Which is why you can't use the abolition of oppression for any utilitarian ends, like the permanency of the state, or the erasure of capitalists, cops, and racists (to use your examples); it has to be desired for itself alone.

> Have you read their works?

I ain't just making this shit up.


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