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Thomas Hobbes: Liberal Illiberal

Master-Mind Lecture, by Sir Noel Malcom FBA, delivered on 15 October 2014 (venue: The British Academy).

Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) has long been seen as a deeply illiberal work. Hobbes defended absolute sovereignty (and, indeed, absolute monarchy); he was scornful of any attempt to show that sovereign authority must be subject to legal controls. But at the same time he set out some principles, such as individualism and the dependence of all political authority on consent, which we associate with the origins of the modern liberal tradition. There may even be some of the building-blocks of constitutionalism in his anti-constitutionalist theory. This lecture explores the liberal elements in the classic work of an illiberal thinker.

About the speaker:
Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was previously a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and Foreign Editor of The Spectator. A specialist in Hobbes, he is a General Editor of the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Hobbes.

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