The Origin of Social Contract Theory: Leviathan
My favorite page of this book, Leviathan, is its front page, which is a sophisticated illustration of a king-like man who is composed by myriads of individuals. Actually, the title of this book, Leviathan, is the name of the figure on that illustration. Furthermore, this name is derived from the Hebrew for “Sea Monster”. Besides this interesting fact, the reason why he decided to portrait such a figure is that the man composed by myriads of individual is a metaphor for his political ideology. In his introduction, he describes his term “commonwealth” as a body politic that mimics the human body. From his perspective, it is necessary for individuals to establish a “commonwealth”, or in this case the Leviathan, through social contract. In the social contract, individuals are willing to forgo some of their freedom in exchange of protection from wars and unrests. Just like the powerful Leviathan in the front page shows, this “common wealth” can have absolute authority so that it can ensure the common defense. This political ideology lays down the foundation of the social contract theory, which exert much influence in American revolution and French Revolution.
USC Special Collections & Archives: Call # B1222 .A3D 1667