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Politics by Imagination: Political Community in Hobbes and Anderson



Blockseminar: MA KUWI: Sozialwissenschaften // MASS: Zentralmodul

Termine: 12., 13., 14. Juni, jeweils 9-18 Uhr Ort:  Internationales Begegnungszentrum (IBZ, Sophienstr.)


Thomas Hobbes is one of the first modern political philosophers to analyze, in 1651, human behavior without recourse to theology or metaphysics. Three hundred years later Benedict Anderson also rejects theology and metaphysics, this time for social constructionism. His argument: there is nothing natural about the nation whatsoever. Both men demonstrate that politics, especially the politics of constructing a preferred community, is very much an act of imagination. Thus Hobbes bases political community on the idea of an imaginary contract between free and equal individuals. (The contract limits the natural freedom of each member even as it legitimizes his or her right to oppose the government should it fail to meet its contractual obligations.) In ways somewhat similar, Anderson demonstrates that the nation is entirely fictional, in all of it parts. (No member of the national community will ever personally know more than a small proportion of all other members. And no nation regards itself as a community of all humanity; the nation defines itself precisely in terms of who it excludes from membership.) Politics by means of imagination has generated solutions to certain questions. But some of these solutions entail unintended consequences that continue to plague us, even today. For example, Hobbes‘s notion of the state, despite its republican and democratic features, also displays authoritarian aspects of our own political liberalism. And according to Anderson, every member of a national community imagines his or her community as an association of equals – but precisely thereby obscures some very real communal inequalities. In this seminar we will reconstruct the basic arguments of Hobbes and Anderson; examine them with respect to strengths and weaknesses; and study both theories as possible forms of social critique of contemporary political community.


Literatur: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Revised student edition. Edited by Richard Tuck.  [Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought.] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007. ISBN 978-0-521-56797-8; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London/New York: Verso, revised edition 1993 or later. ISBN 0-86091-546-8


Hinweise zur Veranstaltung: Anmeldung bis 1.5.2009 unter Als vorbereitende Lektüre bitte alle Texte noch vor Beginn des Seminars lesen.


Seminarplan- und informationen


Leistungsnachweis: aktive Teilnahme, Kurzreferate, Hausarbeit                                                          


Sprache: Englisch