Back in the 17th Century, a philosopher called Thomas Hobbes wrote a book called ‘Leviathan’. At the time, Europe was in the thralls of the religious violence of the Thirty-Years War and England itself was on the brink of insurrection with the growing dispute between Parliament and Monarchy (later manifesting itself as the English Civil War.) Hobbes was a Royalist and his work was intended as a manifesto of support for King Charles the First.
Hobbes argued in his book that man was basically a depraved creature in his ‘state of nature’, that is, human existence in the absence of Government and State. And this meant that man’s existence was essentially ‘nasty, brutish and short.’ In order to prevent man from ripping himself and his brother apart, he needed the ‘Leviathan’ to hold him in check: the State. For Hobbes, the presence of Government prevents human descent into the anarchy of the state of nature. Hence the reason why we surrender Sovereignty in order to hold the state of nature in check. He was, in effect, the first of the Social Contract theorists, but differed from the later philosophers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacque Rousseau, who were more liberal.
(Just as an aside, Hobbes’ state of nature has been held to exist in the international environment according to the Realist school of thought. This is where Nation-States operate in exclusion to each other, pursuing their own interests and engaging in conflict where necessary. There has been, and still is, an absence of a world government ‘Leviathan’ to hold them in check. Some hold this view to be simplistic. Maybe it is, but it is still apt. But then I digress a little…)
The point here is that Leviathan exists on the state level. Or so it did in Britain until this weekend, because the rioting seems to suggest otherwise now. There is little to be positive about here in this respect. We have had a weak and out-of-touch political class in charge for a while now, still tainted by the expenses scandal and still deeply mistrusted by the public. And public services, such as the Police and others, have been eroded to such an extent that now there is little respect for authority across the board in society. There has been a strong tradition of ‘Policing by Consent’ in this country which seems to have evaporated over the weekend. However, in reality its been on the decline for sometime. This is just the whole thing coming to a head.
It’s very sad and worrying really, especially as people are now finding there homes and businesses burned and their property being looted. It has echoes, for me personally, of the background to ‘Dragon Line’. I sincerely hope it isn’t going that way!
‘Leviathan’ has lost its teeth. It needs to find them again – and soon! And, more than anything, we need leaders who can show some real back-bone, stop cutting funding to essential public services such as the Police (its gone far enough) and get a grip on society again…
Until the next time (hopefully!)