Thomas Hobbes’s Theory of Crime and Punishment
This thesis argues that over the course of his political writings Thomas Hobbes developed a complex yet coherent theory of crime and punishment. His account was designed not only as an element of his theory of the state, but also in response to a set of early modern debates concerning the nature of punishment in contractarian political thought. This argument challenges the claims, frequently advanced in the critical literature, that Hobbes was uninterested in the problem of crime, that his account fails to provide his sovereign with a right to punish at all, or that he considered punishment to be a non-civil activity located in a version of the state of nature. I claim by contrast that Hobbes’s accounts of the origins and location of the right to punish, of the purpose of punishment and of the nature of crime demonstrate that Hobbesian punishment is characterised by retained citizenship, due process and legal rights. Hobbes’s theory of political obligation draws a clear distinction between the punishment of criminals within the state, and the treatment of rebels and enemies outside it. As a result Hobbes is able to reconcile his commitment to subjects’ inalienable right to self-defence with a sovereign right to punish criminals. In addition to providing an account of this foundational aspect of Hobbes’s political theory, the thesis uses Hobbes’s discussion of crime to shed light on a number of related aspects of his work. In particular it argues that, once we have properly understood his criminology, we have strong reasons to reject any suggestion that he defends a right of rebellion.
AuthorsGUTNICK ALLEN, ST
- Theses