MA in the History of Political Thoughtand Intellectual History

Theories of the early-modern state: Machiavelli, More, Hobbes, Locke

Quentin Skinner (QMUL)

Some early-modern political theorists locate the power to make laws and exercise political control in the figure of the ruler or prince.  The seminar will begin by examining the most celebrated example, Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince (1513).  Others locate these powers in the body of the republic or people.  Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Machiavelli’s Discourses (c1519) offer contrasting examples, and these will next be considered.  The seminar then turns to Thomas Hobbes’s contrasting claim in Leviathan (1651) that these powers lie instead with the fictional person of the state, before returning to the idea of popular sovereignty as developed in John Locke’s Second treatise of government (1689).

The main aim of the seminar will thus be to engage in a close reading of four classic texts of early-modern political thought.