The Fragility of Civilization in Hobbes's Historical Writings

  • Robert Kraynak
Keywords: Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth, history, civilization, doctrinal warfare


Hobbes's political science rests on the historical claim that civilization is inherently fragile and prone to degenerate into civil war. This claim is not systematically proven in Hobbes's political treatises, however, and must be reconstructed from his extensive set of historical writings, including Behemoth. Through a careful examination of these writings, I show that Hobbes has a coherent theory of history which traces the evolution of man from barbarism to civilization and identifies the weakness of civilization as its tendency to produce doctrinal warfare. After developing this historical critique, I argue that Hobbes is an optimist in believing that the doctrinal wars of civilization can be overcome by a process of enlightenment that would end man's irrational behavior and establish "immortal peace". I compare Hobbes's hope for an enlightened and peaceful world with the more pessimistic view of Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and conclude that Huntington has a more accurate view of history and human nature than Hobbes.


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How to Cite
Kraynak R. The Fragility of Civilization in Hobbes’s Historical Writings. FV [Internet]. 2016Jan.3 [cited 2020Sep.22];24(2). Available from: