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monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy

Subject Philosophy

People Hobbes, Thomas

Key-Topics democracy, monarchy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192626.2005.x


Following Aristotle, Hobbes holds that there are exactly three kinds of government. A people may be governed by one person or more than one; if more than one, then either by part of the people or by all of the people. Monarchy is government by one person; aristocracy is government by part of the people; democracy is government by all of the people. Other apparent names for governments are misleading. Tyranny is not different from monarchy. The word “tyranny” is simply used for a monarchy that is not liked. Similarly, “oligarchy” is used for an aristocracy that is not liked, and “anarchy” is used for a democracy that is not liked ( L 19.1–2, 46.35, “Review and Conclusion” 9; DC 7.2; EL 2.1.3). Other misleading terms are “elective kingdoms” and “limited monarchy.” A government that elects a so-called king is in fact usually a democracy and the elected official is a minister of the democracy. The phrase “limited monarchy” is a contradiction in terms since sovereignty must be unlimited or absolute. ( See sovereign. ) A so-called “limited monarch” is a minister of whoever in fact has the sovereign power, and this may be either an aristocracy or a democracy ( L 19.10, 19.12; DC 7.4; EL 2.2.9). In The Elements of Law and De Cive , Hobbes claims that aristocracy and monarchy are necessarily preceded by democracy. His argument is that aristocracy and monarchy originally require ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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