What did Hobbes think about a representative government?

Expert Answers
edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Seventeenth century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes made his most elaborated statement about representative government in his 1651 book Leviathan.

Hobbes believed that the sovereign of a people is empowered by the people to be the embodiment of their single will and voice. The sovereign is informed by representatives, but because individuals are too innately evil and self-interested, they cannot be trusted to govern.

He believed that a state is defined as a "person" that has arrived at agreement of the masses, and in doing so, produced a singular voice. The "person" who carries this voice is the sovereign. It is the duty of all, then, to submit to the power of the sovereign, whose power is absolute yet derived from those who consent to be governed in this way.

This "leviathan," as he allusively named it, is the "Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortal God, our peace and defence."

This leviathan, or absolute monarch, would, in essence, save us from ourselves.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Hobbes did not like the idea of a representative government as we know it.  He believed that an absolute monarchy was the only viable form of government.  However, that is not to say that Hobbes thought that there was no place for the people and their voices in government.  He did think that the people ought to be able to have representatives who would convey their ideas to the monarch.  The important thing was, though, that those representatives would have no power.  They could ask the king to do things, but the king was the one who would ultimately decide.  So Hobbes believed in representation, but did not think that the representatives should have any actual governing power.