Baltic accent

2020 Vol. 11 №3

Back to the list Download the article

The concept “people” in the modern European political thought: Hobbes, Spinoza, Pufendorf

10.5922/ 2225-5346-2020-3-1


The author considers the evolution of the concept “people” in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Samuel Pufendorf and Benedict Spinoza. The political thought of Europe in the 17th century demonstrates a conscious turn from the medieval scholastic tradition of thinking about people and power. Politics begins to be thought of as a complex of human ac­tions aimed at achieving certain human goals. This, in turn, leads to the rationalisation of politics and, as a consequence, to the rejection of one of the most powerful mystical and theo­logical abstractions of the late Middle Ages — the concept “people” as a kind of mystical body. Protestant science makes a clear choice in favour of interpreting the concept as an “arti­ficial person”. The author emphasizes that the introduction of the concept “natural state” led to changes in the ontological status of people in political theory. The concept “people” becomes “a flickering subject” that appears during the transition from a natural state to a civil one and disappears when the transition goes in the opposite direction. In a civil state, people become an active subject when they perform the function of the legislator. In other cases, people as a political subject transform into a certain multitude, consisting of separate individuals.


Virno, P., 2013. Grammatika Mnozhestva. K Analizu Form Sovremennoi Zhizni [Grammar of the Set. To the Analysis of Forms of Modern Life]. Moscow (in Russ.).
Magun, A. V., 2011. Edinstvo i Odinochestvo. Kurs Politicheskoi Filosofii Novogo Vremeni [Unity and Loneliness. The Course of Political Philosophy of New Time]. Moscow (in Russ.).
Marey, A. V., 2019. Populus: the Birth, Death and Resurrection of the Political Subject (from Cicero to Hobbes). Sotsiologiya vlasti [Sociology of Power], 31 (4), pp. 95—111 (in Russ.).
Hardt, M. and Negri, A., 2006. Mnozhestvo: Voina i Demokratiya v Epokhu Imperii [Scores: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire]. Moscow (in Russ.).
Almain, J., 1518. Tractatus de Auctoritate Ecclesie et Conciliorum Generalium adversus Thomam de Vio. In: J. Almain, ed. Paris: Giles de Gourmont.
Canovan, M., 2005. The People. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Crignon, P., 2007. La Critique de La Représentation Politique Chez Rousseau. Les Études philosophiques, 83 (4), pp. 481—497.
Foisneau, L., 2007. Gouverner Selon La Volonté Générale: La Souveraineté Selon Rousseau et Les Théories de La Raison d’Etat. Les Études philosophiques, 83 (4), pp. 463—479.
Gould, P., 1996. Covenant and Republic: Historical Romance and the Politics of Puri­ta­nism. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Hobbes, Th., 1782. Elementa philosophica. De cive. Basileae: apud Johan. Jac. Flick.
Hobbes, Th., 2012. Leviathan, Vol. 2: The English and Latin texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Horton, M., 2009. Introducing Covenant Theology. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.
Passerin d’Entreves, A., 1969. The Notion of the State. An Introduction to Political Theory. Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Pufendorf, S., von., 1997. Gesammelte Werke. Herausgegeben von Wilhelm Schmidt-Big­gemann. Bd. 2. De officio. Herausgegeben von Gerald Hartung. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
Pufendorf, S., von., 1998. Gesammelte Werke. Herausgegeben von Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann. Bd. 4-2. De jure naturae et gentium (Liber quintus-octavus). Herausgegeben von Frank Böhling. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
Rousseau, J. J., 2001. Du contrat social. Paris: Mozambook.
Skinner, Q., 2018. From Humanism to Hobbes : Studies in Rhetoric and Politics. Cam­bridge University Press.
Smith, A. D., 2008. The Cultural Foundations of Nations: Hierarchy, Covenant, and Republic. Oxford: Blackwell.
Spinoza, B., 2014. Tutte le opere (Testi originali a fronte). A cura di Andrea di San­giacomo. Milano: Bompiani.
Viroli, M., 1987. La Théorie Du Contrat Social et Le Concept de République Chez Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, 73 (2), pp. 195—215.