August 22, 2011

King Lear and Leviathan

Alex Schulman, Duke University, has published From Lear to Leviathan: On States of Nature and Social Contracts in Shakespeare's Politics as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

Philosophers have been more ready to incorporate insights from the dramas of William Shakespeare than political theorists, who have focused more of their energies on ancient Greek tragedy. I argue that Shakespeare’s plays are a valuable and necessary resource for a political theory open to imaginative literature, by focusing specifically on King Lear and reading it against Hobbes’s Leviathan. I argue that Shakespeare tragically depicts the same process – the recreation of sovereignty out of a state of nature and emergent social contract – that Hobbes argues for normatively. Shakespeare’s play shows what is required of us psychologically and even emotionally in carrying out the Hobbesian process of disassembling hierarchical feudalism and constructing a modern political rationalism. will be provided by author.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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