Book cover art for Leviathan by Hobbes



Date of Birth
1558 CE
Date of Death
1679 CE
Known For

Written while its author was in exile during the English Civil War, Leviathan depicts human nature as aggressive and life in the absence of government—the “state of nature”—as a “war of all against all” in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Peace can be achieved only through a social compact based on absolute power of the sovereign. Hobbes’s work is not only a response to the chaos and carnage of the English Civil War, but also the colonization of North America, which raised the specter of a free and equal society that could only be, in his opinion, lawless and violent. Despite his dark pessimism, Hobbes’s influence is still largely felt in politics today.