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Magister diem non perdidisti

Russell Hardins Hobbes1


Paul-Aarons Ngomo2

Abstract: I sketch a reception of Russell Hardins critique, appropriation and creative


redeployment of hobbesian insights. I highlight the central tenets of his rereading of
Hobbes as he reconstructs the structure of his arguments to determine their
epistemological status within a broader lineage of social-scientific thinking on political
order. The result, I suggest, is a critique of Hobbes, that is, an examination of the
possibilities and limits of the conceptual framework that grounds his theory of
government. In Hardins interpretation, Hobbes is characterized as articulating a
holistic normative principle that justifies mutually advantageous institutions. He is said
to subscribe to a welfarist vision of order derived uniquely from self-interest with no
prior normative commitment. Finally, his contractarian justification of institutions is
rejected as a lousy theory that mischaracterizes the structure of the problem of
maintaining orderly government.

1. Preliminary remarks
Perusing Russell Hardins corpus, one cannot but be struck by
Hobbess ubiquitous presence in his impressive body of work. Such
striking omnipresence might appear surprising since Hobbesian themes
are virtually absent from his earlier work. Indeed, in Collective action, his
first book, Hobbes is referenced only twice. In his next book, Morality
Within the Limits of Reason3, his passing interest in Hobbes even seems to
have waned. He is nowhere to be seen in a book that offers a
reconstruction of utilitarianism as it relates to the problem of choosing
in social life.4 Contrastingly, a remarkable turning point occurs in the
ensuing decade during the fruitful years leading up to Liberalism,
Constitutionalism, and Democracy in a series of pivotal papers that lay out
the central tenets of his views on constitutions as coordinating devices.
Three of these seminal papers, namely Constitutional Political Economy:
Agreement on Rules, Why a constitution?, and Contractarianism:
Wistful Thinking, reveal the scope of his profound engagement with

1 Paper prepared for Russell Hardins Festschrift conference, New York University, November 6-
7, 2015
2 African School of Economics, Abomey-Calavi, Benin
3 Russell Hardin. 1988. Morality within the limits of reason. Chicago. The University of Chicago

press.
4 Op.cit. p.ix

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Hobbesian insights in various settings.5 Thereafter, Hobbess
unmistakable footprint surfaces everywhere, including in One for All, The
Logic of Group Conflict (1995), Hardins insightful analysis of the structure
of violent conflict.
In that work, the explanation of centrifugal mobilization spurred by
group coordination to secure group-level benefits bears the imprint of
Hobbess account of conflict in the state of nature. Since groups jostling
for political advantage behave as individual writ large, their violent
interactions replicate the structure of individual conflict. Hardin
characterizes such processes as a structured variant of the state of
nature.6 Once violent conflict starts, preemption becomes an
unavoidable urge. One need not hate members of another group, but one
might still fear their potential hatred or even merely their threat. Hobbess
vision of the need of all to preempt lest they be the victims of the few who
are murderous still fits even in the relatively organized state of ethnic
conflict, except that it applies at the group level.7
Hobbes presence in Hardins work is perhaps nowhere as prominent
as in Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy, arguably his major
work.8 After presenting Hobbes as a theorist of order keenly aware that it
clearly serves our mutual advantage to have the most draconian
government rather than to live in anarchy or civil war9, he goes on to
argue that with an addition and one qualification, or emphasis, Hobbes's
thesis is also the thesis of this book. The qualification, addressed especially
is that in some societies there is little hope of coordination on mutual
advantageconflict is too divisive and beyond compromise.10 The
addition comes in the shape of a striking observation. As Hardin says, if
a society can coordinate on basic political and economic order, then it can
risk politics at the margin over lesser issuesWhere there is broad
consensus on order, we do not need Hobbes's autocrat to rule us.11
Elsewhere, Hardin concludes his Liberalism, Constitutionalism and
Democracy with a reminder that pointedly explains why Hobbes is given
5 See Russell Hardin. 1988, Constitutional Political Economy: Agreement on Rules, British
Journal of Political Science, 18 (October): 513-30; Why a Constitution? in Bernard Grofman and
Donald Wittman (eds.), 1989. The Federalist Papers and the New Institutionalism, New York:
Agathon Press, pp. 100-120, and Contractarianism: Wistful Thinking, 1990. Constitutional
Political Economy, 1 (2): 35-52.
6 Russell Hardin, 1995. One for All. The Logic of Group Conflict. Princeton: Princeton University

press, p.9
7 Op.cit. p.144
8 Russell Hardin. 1999. Liberalism, Constitutionalism and Democracy. New York: Oxford

University press, 379p.


9 Op.cit. p.4.
10 Op.cit. p.5. Italics supplied.
11 Op.cit. p.5

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pride of place in his explanatory framework: the theorists whose names
have come up most frequently in this book are Hobbes and Madison. That
is in large part because they were pre-eminently concerned with
workability. Acquiescence was Hobbes's central principle for citizens,
because general acquiescence is necessary for government to work. 12 This
claim sets the tone for his critical reception of Hobbes
We might easily overlook the motivation behind Hardins mid-career
frequent evocations of Hobbes if we construe them merely as an erudite
foray into the history of political thought to excavate compelling
illustrations to buttress his arguments. As he forcefully writes, I use
Hobbesnot for the content of his theory but for his great originality in
seeing the two-level nature of our general problem of political justification.
This is an aspect of Hobbes's account that has received inadequate
recognition by subsequent thinkers.13 Though he praises Hobbes, Hardin
eschews exegesis by revisiting him to mine modal categories that fit the
underlying structure of a variety of strategic interactions. It bears
mentioning that Hardins Hobbesian turn occurred only when the
recurring themes of his larger program had already been schematically
laid out in Collective Action and Morality Within the Limits of Reason.
Indeed, familiar topics such as Hardins view of coordination for mutual
advantage in an iterated coordination gameto achieve a convention
feature prominently in the first of these books.14 In a similar vein, the latter
fleshes out an account of institutional utilitarianism discernible behind
his view that the early origins of the general utilitarian justification of
government may be found in the theory of Hobbes.15
Why, then, we may ask, does he turn to Hobbes? His goal, as he
states it, is to join the enterprise of re-reading Hobbes as a proto-game
theorist.16 He lauds Hobbes as the first major coordination theorist.17
Elsewhere, he is credited with laying the foundations for rational choice
theory and for a major branch of political philosophy thereafter.18
Hardins reading of Hobbes is perhaps best expressed in the words of
Gregory Kavka, another prominent Hobbesian revisionist, who is adamant
in his insistence that if Hobbess philosophy is to be taken seriously today,
it must be modified in certain respects. Some of his arguments must be

12 Op.cit. p.318
13 See Russell Hardin, Deliberation. Method not theory, in Stephen Macedo (Ed). 1999.
Deliberative Politics. Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. New York. Cambridge University
press, p.105.
14 Russell Hardin. 1982. Collective Action. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, p.13
15 Russell Hardin. 2003. Indeterminacy and Society. Princeton. Princeton University press, p.12
16 Russell Hardin, 1991. Hobbesian Political Order, Political Theory 19, p.158
17 Russell Hardin. 1999. Liberalism, Constitutionalism and Democracy. Op.cit. p.11
18 Russell Hardin. 2007. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.208

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modified or discarded.19 Endorsing just such a program, Russell Hardin
revisits Hobbes to locate his central insights in a broader lineage of
strategic explanations of the problem faced by those striving to establish
and maintain workable institutions. Hardin approaches Hobbes as a
theorist of order whose analytical categories are ordered with a formal rigor
that makes them amenable to a game theoretically reconstruction. Though
the Hobbes that emerges from Hardins probing and reconstructive grip
might seem slightly unusual, he is confident that even someone, at least
a political philosopher, who disagrees with my account of him should
nevertheless be interested in the theory I attribute to him, because it is a
wonderfully spare baseline theory.20 The theory imputed to Hobbes
purports to explain how order is maintained once it arises from dyadic
interactions. Hardin finds it compelling enough to endorse it unreservedly
as a self-standing theory should anyone cast doubt on its Hobbesian
credentials. As he contends, It is not important whether my account of
Hobbes is correct- those who think I have Hobbes wrong can read my
account of his theory as my theory of social order.21 Whether Hardin
should retain the theory imputed to Hobbes as his own is not the issue
here. Instead, my goal is partly expository and partly evaluative. I present
a reception of his critique, appropriation and creative redeployment of
Hobbesian insights. The purpose of such a reception is to highlight the
varied aspects of his rereading of Hobbes as he reconstructs the structure
of his arguments to determine their epistemological status in a broader
lineage of social-scientific thinking on political order. The result, I suggest,
is a critique of Hobbes, that is, an examination of the possibilities and
limits of the conceptual framework that grounds his theory of government.
Briefly described, Russell Hardins interpretation of Hobbes revolves
around three related arguments. First, he is presented as the progenitor
of a minimalist value theory built on a holistic normative principle to
justify mutually advantageous institutions.22 In contrast to standard
deontological theories of political justification, he is said to subscribe to a
welfarist vision of order derived uniquely from self-interest with no prior
normative commitment. Second, Hobbes is praised for articulating a two-
stage theory of government and of justification23. In practice Hardin
contends, at the first stage we create and justify government. At the

19 See Gregory Kavka. 1986. Hobbesian moral and political theory. Princeton. Princeton University
press, p.xii
20 Liberalism Constitutionalism and Democracy, op.cit. footnote 6, p.2
21 Russell Hardin. Law and Social Order, Philosophy Issues 11 (1) 2001, p.65
22 Russell Hardin. 2003. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. p.121
23 Russell Hardin, Deliberation, Method not theory, in Stephen Macedo (Ed). 1999. Deliberative

Politics. Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. New York: Cambridge University press, p.106

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second stage, government creates policies.24 Third, Hobbes contractarian
justification of institutions is rejected as a lousy theory25 that misframes
the structure of the problem of maintaining government. It is argued that
His story is fundamentally silly and of no real interest.26 Overall, Hardin
boldly claims, Hobbes is hamstrung by his contractarian theory of the
creation of government and somehow errs when he seemingly
characterizes individuals involved in the initial empowerment of
government as parties facing a one-time coordination problem.27 He goes
on to argue that Humes account of convention offers a rigorous alternative
to Hobbess theory of government in clarifying the strategic underpinnings
of the establishment and maintenance of order. Moreover, Hardin suggests
that Hobbes is often ambivalent about what problem he wishes to resolve.
His discussion is more or less equally about the creation and the
maintenance of sovereign government.28
Presumably, because of his supposed ambivalence, Hobbes
overlooks the stabilizing potential of repeated interactions for social
cooperation. As a result, he recommends draconian enforcement to solve
the problem of maintenance government. In trying to empower
government, Hardin argues, agents are faced with a repeated coordination
problem. While I am generally sympathetic to Hardins enterprise, I wish
to suggest that his revisionist interpretation raises concerns as to its
Hobbesian orthodoxy. Because Hardin often explains Hobbess views by
contrasting them with those of Hume, his humeanized Hobbes is often
dehistoricized. His chronocentric bias leads him to see in Hobbes a partly
successful theorist of order who could not grasp the structure of iterated
coordinations. In doing so, he overlooks Hobbess central insight about the
efficacy of a prudent exercise of sovereignty to maintain orderly
government.
In what follows, I examine Hardins reception, modification and
incorporation of Hobbess insights in his own explanatory account of
orderly government as follows. The next three sections are primarily
expository, albeit with occasional critical assessments. Section 2 explores
Hardins reconstruction of the value theory that grounds Hobbess
justification of order. Section 3 explores Hardins characterization of
Hobbes as a coordination theorist whose central problem is the
maintenance of government, not its creation from the state of nature. In
section 4, I argue that Hardins convention-based account of the

24 Op.cit. p.106.
25 See Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. footnote 14, p.87
26 Op.cit. p.81
27 Op.cit. p.56
28 Russell Hardin. 1991. Hobbesian political order, Op.cit. p.157

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maintenance of order runs against Hobbess view that collective prosperity
depends on a successful exercise of entire Soveraignty. 29 I contend that
the maintenance of order is causally related to the performance of the
sovereign in the procuration of the safety of the people.30 In short, the
maintenance of government depends primarily on the skillfulness of
whoever holds the office of the soveraign representative.31
2. Hobbess value theory of political order
The claim that Hobbes justification of government starts from a
particular value theory hardly features in standard accounts of his moral
theory.32 They are usually preoccupied with the normative status of his
account of the laws of nature. Typically, the discussion on laws of nature
explores whether they are best interpreted as deontological principles,
divine commands, or simply as prudential precepts. 33 As a result, it has
very little to say about the value theory that grounds the strategic moves
to endorse order. In his interpretation of Hobbes justification of
government, Hardin provides an account of cooperation that rejects
visions of moral obligation derived from an overarching theory of the good
or the right. Unlike a fairly standard moralized account of Hobbes's
intent that articulates a theory of moral obligation to the sovereign that
follows merely from contracting34, he reads Hobbes as expounding a
utilitarian rather than a deontological theory of government that grounds
decisions on some an exogenous moral principle. We choose life under
government not because of its intrinsic goodness, but primarily insofar as
it is the most efficient means to achieve desired ends. Government has no
value in its own right, it is merely the means to the end of human welfare,
Hardin argues.35 While he generally endorses psychological explanations
of motivation that subordinate reasons for action to self-interest, he does
not does follow them in presenting a prudential account of action that
describes Hobbess enterprise as one whose primary aim is to

29 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Oxford: Oxford University press, Vol 2,
Chapter 31, p.574
30 Op.cit. p.520
31 Op.cit. p.520
32 Russell Hardin. 2001. The normative core of rational choice theory in Uskali Mki (ed.) The

Economic World View: Studies in the Ontology of Economics. New York. Cambridge University
Press, p.60
33 This simplification glosses over nuances. For a fuller account see A.P. Martinich. 1992. The

Two Gods of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes on Religion and Politics. New York. Cambridge University
press, Chapter 3. For a more recent interpretation of the laws of nature. see S.A. Lloyd. 2009.
Morality in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes Cases in the Law of Nature. New York. Cambridge
University press.
34 Russell Hardin. 1999. Liberalism, Constitutionalism and Democracy. Op.cit. pp.19-20
35 Op.cit. p.47

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demonstrate what men ought, and what they ought not, to do, as David
Gauthier contends.36 Rather than articulating a prescriptive theory of
human motivation, Hardin presents a hobbesian value theory that
illuminates the motivational basis of mutually agreeable commitments.
Hardin uses a terminology that was unavailable to Hobbes to clarify
the normative underpinnings of his axiology. Like Hobbes, he rejects the
inherentist view that value inheres in things. 37 The central claim of his
account is the view that Hobbess value theory was individualist and
ordinalist.38 While describing Hobbess premises as individualist fits
standard interpretations of his account of human motivation, it is less
common to cast him as a ordinalist value theorist. Though the claim might
appear anachronistic, it conveys the intuition behind Hobbess holistic
justification of the government because it establishes a state of affairs
ordinally better than one in which conflict destroys mutually beneficial
cooperation. The valuation is ordinal insofar the choice is between two
state of affairs with contrasting implications. We may say that Hobbesian
individualist ordinalism grounds valuations that elicit choices that meet
individual expectations holistically since they are typically focused on the
problem of collectively providing for individual welfare. 39 Furthermore,
Hardin argues, the central move of such theory is typically to create an
institutional structure that will guarantee the welfare of individuals who
act sensibly, which is commonly to say, who act according to the simple
canons of rational choice.40 This claim needs unpacking. There are two
related points at play here. First, valuations are a reflection of individual
expectations in the following sense: my choice of a state of affairs as the
most desirable is driven by the urge to obtain conditions conducive to my
welfare. Second, my choice is only cashed out collectively since my
preferred state of affairs coincides with the expectations of other agents
striving to achieve their welfare. The baseline that allows each of us to
secure our welfare is mutually advantageous because it works
aggregatively. In this sense, we may say that mutual advantage is the
collective implication of self-interest because to say that an outcome of our
choices is mutually advantageous is to say that it serves the interest of

36 David Gauthier. 1969. The Logic of Leviathan: The Moral and Political Theory of Thomas
Hobbes. Oxford. Oxford University press, p.27
37 This is roughly G.E. Moores value theory. Contrastingly, Hobbes argues that The value of all

things contracted for is measured by the appetite of the contractors, and therefore the just value
is that which they be contented to give. See Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm.
Chapter 15, Op.cit. p.228
38 Russell Hardin. 2003. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. p.43
39 See Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.173
40 Op.cit. p.173

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each and every one of us. One could say that, in this view, collective value
is emergent; it is merely what individuals want.41
On the preceding view, the holistic value is order. We are all strictly
comparatively better off under orderly government because the rise of
order is a holistic resolution that saves us all from the nefarious prospects
of a solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short 42 life that awaits in a world
in which we are left to our own devices to fend for ourselves, each of us
assured of a dreadful and untimely demise. It follows that an ordinalist
valuation grounds Hobbess justification of orderly government. For
Hardin, A striking feature of Hobbess view is that it is a relative
assessment of whole states of affairs: Life under one form of government
versus life under another or under no government at all. 43 Individual
values are realized collectively since it is in our mutual interest to endorse
an institutional structure that stabilizes expectations. As such, crediting
Hobbes with the astonishing success of founding government in an
account from self-interest, or rather from its collective implication in
mutual advantage amounts to stressing that collective welfare is
essentially self-interest writ large.44
Accordingly, a theory of the good or the right that derives its
normative force from an abstract moral impetus that requires us to act
justly does not yield workable valuations because it fails to grasp that
collective resolutions are reliably efficient when they speak to individual
valuations and expectations about welfare, that is, when they speak to our
self-interest and motivate us on such grounds. This is Hardins ordinalist
interpretation of Hobbes value theory. Recall that he is primarily interested
in identifying the normative principle that aligns individual valuations,
that is, self-interest, with collective concerns, so that resolving the latter
only requires a motivational theory predicated on disaggregated
individual values.45 The casualty of this rereading is the deontological
interpretation of laws of nature as transcending norms that motivate
action purely on moral grounds. In Hardins account of Hobbesian value
theory, valuations are self-centered and primarily endogenous since only
circumstances of choice and their constraints determine how individuals
act, regardless of other religious or moral commitment they may have.
Facing the ordinalist choice between order and deadly anarchy,

41 Russell Hardin. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. p.14


42 See Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Vol. 2, Chapter 13, Op.cit. p.192
43 Russell Hardin. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. pp.43.44
44 I leave aside Hardins discussion of Hobbess trick to overcome indeterminacy to escape the

problem of justifying the choice of forms of government, an issue Hobbes conveniently sweeps
under the rug. See Hardin, Op.cit. p.43
45 Op.cit. p.13

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individuals would prefer the former because it comports with their
fundamental values that motivate them, namely survival and welfare.46
To sharpen the contrast between his minimalist account of
Hobbesian value theory and deontological views of the laws of nature,
Hardin boldly reinterpret them as sociological laws about what would
work to our interest, not because they are in some sense moral.47 On this
reading, self-interest motivates collective resolutions of individual
problems. What is more, endogenizing laws of nature by framing them as
workable precepts rather than as exogenous commands, as is often the
case in deontological readings, offers an insightful interpretation of the
connection between Hobbess moral and psychological claims and his
political theory. The primacy of order implies that moral concerns are only
relevant when they fit the structure or order, as is the case when normative
orders match self-interest to elicit cooperation without an ad hoc claim of
normative commitments.48 In Hardins reading of Hobbess value theory,
the values of survival and welfare ground stable orders. It is the only
normative foundation required to achieve stability; hence, the claim that
Hobbes's theory of government required no normative principle of
obligation reaffirms the primacy of self-interest as a minimalist principle
of valuation. The positive and the normative are inescapably intertwined
because they are driven by related motors, that is, individual incentives
for individual benefits.49
Let us pull together the preceding claims to summarize Hardins
account of Hobbess value theory. Because self-interest drives our
valuations, our commitments are unlikely to be shaped by exogenous
normative stances. Except for a fringe group of religious fanatics or glory-
seekers in our midst, survival and welfare typically justify our
commitments, especially acquiescence to orderly government in the face
of the possibility of chaos. This ordinalist claim grounds Hobbess view of
political justification. Despite claims to the contrary that interpret him as
arguing that because we have agreed to government we are morally
obligated to stick by our agreement, Hardin characterizes his actual
justification as more nearly utilitarian because it is grounded in mutual
advantage. Insofar as we are all better off to have a state and, once we
have one, to avoid dissension and revolution, the value theory that
underlies the justification of government is fundamentally welfarist, not

46 Op.cit. p.13
47 Emphasis in the original. See Russell Hardin. 1999. Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and
Democracy. Op.cit. p.2
48 Russell Hardin. 2003. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. p.54
49 Russell Hardin. 2001. The normative core of rational choice theory, Op.cit. p.61.

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deontological.50 Valuations predicated on the values of survival and
welfare turn mutual advantage into relatively compelling holistic
normative principle because they elicit patterns of coordination that
might generate positive implications for the whole society. Hardin calls
Hobbesian efficiency the grounding of value theoretic accounts in
individuals to justify collective choice. Its appeals lies in providing a
holistic justification order or to the structure of a legal system.51 This is
the foundation of Hardins claim that Hobbes's theory of political
sovereignty has its minimalist moral grounding in mutual advantage. 52
Accordingly, Hobbes is at once welfarist and resourcist since prospects
of greater welfare in a stable order are enticing enough to elicit
commitment to stave off chaos.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Hobbess value theory- as
Hardin reconstructs it- lies in its strictly political character. It is entirely a
justificatory theory that provides an account of workable institutions
based on self-interest, not one rooted in a moralizing conception of order.
Orderly government is appealing because it allows self-seeking individuals
to pursue their ends by removing the immediate threat of a violent demise.
Since they prioritize order, agents who coordinate to set up government
need not subscribe to a comprehensive moral framework to establish
institutions. In short order arises at the large scale of the whole society
and remains stable because it fulfils expectations about peaceful
interactions holistically.53 In this sense, Hobbes can be read as articulating
a holistic justification of orderly government derived from individual
expectations about survival and welfare. As such, workable institutions
remain stable because they encapsulate individual values of survival and
welfare, not by virtue of some intrinsic moral appeal. This is the view
grounds Hardins interpretation of Hobbes as a coordination theorist of
order discussed in greater details in the next section.

3. Coordination not contract: The maintenance of order


Against contractarian interpretations of Hobbes, Hardin casts him
as a coordination theorist of order. The move is daring for its unabashed
revisionism. It suggests that Hobbes might have misunderstood the
structure of the problem he set out to solve. His ambivalence is purportedly
reflected in the fact that he allegedly failed to grasp the practical difference

50 Op.cit. p.69
51 Russell Hardin. 1993. Efficiency, in Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit (Eds). A Companion
to Contemporary political philosophy. Malden. MA. Blackwell publishers, p.463.
52 Russell Hardin. 1993. Altruism and mutual advantage, Social Service Review 67 (3), p.362.
53 Russell Hardin. 2007. David Hume: Moral and Political theorist. Op.cit. p.107

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between the initial empowerment of government and its maintenance once
it is established. As Hardin writes, Hobbes, has essentially two different
theories: creation of government and maintenance of government. Part of
the first theory is of the creation of a sovereign by contract. It is a lousy
theory because it runs against the strategic problem of transferring power
from all individual citizens to the sovereign and it is historically irrelevant.
The theory of maintenance requires only Humes convention for order and
Hobbes does not give us an account of how ongoing order works.54
Presumably, Hobbess vision of the maintenance of government by
draconian force stems from his insufficient grasp of the effects of
repeated interactions in stabilizing order. As a result, he could not
articulate the kind of convention-based account of order Hume
subsequently developed because he distinctly understood that such
interactions change the incentive structure of cooperation. The crux of
Hardins argument is to suggest that Hobbess misdescription of the
problem of maintaining government did not prevent him from developing
a compelling account of the initial empowerment of government that
derives order entirely from self-interest. While his just-so-story of the rise
of order is typically couched in a contractarian idiom, its explanatory
structure is that of coordination, not contract.
Reinterpreting Hobbes as a coordination theorist of order helps
clarify how the problem of creating and maintaining government can be
resolved without instituting an all-powerful sovereign. Once the initial
empowerment of government is redescribed as a coordination game, it is
far easier to see how the alignment of incentives triggers the move out of
the state of nature. As Hardin argues, What makes the problem of
coordination rise above the conflict in my wanting everything and your
wanting everything is the tremendous prospect for production and mutual
gain from allowing each of us to keep some of what we have and
produce.55 As such, the choice is between two contrasting states of affairs.
On the one hand, the persistence of chaos ruins the possibility of fruitful
exchanges for everyone. On the other hand, a government structure allows
everyone to engage in productive activities without the constant fear of a
violent demise.
Hardins favorite representation of the empowerment of government
is expressed in a game of constitutional coordination where the best
outcome is one in which a productive society makes everyone better off.56

54 See Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. footnote 14, p.87
55 See Russell Hardin. Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy, Op.cit, p.97
56 In Hardins illustration, there are 4 states: (1,1), (2,4) or (4,2) and (3,3). The best state for each

agent is (1,1). (2,4) and (4,2) describe the state of nature allocation of everything) to one of the
agents whereas (3,3) represents the status quo in the state of nature. See op.cit. p.97

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The game-theoretic redescription of the choice agents face in setting up
government buttresses the view that coordination for order, not a contract,
gets agents out the deadly circumstances of the state of nature. Unlike the
considerable majority of those who see Hobbes essentially as a
contractarian, Hardin characterizes him as a coordination theorist
because he clearly saw that the central value of government that makes
it easy to assent to is that it enables us to coordinate in the production of
enormous gains.57 Once order is in place, cooperating to maintain it
becomes a strictly dominant strategy for most people. The case for Hobbes
as a coordination theorist goes hand in hand with the refutation of rival
interpretations. In three such interpretations, he is variably described as
a conflict theorist, a consent theorist, and a theorist of order who sees the
problem of exiting the state of nature by establishing government as a large
prisoners dilemma.58 Those who portray Hobbes as the preeminent
conflict theorist read him as articulating an account of order in which
draconian enforcement of order keeps society from disintegration. Shared-
value theorists who characteristically emphasize the role of common
norms and values in preserving social cohesion and their critics who see
continuous order as the result of constraint, if not force agree, albeit for
distinct reasons, that Hobbes is a conflict theorist.59 Those who see
Hobbes as a consent theorist seem to have a far more compelling case than
those who read him as a conflict theorist.
The central claim in the standard interpretation of Hobbes as a
consent theorist is predicated on a contractarian account of political
obligation. It stipulates that subjects are obligated to obey government
because they have consented to it. On this account, the social contract
empowers government via a consensual resolution the problem of anarchy
that plagues the state of nature. One finds several textual warrants in
Hobbess writings that lend credence to the contractarian account of
government as arising from the consent of the governed. In a significant
passage of his Leviathan, he argues that political unity is made by
covenant of every man with every man to empower government. 60
Likewise, he envisions the creation of government as a process of
divestiture involving parties in a starting position agreeing to conferre all
their power and strengths upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men,
that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will. 61 In

57 Op.cit. p.98
58 Russell Hardin. 1991. Hobbesian political order, Op.cit. p.157
59 See Ralf Dahrendorf. 1968. Essays in the theory of society. Stanford. Stanford University press,

p.141
60 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Chapter 17, Op.cit. p.260
61 Op.cit. p.260

12
Hobbes covenantal justification of government, the Soveraigne power is
conferred by the consent of the People assembled.62 But the tale of
consent sits uneasily with Hobbess account of sovereignty by acquisition.
Indeed, his convoluted justification of the power of the sovereign by
acquisition does little to dispel the suspicion that sovereignty obtained
through conquest is hardly defensible on a contractarian basis. In such
realms, compliance is obtained through coercion -not by consent- since
the defeated and subjugated populace is powerless and frightened by a
powerful conqueror who by Warre subdueth his enemies to his will, giving
them their lives on that condition, as Hobbes contends. 63 In Hardins
appraisal of Hobbes, consent is merely part of a just-so story of
contractarian justification of order, not the key insight of his explanatory
account of the rise and maintenance of governance.
In fact, Hobbes himself readily recognized that establishing
government does not require the consent of all parties. All that is required
to establish government is the acquiescence of the majority, not universal
consent. Hobbes says as much when he claims that because the major
part hath by consenting voices declared a Soveraigne; he that dissented
must now consent with the rest; that is, be contented to avow all the
actions he shall do, or else justly be destroyed by the rest.64 As is the case
with sovereignty by acquisition, coercion rather than consent plays a
significant role in empowering government. Hardins strongest arguments
against the consent-based justification of order come out in his wholesale
dismissal of the contractarian account of the creation of government from
the state of nature. In the contractarian variant of the initial creation of
government, order arises following a transfer of power from consenting
parties to a sovereign endowed with the prerogative to secure compliance
with the power of the sword.
In Hardins view, an actual transfer of power faces an
unsurmountable hurdle. The target here is Hobbess account of the
transfer of power from individuals to one man or to an assembly of men.
Hardins point is that no such move is possible because power is an
attribute that inheres in human faculties. As Hobbes says, the power of
Man, (to take it Universally) is his present means, to obtain some future
apparent Good. And is either Originall, or Instrumentall. Naturall power,
is the eminence of the faculties of body, or mind; as extraordinary strength,
form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, nobility. Instrumental are those
powers which, acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and
instruments to acquire more; as riches, reputation, friends, and the secret
62 Op.cit. chapter 18, p.264
63 Op.cit. chapter 17, p.262
64 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Chapter 18, Op.cit. p.268

13
working of God, which men call good luck. 65 In asserting this view,
Hardin says, Hobbes falters. Indeed, We can consent all we want to but,
as a matter of actual fact we cannot simply hand our power over to anyone
if that power is constituted primarily of our human capacities. I consent
to the movement of the mountain before us out of our path, but it will not
happen therefore. And our new sovereign cannot enter office with any
power worth having for the awesome tasks ahead.66 The contractarian
story is deemed unworkable because individuals cannot literally transfer
their natural faculties or their instrumental power to a sovereign.
Accordingly, the very idea of a transfer of power is merely a derivation by
fiat given the impossibility of transferring faculties. What is at stake here
is the logical consistency of Hobbes contractarian account of the creation
of government by consent. Its central category-creation by consent is
deemed hollow and empirically irrelevant since it fails to explain how
government is empowered by agents facing the ordinal choice between
orderly interactions and chaos.
According to Hardin, Hobbes contractarian argument lacks a
credible account of the initial empowerment of government explaining the
aggregation of power and its transfer to a sovereign. 67 Hobbes is said to
have grasped that the problem of transfer inescapably leads to an impasse
when it is framed as one of conferring power upon a sovereign from an
initial position. He seems to acknowledge as much when he says in his De
Cive that no man can transfer his power in a naturall manner. 68 Yet he
subsequently goes on to argue that order is created when each citizen
hath conveighed all his strength and power to that man, or counsel; which
to have done is nothing else then to have parted with his Right of
resisting.69 Hobbess misstep lies in unwarrantedly supposing that
faculties can be transferred to a sovereign to establish order. In Hardins
assessment, Hobbes recognizes great difficulties in this transition and he
wavers between saying we transfer rights to the sovereign and saying we
transfer power.70 This ambiguity persists in Leviathan. There, Hobbes
derives the power of the sovereign from a conferral of power and strength
upon one man or an assembly. The move said to be more than consent,
concord since it is a reall Unitie of them all, in one and the same person,
made by Covenant of every man with every man. The representative thus
created, Hobbes concludes, hath the use of so much Power and Strength

65 Op.cit. chapter 10, p.132


66 Russell Hardin. 2007. David Hume: Moral and Political theorist. Op.cit. p.215
67 Op.cit. p.214
68 Thomas Hobbes. 1983. De Cive, ed. Howard Warrender. Oxford. Oxford University press, p.90
69 69 Op.cit. p.90
70 Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.215

14
conferred on him, that by terror thereof, he is inabled to conforme the wills
of them all, to Peace at home, and mutuall ayd against their enemies
abroad.71 Hardins objection clearly stands. Indeed, despite emphasizing
that the covenant empowers government and consolidates a reall Unitie
of them all, Hobbes did not explain how faculties that inhere in
individuals can be aggregated and bestowed upon the sovereign. As Hardin
observes, the problem of how individuals powers get aggregated and
transferred to the sovereign has magically dropped out of discussion. 72
Hobbess unconvincing attempt to solve the problem of aggregating power
is essentially an artifact of his contractarian framework. The argument
from contract to empower government fails because its presumptive
consensual foundation is unworkable. This is the core of Hardins
argument against Hobbess contractarian theory of the creation of order
from the state of nature. Its general thrust is that conjuring up power by
mere consent is impossible since any such derivation is crippled by the
insuperable problem of holistically aggregating individual capacities to give
rise to a governor. But Hardin also suggests that Hobbess derivation of
order need not stand or fall contingent on the reliability of its contractarian
framework since his central insight does not require consent to work.
As it happens, Hobbes seems to have implicitly acknowledged the
practical irrelevance of his account of a creation of government by contract
when he readily conceded that there is scarce a commonwealth in the
world whose beginnings can in conscience be justified.73 If the beginnings
of all governments are hardly justifiable because they arose by usurpation,
conquest, or by some other de facto claim to power, the very idea of
justifying their creation by consent loses much of its interest. To put it
differently, the central problem is not the creation of government ex nihilo
but its maintenance, that is, our reasons to acquiesce to extant order.74 In
Russell Hardins assessment, Hobbes sees this clearly enough even
though he misdescribes it with the language of contract. His
misdescription of the structure of the problem of order presumably led
Hobbes to construe it as one of solving a large number problem of
exchange or collective action.75 Yet, as Hardin suggests, Despite calling
the resolution a contract he sees the problem of creating government as
strategically a problem of simple coordination, not of exchange. 76 Once
stripped of his contractarian garbs, Hardin suggests, Hobbes appears

71 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Vol 2, Chapter 17, p.260.
72 Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.216
73 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Vol 3, A Review and Conclusion, p.1135
74 See Russell Hardin. 1991. Hobbesian political order. Op.cit. p.159
75 Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.218
76 Op.cit. p.218

15
primarily as a coordination theorist whose dominant concern is the
maintenance of government in the face of political upheaval. Though much
of his discussion and the large commentary it has elicited is
overwhelmingly about the creation of government, a great deal of his
Leviathan is devoted mostly to the issue of maintaining government.
As noted earlier, Hardin interprets Hobbes as articulating two
theories, the first is about the creation of government and the second
about its maintenance. He contends that while they are all coordination
theories, only the theory of maintenance is relevant to the real world of
his and all times, while the first is essentially fictional. 77 Indeed, whether
we are transitioning from the state of nature to orderly government or are
merely trying to preserve extant government, the issue at stake is
fundamentally a simple coordination problem of getting government to
work or to preserve extant order. As a result, and this is the heart of
Hardins interpretation of Hobbes as a coordination theorist, Our choice
is a matter of mutual advantage, which, again, is the collective implication
of self-interest.78 Hence emphasizing coordination as the underlying
explanatory structure of the maintenance of orderly government
undercuts the view that Hobbess vision of the state of nature is basically
a prisoners dilemma that can be overcome only by covenanting out via a
collective resolution to establish government. Against this view, Hardin
shows that characterizing the state of nature as an instance of the
prisoners dilemma misses the structure of the problem that preoccupied
Hobbes. While there are innumerable potential prisoners dilemmas in the
state of nature, it is not itself a prisoners dilemma. In Hardins view,
Hobbes most cogent arguments, however, imply that the creation of a
sovereign to resolve quotidian Prisoners Dilemma interactions is itself a
coordination problem rather than a contractual or exchange problem.79
The initial empowerment of government differs from an n-prisoners
dilemma that must be resolved by agreement and then enforcement of the
agreement in that no one could plausibly free-ride on the choice of
establishing a sovereign.80 Though I might prefer to be able to avoid the
sovereigns glare when I wish to steal from you in the political society on
which we have coordinatedI cannot free-ride on the initial coordination
itself.81 Hardins creative insight here is to reinterpret Hobbes by
reframing his central problem as one of coordinating to maintain order,
not one of contractually creating it from the state of nature.

77 Russell Hardin. 2001. Law and social order, Philosophical Issues 11, p.66
78 Russell Hardin. 2003. Indeterminacy and society. Op.cit. p. 43
79 79 Russell Hardin. David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist. Op.cit. p.222.
80 Op.cit. p.110
81 Op.cit. p.110.

16
Yet even as he recognizes Hobbes credentials as a coordination
theorist, Hardin is quick to emphasize that his limited grasp of the
structure of the problem of maintaining order brings to the fore analytical
shortcomings he could not overcome. Hardin deems Hobbess grasp of the
problem of maintaining government conceptually inadequate because he
saw it mainly as one of enforcement order through draconian force. The
inadequacy lies in approaching the establishment and maintenance of
order as a one-time coordination problem resolved by empowering a
sovereign tasked with preserving orderly cooperation. Hence, Hobbess
resolution is inherently conservative and biased towards the status quo.
He is said to have failed to grasp how repeated interactions could lead to
very stable, compelling incentives for continuing coordination that is
spontaneous and that is not deliberately organized through an explicit
agreement or overseen by any manager to keep us in line.82 To redeem
Hobbes, he turns to Hume to mine his insights on the institutional
implications of iterated interactions to provide an account of large scale
coordination for order without draconian enforcement.
Reading Hobbes through humean lenses magnifies his analytical
shortcomings and reveals the scope of his incomplete grasp of the
challenging problem of maintaining government after the initial
coordination to secure peace. In humeanizing Hobbes, Hardin achieves
two important goals with a single hermeneutical move. First, he
successfully highlights Hobbes analytical limits. Second, he shows how
conceptual improvements enhance the clarification of the structure of the
problem of maintaining order as later thinkers use new tools to provide
new resolutions to longstanding issues that successfully displace old
solutions. Thus, from Hobbess one-time coordination through Humes
more sophisticated account of repeated interactions, we readily discern a
progress that illuminates various steps of a gradual conceptual
transformation. In this case, the transformation starts with Hobbes. It
then journeys through Hume and reaches its peak with contemporary
game-theoretic accounts of strategic interactions. Because he could not
see the stabilizing potential of iterated interactions, Hobbes remained
oblivious to the normative force of conventions. Consequently, Hardin
says, he overestimates the need for an especially powerful state to
regulate behavior.83
In contrast, Hume grasped how iterated interactions stabilize
expectations. Unlike Hobbes, he also clearly understood how such
interactions induce the rise of conventions. Once coordination on a given

82 Russell Hardin. 2007. David Hume: Moral and Political theorist. Op.cit. p.214
83 Op.cit. p.214

17
course of action occurs frequently, it reinforces expectations that generate
incentives to reproduce the same coordination over time. Thus, Hume
could clearly explain what Hobbes could not comprehend, namely that the
maintenance of government arises out of stabilizing convention that bind
self-interested agents. Hobbes could only ensure the maintenance of
government by instituting an overbearing sovereign who elicits compliance
through sheer force. Moreover, subsequent political liberalization is even
possible since the incentives that back conventions can partially control
even political office holders, who can be constrained in ways that Hobbes
did not grasp.84 We acquiesce in government and stay in line because it
is in our best interest to do so, not because we fear the wrath of the
sovereign. In Humes conventional account of the maintenance of
government, a dual coordination undergirds any workable political order.
Whereas those in the governmentcoordinate on their governing roles,
those who constitute the citizenry coordinate on obedience or
acquiescence to the governors.85
Though Russell Hardin convincingly mines Humes insights to
undermine Hobbess justification of a powerful sovereign, it is not entirely
clear that he successfully does away with his model of a governor as a
performer whose leadership elicits the acquiescence of the citizenry. The
convention-based account of the maintenance of government proceeds as
though endogenously emerging conventions could consistently stabilize
expectations without the need of an external mechanism that guarantees
the enforcement of promises in large scale social formations. This is
precisely the role a skillful leader typically performs. I surmise that Hobbes
envisioned the sovereign as an agent tasked with discharging exactly such
a duty. While Hume rightly explains why political stability need not depend
on a draconian sovereign, he did not fully grasp that there is more to
Hobbess theory of political leadership than draconian enforcement. I
argue in the next section that Hardins reliance on what he sees as Humes
solution to Hobbess central problem leads him to overlook the proactive
and strategic role of the sovereign in eliciting acquiescence without relying
exclusively on coercion.86
4. The sovereign at the helm
One of the most innovative features of Russell Hardins rereading of
Hobbes lies in asserting the primacy of the maintenance of government
over its creation. On this view, what matters is not so much the initial

84 Op.cit. p.224
85 Op.cit. p.96
86 Op.cit. p.224

18
creation of government, but its preservation in the face of grave perils that
might trigger widespread chaos and reduce most people to a poor, nasty,
brutish, and short life. Furthermore, focusing on maintaining government
is also consistent with what seems to have been Hobbess central
motivation in writing a political treatise occasioned, as he says, by the
disorders of the present time, without partiality, without application, and
without other designe, than to set before mens eyes the mutuall relation
between protection and obedience.87 Strikingly, however, Hardins
conventionalist interpretation of the maintenance of government derives
its explanatory force primarily from an account of stable interactions that
downplays the impact of the actual exercise of sovereignty on the
preservation of order. In his humean vision of political stability, power
arises from conventions that subsequently evolve as the society gradually
shifts from a rudimentary to a more complex state. Yet because
government is grounded on a coordination for order, it is tempting to
overemphasize the role of endogenously emerging conventions in
stabilizing expectations. This is often the case when peaceful transactions
are functionally described solely as the outcome of repeated interactions
shaped by self-regarding motivations, not by exogenous constraints that
compel people to honor agreed-upon rules backed by sanctions. Indeed,
the explanatory primacy afforded to structural determinants of strategic
behavior in explaining stable interactions often underemphasizes the role
of governors tasked with ensuring orderly compliance with the law.
Hardins humean account of the maintenance of government faces a
similar problem. In emphasizing the analytical gap between Hume and
Hobbes, he draws a sharp contrast between maintenance of government
by convention arising from repeated interactions and draconian
enforcement of order depending solely on the threat of coercion as though
they were polar opposites. While Hardins rereading of Hobbes through
Humes account of the rise of conventions illuminates the role of emerging
norms in stabilizing order, it is not entirely clear that focusing solely on
iterated interactions between agents involved in ongoing exchanges fully
explains how government is maintained. Likewise, the view that the
maintenance of order in Hobbess theory of government requires only
draconian force should be qualified. As Brian Barry wrote quite
uncharitably and ferociously, it is a travesty to identify Hobbes with a
position in which social order depends solely on draconian force. 88
Though travesty is perhaps not the right word to describe Hardins account
of Hobbes understanding of the exercise of power, the observation raises

87 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Oxford: Oxford University press, Vol 3, A
Review and Conclusion, p.1141
88 Brian Barry. David Hume as a social scientist, Utilitas Vol. 22, No. 4, December 2010, p.370

19
a key point in suggesting that the preservation of government does not
solely require the use of force, as Hardin seemingly contends.
A further difficulty raised by Hardins interpretation of the
maintenance of government lies in describing stable interactions as if they
essentially arise and persist spontaneously, perhaps like Hayeks
spontaneous orders. As if to counter such interpretations, Hume pointedly
insisted that government is in some circumstances absolutely
necessary.89 He visibly meant to say that the constraining oversight
exercised by rulers imposing sanctions is at least as important as
conventions in stabilizing expectations. Hume openly embraces this view
in a striking passage of his Treatise of Human Nature in which he says that
in the execution and decision of justice, men acquire a security against
each others weakness and passion, as well as against their own, and
under the shelter of their governors, begin to taste at ease the sweets of
society and mutual assistance. But government extends farther its
beneficial influence; and not contented to protect men in those
conventions they make for their mutual interest, it often obliges them to
make such conventions, and forces them to seek their own advantage, by
a concurrence in some common end or purpose.90 Hume acknowledges a
feature of orderly government that Hardin surprisingly underemphasized.
Humes claim is important for at least two reasons. First, it suggests that
maintaining order may require a measure of benevolent paternalism to
compel self-seeking individuals to act cooperatively for their own good
when they are not inclined to do so. Second, Hume emphasizes the role
governors in guaranteeing patterns of interactions conducive to the
maintenance of order.
A significant implication of Humes political paternalism is that the
maintenance of government depends, to some extent, on the skillfulness
of those who exercise power. They recognize the importance of coercion in
inducing mutually beneficial outcomes by forcing people to seek their own
advantage. Hobbes would certainly endorse a variant of paternalism that
gets people to act in ways that facilitate the maintenance of government.
One of his major insights on the art of government lies in tacitly suggesting
that the preservation of order depends on the performance in discharging
the supreme office. Against Hardins view that enforcing order requires
draconian force, I contend that force is merely one among many tools
available to the sovereign as she strives to discharge the duties attached
to the office bestowed on her to ensure the procuration of the safety of the

89 David Hume. 2004. A treatise of Human Nature. Ed David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton.
Oxford: oxford University press, 3.2.8.1.
90 David Hume, op.cit. 3.2.7.8

20
people.91 While Hardin rightly says that Hobbess argument for the
necessity of draconian force seems empirically wrong for many societies,
he overemphasizes the role of blunt force in securing order and tends to
proceed as tough Hobbess sovereign preserves order only though stringent
law enforcement.92
The fact that Hobbes offers a more nuanced account of the
maintenance of government is apparent in his claim that force alone is not
enough to elicit compliance. He argues for a program of civic instruction
to instill in subjects the legitimacy of the rights of sovereignty since the
grounds of these Rights, have the rather need to be diligently taught;
because they cannot be maintained by any Civill Law, or terrour of legall
punishment.93 Notwithstanding his defense of absolutism, Hobbes
understood that draconian force is insufficient to secure compliance. As
Arash Abizadeh puts it, Hobbes did not believe that any sovereign could
ever wield enough coercive power to maintain order on that basis alone.94
Hobbess recognition of the limits of draconian force to maintain order is
just the tip of a theory of governance that casts the sovereign as an astute
ruler who often relies on subtle means to maintain order. Indeed, the
exercise of entire Soveraignty requires a proactive art of government that
limits the needs for brute force to maintain order.95 Copious prescriptions
in his Leviathan offer guidance as to how the sovereign should behave at
the helm. For example, Hobbes insists that rulers should not
countenance anything obliquely which directly they forbid because The
examples of princes, to those that see them, are, and ever have been, more
potent to govern their actions than the laws themselves.96 Similarly,
Hobbes notes that power is preserved by the same Vertues by which it is
acquired; that is to say, by Wisdom, Humility, Clearnesse of doctrine, and
sincerity of Conversation; and not by suppression of the Naturall sciences,
and of the Morality of Naturall Reason; nor by obscure Language.97
The broader implication is obvious: the exercise of sovereignty
depends far less on draconian force than Hobbess absolutism suggests.
We need look no further than his detailed prescriptions on the strategic
use of rewards and punishments to grasp the extent to which the
maintenance of government depends on the skillfulness of the sovereign.

91 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm. Vol. 2, Chapter 30, p.520
92 Russell Hardin. 2007. David Hume: Moral and Political theorist. Op.cit, p.81
93 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. Ed. Noel Malcolm. Chapter 30, Op.cit. p.522
94 Arash Abizadeh. 2010. The Representation of Hobbesian Sovereignty. Leviathan as

Mythology in S.A. Lloyd (Ed) Hobbes Today Insights for the 21st Century. New York. Cambridge
University press, p.116
95 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. ed. Noel Malcolm Op.cit. Chapter 31, p.574
96 Op.cit. chapter 27, p.476
97 Op.cit. volume 3, chapter 47, p.1076.

21
The inadequacy of force alone to secure compliance suggests that a
sovereign who might try to maintain government primarily through
draconian rule is unlikely to succeed. In Hobbess prescriptive vision of
efficient governance, punishments and rewards must be used only to
secure peace, not for revenge and discharge of choler98. By and large, he
recommends a policy of selective incentives to ensure that punishments
are meted out only in proportion to the dangers posed to the
commonwealth by those who run afoul of the law. Likewise, he
recommends leniency for poor seduced people and an application of
rewards alwayes so, as there may arise from them benefit to the
Commonwealth wherein consisteth their use and end99. To a remarkable
extent, the prescriptions on punishment and rewards affords us a decisive
vantage point to understand the universe of Hobbesian governance and
the challenging tasks a ruler inevitably faces once at the helm.
Revealingly, when Hobbes points out that the maintenance of civil society
depends on Justiceand Justice on the power other lesser rewards and
punishments100, he brings into full view the limits of draconian force in
maintaining a commonwealth.
5. Final remarks
In the preface to his book on David Hume, Russell Hardin writes that
when we read any theorist, and perhaps especially when a philosopher
read another philosopher, we often tend to take a strong critical stance
and to pick the theorist apart. Eschewing facile criticism, he has largely
resisted the temptation to pick Hobbes apart. His careful rereading
undoubtedly unearthed insights that afforded him a strong starting point
in his own work on the mutually advantageous structure of orderly
government. Yet audacious interpretations of canonical thinkers
unavoidably raise questions of their own. Such queries typically arise
when reexaminations of classic texts display too little taste for strict
doctrinal orthodoxy, as is the case with Russell Hardins provocative
rereading of Hobbes. He revisits him using contemporary conceptual
structures, not his. He is particularly insightful when he reorders Hobbess
strategic modal categories to recast him as a coordination theorist. Order
arises by convention, not by virtue of some moral impulse. We want order
to pursue other goods, especially commodious living. Though he lacks
an economic theory, Hardin says, Hobbes has articulated an economic
justification for having a government or for maintaining extant order.

98 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. Ed Noel Malcolm. Op.cit. p.542


99 Thomas Hobbes. 2012. Leviathan. Ed. Noel Malcolm, op.cit. p.544
100 Op.cit. volume 3, chapter 38, p. 698

22
Hence, since it is in our interest to preserve it, maintaining government is
essentially a pure coordination problem.
Hardins highest praise of Hobbes comes out in his disarming quip
that whoever remains unconvinced that his account of Hobbes is correct
should simply read it as his. His candid eagerness to claim Hobbess theory
of order as his speaks volumes about its continuing relevance as an
insightful analytical structure. On this score, Hardins interpretation of
Hobbes is largely successful despite conclusions that may seem
controversial, a fact he readily conceded. His appropriation of Hobbes
provides a robust exemplar of how interpretive conversations across
philosophical eras might improve our analytical toolkits. 101 Paraphrasing
Gregory Kavka, we may argue that his elucidation of the modal strategic
categories that ground Hobbess analytical reasoning embodies an
approach that shows how a classic text can be creatively appropriated to
contribute to contemporary philosophical debates.102 Perhaps
unsurprisingly, the Hobbes that surfaces from Hardins searching
assessment is both flawed and brilliant. Yet the flawed Hobbes is just as
edifying as the brilliant one. His flaws show the limits of a social
contractarian idiom that leaves him unable to expound a compelling
theory of the maintenance of government. Once stripped of his
contractarian garbs, the brilliant Hobbes emerges as theorist of power,
that is, as a social scientist. In Hardins assessment, the difference
between Hobbes the contract theorist and Hobbes the power theorist is the
difference between a political philosopher and a social scientist. 103 If his
Hobbes often seems like a pared down version of Hume, the comparison is
not meant to be unflattering. Hardins rereading of Hobbes stands out as
a perceptive genealogical reconstruction that shows how early generations
of thinkers provide the seeds that allow their successors to chart new
territories. Undoubtedly, we are indebted to Russell Hardin for his bold
interpretation of Hobbes as a thinker whose two-stage theory of order is
far closer to contemporary concerns than it might appear at first glance.
He admirably shows that appraising a great thinker is not merely a drab
exercise in doctrinal orthodoxy that insipidly trots out a superfluous
restatement of major arguments entirely devoid of new insights. Russell
Hardins Hobbes stands significantly above such needless musings.

101 Russell Hardin, Op.cit. p.23


102 See Gregory Kavka. Op.cit. p. xiii.
103 Russell Hardin. 2006. Constitutionalism in Barry R. Weingast and Donald E. Wittman (Eds).

The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy. New York. Oxford University press, p. 299.

23