The Leviathan Becoming a Cephalophore: Primogeniture and the Transition from Sovereignty to Governmentality

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Griffith J. E. C.

Kaygı: Uludağ University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Journal of Philosophy , vol.19, no.2, pp.464-484, 2020 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)


For Foucault, Hobbes is important for the transition from sovereignty to governmentality, but he does not always go into great detail how. In “Society Must Be Defended”, Hobbes’s reactions against the politicalhistoricism of his time lead him to an ahistorical foundation to the state. In Security, Territory, Population, his contract is emblematic of the art of government still caught in the logic of sovereignty. Management techniques, one of which being inheritance laws like primogeniture, inducing changes in a population’s milieuso that its interest is properly directed allow the art of government to escape this logic. Hobbes supports primogeniture, but its historical position in the common law makes this support unexpected. This article examines the historical context of primogeniture and the reasoning for Hobbes’s support of it in light of Foucault’s claims about him in order to give more precision to those claims. The result is that primogeniture asa law of nature produces the family as an interested unit of the population. Yet this interest is itself historicized,so Hobbes’s attempt to de-historicize politics did not fully succeed.