The Missing Wives ofLeviathan

Shaffer, Gina Victoria
April 2004
Seventeenth Century;Spring2004, Vol. 19 Issue 1, p53
Academic Journal
In the course of presenting his theory of contractual relations between subject and sovereign inLeviathan, Thomas Hobbes constructs an artificial family as a hierarchical model. However, he omits wives from the theoretical family that he compares to a‘little Monarchy’. In doing so, Hobbes disrupts the commonplace seventeenth-century family/state analogy, which establishes a parallel between the domestic authority of fathers/husbands and the sovereign power of the monarch. While other theorists of the period unequivocally placed women in subordinate roles, Hobbes grants women a high degree of agency, particularly in their role as mothers. Given this depiction of female agency, the omission of wives inLeviathanreflects his inability to find a stable position for them in his political theory.


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