In his work, Thomas Hobbes deals directly with one of the most critical problems of the paradoxes and dilemmas in international relations. The dilemma between internal order and international anarchy
Thomas Hobbes states that these two are related, as the internal order is the reason for international anarchy. On the other hand, international anarchy is a consequence of the states’ and people’s ability to establish this internal order.
In his work, Thomas Hobbes writes that kings and persons of sovereign authority live in continued jealousy because of their independence. The state and posture of gladiators, having their weapons pointed and eyes fixed on one another, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbors, is a posture of war.
According to Thomas Hobbes, one of the main reasons for rivalry and competition between the states is their independence. The more the state is independent, the more it can compete with others. The other reason for the conflict is continual jealousy. The states are jealous of each other, and they’re always in the state of the posture of gladiators.
The ancient Roman fighters entertained the wealthy by fighting in theatres and other arenas with swords and other weapons. We see in the works of Thomas Hobbes that state policy’s main reason and purpose, according to the realist tradition, is “survival” because the states are the gladiators. They need to survive by any means that will be appropriate.
How does “Leviathan,” the most significant work by Thomas Hobbes, explain international politics?
What is Leviathan?
A Leviathan is a Bible beast, a beast from the Bible, the most important book in the Christian tradition. His peculiarity is that Leviathan is the strongest. There is nobody, no other beast which can beat Leviathan. Nobody is more potent than Leviathan.
It was important for Thomas Hobbes to choose precisely this definition for the state. Because, for him, the Leviathan, the state, is the highest authority, which the other, more powerful authorities can never be able to beat.
According to Thomas Hobbes, the achievement of personal and domestic security for the creation of a state leads to international insecurity, which is rooted in the anarchy of the state system.
Leviathans are doomed to fight a war with everyone against everyone, as people have been doing before, because they feel insecure and are eager for power, wealth, and glory. As a result, their relationships, fortunately, no longer exist on an internal level within society.
This fight is more of everyone against everyone. It automatically transfers the relationships between the states.
For Hobbes, it is impossible to establish a Leviathan over Leviathans. The United States will never give up its sovereignty. Therefore, anarchy is a normal and eternal state of the international system. But there is another reason for their eternal anarchy in international systems.
Leviathan over Leviathans, or the war of the government, cannot be established because the ordinary people, like me and you, give up our rights to achieve security and safety for the state. We cannot give our freedoms to the world government.
We can give our freedoms only to the national government, which we elect and legitimise by our own choice. We want our security; that’s why we created the state.
If this state, which we create between us, according to the realist tradition, we’ll be able to stand together with the other states, establish a certain world government, or the world state. It will not be elected by us anymore.
Thus, it will not be legitimate in our eyes. Thus, the relationships between the people will come back to the beginning, to the original nature of the war of everyone against everyone.
The work of Thomas Hobbes was inspired by the tragic events that happened in Europe in the first half of the 17th century, the Thirty-Year War, which lasted from 1618 to 1648.
The House of Habsburg was one of the most important royal houses in Europe and is best known for being the origin of all the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian and Spanish domains and several other countries.
The Habsburg family represented the idea of universalism, the unification of the whole world, at that time, Europe, under one Christian ruler. The emerging nation-states represented the alternative.
So, the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) was not just a war between religions. It was a war against the Habsburg hegemony rather than a religious conflict caused by religious means.
The most illustrative example was the
Participation of Catholic France in the Anti-Habsburg coalition The Thirty Years’ War was unique in the number of countries and the states involved. The Habsburgs and their allies were composed of the Holy Roman Empire, the so-called Catholic League of the small German states, Spain, Hungary, the Kingdom of Croatia, Denmark-Norway, and Poland.
The Anti-Habsburg Coalition was much broader. The United Provinces, Sweden, Spain, Denmark-Norway, Saxony, England, the Palatinate, Germany, Prussia, Brunswick-Luneburg, and some other teeny German states were fighting on the sides of their Antl-Hasburg Coalition.
The First World War (1914–18) was fought entirely on European soil and claimed many lives. The population of many European countries decreased significantly, especially in Germany, which suffered the most.
But like every war, this war ended, and it ended with the Peace of Westphalia, also known as the Treaty of Westphalia.
This was the most significant achievement of international diplomacy and the main foundation of international law.