Hobbes on power and gender relations

In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. Ch 11 (forthcoming)
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In this paper, I articulate two Hobbesian models of interpersonal power relations that can be used to understand gender relations in society: what I will call the dominion model and the deference model. The dominion model discerns vertical subjection to another's will, whereas by contrast the deference model places individuals in a complex and shifting webs of favor and disfavor. Hobbes himself analyses gender relations through the dominion model. Indeed, more broadly this is the most prominent model of interpersonal power relations throughout his texts. It is this model which is also reflected in the very rich existing feminist literature on Hobbes. However, the deference model, emerging only late in Hobbes's oeuvre, offers a superior general rubric for understanding interpersonal power relations. In particular, in light of its ability to grasp informal and diffuse relations of power, I argue that it offers useful insights for thinking about gender relations in our post-coverture era.

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Sandra Leonie Field
Monash University


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