Sovereignty between the Katechon and the Eschaton: Rethinking the Leviathan

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This paper both rejects the reading of Hobbes’s Leviathan as a secularised katechon and rethinks anew the questions of sovereignty and politics in his thought. It does so by examining the eschatological character of his politico-theological understanding of the relation between the kingdom of the Leviathan and the kingdom of God. Indeed, through different contemporary readings of Hobbes’s theory of the State, this paper offers an insight into the concrete eschatology at operation in Hobbes’s thought and underscores its relevance for the understanding of government, biopolitics and sovereignty. This is achieved through two different, albeit interconnected undertakings, which in turn allow us to agree but also to go beyond Agamben’s claim that the State, in Hobbes, does not have a katechontic function. The first is an exposition of the a-teleological character of Hobbes’s eschatology and his metaphysics of motion. The second involves a consideration of the temporality and the nature of the relation between the a-historical world of reason and the historical world of faith that underpins Hobbes’s theory of the State. Contrary to the contemporary interpretations in which Hobbes’s eschatology is presented as future regarding, we will highlight the chronological coincidence between the historical time of faith and the a-historical time of the Leviathan, placing Hobbes within the political coordinates of Benjamin’s messianism. By bringing this eschatological perspective to the fore, not only will the reading of Hobbes’s theory of sovereignty that aligns him with liberalism be problematized, but also, an analysis of the resources that Hobbes offers to imagine a different form of politics will be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-127
Number of pages21
JournalTelos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary
Issue number187
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Modern Philosophy
  • Hobbes
  • Biopolitics
  • Sovereignty
  • Violence
  • Agamben
  • liberalism
  • political theology


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