¹ 4, 2019
The article explores the concept of multitude developed in the writings of T. Hobbes and B. Spinoza — two most profound political philosophers of the 17th century. The authors attempt to conceptualize the multitude by interpreting it as a special part of political reality, the very mode of existence of which turns out to be a problem for political thinkers, rather than by applying the logic of developing a political subject. According to their conclusion, the study of multitude should proceed from ontology to ideology, rather than in the opposite direction. This is the only way to build a common perspective that reflects the real tension between the systems of Hobbes and Spinoza.
The first part of the article discusses the views of Hobbes and Spinoza on the essence of multitude. The English philosopher views multitude as a chaotic matter, the movement of which needs to be regulated by concluding a social contract and establishing sovereign power. Spinoza, on the one hand, builds upon Hobbes, but on the other hand, opposes him. The authors see the sources of discrepancies between the two approaches to multitude in the difference in ontologies related, in particular, to the concepts of motion, matter and body.
The second part of the article is devoted to studying the relationship between the multitude and the state. The Hobbesian construction of sovereignty is interpreted as a means designed to solve the problem of the multitude by giving it a monolithic form of the people. In Spinoza’s ontology, the regulation of matter from the outside is impossible. In order to explain the dynamics of the multitude, he draws upon the concept of power and the theory of affects and formulates the idea of the dual — simultaneously destructive and creative — nature of the multitude.
Based on their analysis, the authors conclude that in contrast to modern theorists, Hobbes and Spinoza do not view the multitude as an empirical subject. Rather, they view the multitude as the primary logic of the existence of the many, which must be understood and ultimately overcome (from the Hobbesian point of view) or mastered by politicians in order to maintain the correct composition of institutions (from the point of view of Spinoza).
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