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Conference paper


Dragutin Lalović ; Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

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page 47-68

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If it is true that a systematic understanding of modern society cannot be constituted
without relying on the major works of the political thinking of modernity,
the opposite is also true, i.e. that none of those works cannot be properly
understood unless from the viewpoint of a developed theory of modernity. In
his General Theory of Modernity, Jacques Bidet points out that his metastructural
theory of the modern epoch finally makes it possible to critically reexamine
and reconstruct the entire “political metaphysics” of modernity. His
intention is sufficiently (at the very least) outlined in his interpretations of
Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel. The author singles out
Bidet’s pregnant interpretation of Hobbes, and faces the question: what is to
be done with the Leviathan? The first part of the article gives a detailed account
of Bidet’s basic hypotheses and insights into Hobbes’ crucial role in
finding an adequate conceptual definition of the logical starting point of exposition
of the theory of modernity as a purely discursive relation in the formula
of the social agreement. The second part puts forward a critical appraisal
of Bidet’s key reconstructional thesis that Hobbes’ theory of authorisation is
perceived as the actual logical starting point of exposition of metastructural
theory categories. In part three it is shown that Hobbes’ theory of political
representation and authorisation could indeed be the starting point to a political
theory of modernity (because it establishes man as the “author” of politics,
and his representative or the sovereign as his “actor” or representative). In the
author’s judgement, Bidet’s reconstructional thesis, which denies the epistemological
status of the “natural state” as the first and most general concept
in the sequence of exposition, is not valid. In the natural state, man’s nature
is not ahistorically postulated as that of a wolf; it is essentially dual. At issue
here is primarily the modern man (and not merely man in general) in the epochal
constellation wherein he, simultaneously and contradictorily, exists as
a particular individual (bourgeois), which pursues his natural right, and as a
moral subject (a Christian believer), which, as a being of conscience, fathoms
and follows the imperatives of the natural or moral or divine laws. Precisely
this duality, this inner cleavage of modern man, is also the starting supposition
of Hobbes’ theory of modernity encompassed in the key concept of the “natural
state”. In view of Bidet’s argumentation, and relying above all on Zarka’s
fundamental interpretation of Hobbes’ political philosophy as semiology of
power, we are constantly faced with the Leviathan as an incomparable challenge
to our cognitive faculty.


modernity; metastructural theory; starting point and sequence of exposition; “man-wolf”; language; contractual mediation; natural condition; theory of authorisation; T. Hobbes; J. Bidet

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