The New Leviathan: Or Man, Society, Civilization, and Barbarism

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Clarendon Press, 1999 - Philosophy - 525 pages
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The New Leviathan, originally published in 1942, a few months before the author's death, is the book which R. G. Collingwood chose to write in preference to completing his life's work on the philosophy of history. It was occasioned by the Second World War and the threat which Nazism and Fascism constituted to civlization. The book draws upon many years of work in moral and political philosophy and attempts to establish the multiple and complex connections between the levels of consciousness, society, civilization, and barbarism. Collingwood argues that traditional social contract theory has failed to account for the continuing existence of the non-social community and its relation to the social community in the body politic. He is also critical of the tendency within ethics to confound right and duty. The publication of 120 pages of additional manuscript material in this revised edition demonstrates in more detail how Collingwood was determined to show that right and duty occupy different levels of rational practical consciousness. The additional writings also contain Collingwood's unequivocal rejection of relativism. David Boucher's introduction shows that The New Leviathan and The Idea of History are integrally related and that neither can be properly understood independently of the other. He is also concerned to show how many of Collingwood's ideas have a contemporary relevance, and that his ideas on barbarism are not so unusual as they might at first appear. 'A strange and fascinating book . . . The publication of this handsome new edition of The New Leviathan . . . is a welcome event.' Political Studies 'In his respectful and informative introduction David Boucher shows how The New Leviathan and the additional material appended to it fit in with Collingwood's thought as a whole.' History of Political Thought 'Throughout, the Introduction displays Boucher's usual mastery of the material, serious and probing approach, and judicious appraisal.' Collingwood Studies

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THE New Leviathan is written in a style much like Spinoza's Ethics, with a numerical notation within each chapter, much like geometric theorems, axioms and postulates are numbered, so that Collingwood can refer back to a definition by its numerical code, down to details, including sentences.
In a way, it is like an outline of his philosophy that avoids repetition by this method of numbering passages. Although some doctors may be impressed, I was not impressed, as to me, I would prefer the author repeat an idea, a phrase or sentence, to refresh my mind, even if s/he need repeat the same subject in each sentence of a paragraph, rather than have to memorize passages or go back and find them.
Of course, the original Leviathan was written by Thomas Hobbes in 1688 during a civil war in England, the worst kind of war (if u want to see a real fight, see a family fight) with his conclusion that it was necessary that a State have an absolute ruler, a strong king, or leader, like Abraham Lincoln, in time of such a war. The problem with Hobbe's Sovereign is that the kingdom's subjects give up all their rights to him, (or her) so that S/He has All the rights and they have none.
Since there is no such thing as a Benevolent Despot, the King, or Queen, in Hobbe's world, is an isolated, individual will, an unchallenged will, whose word is law, and, thus, is a Despotic will, aka a Bad Will, an Irrational will, since not an Intersubjective or Majority will.
The New Leviathan is an attempt to overcome this problem.
In passing, we should note, Hobbes version of the State, as Man Writ Large, goes back to Plato's Republic, which the reader should know was divided into a cast like system based on eugenics, which had a Bronze class, the Producers (farmers, miners, industrial workers etc), and a
Silver class, the Auxiliaries (military)
Gold class, the Guardians (which hold onto the laws made by The Philosopher King.
The problem is, HOW does this Wise King get on the throne without being corrupted (for example by selling out to Special Interests, or catering to the masses by giving them bread and circuses, like a bad cook might give children only candies and sweets.)
In any case, Collingwood also has an idea of Duty which is more narrow than what a modern thinker might think of as his duty. The Stoic ideal is "one's station and its duties". For example, for Marcus Aurelius, who governed Rome by day and sat in his tent all night writing his Meditations, his duty was to be The Emperor of Rome. For Epictetus, his duty was to his master, and to be his slave. For Aristotle, the lowest political class in the Empire, was the slave class.
Interestingly, Plato's bottom class is Bronze, not Copper, and Bronze is a mixture of Copper and Zinc. We know the Greeks had slaves. (Often making conquered women slaves). And if the working class was Bronze, it consisted of free workers/producers and slaves. Obviously the free workers were Copper and the slaves the Zinc (considered an almost worthless metal, easily broken.)
The last section of the New Leviathan deals with Barbarisms, and I am sure that Collingwood would consider this modern threat, Isis, as a Barbarism. Ironically, in Stcherbatsky's book, The Buddhist Conception of Nirvana, a devotee takes an oath to Destroy all -isms. I am sure for Collingwood, his top four would be, Fascism, Racism, Nazism and Imperialism.
We know Collingwood thought that the Past was "encapsulated in the present", and that we should or could, by studying the past, recreate the good aspects of it in the present while avoiding the follies of historical errors. Unfortunately, if we do not study history, including the history of ideas (Isaiah Berlin) we are doomed to repeat it.
With this book, we should also read Guido Ruggiero's bundle of profundity, The History of European Liberalism, and John Locke's 2nd Treatise on Civil Government.
And, if you have read H.D. Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience
 

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About the author (1999)

R. G. Collingwood was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy in the University of Oxford from 1935 to 1941.

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