College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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civil war, Hobbes, Foucault, faction, group formation


This dissertation develops Michel Foucault’s hypothesis that civil war is an illuminating but undertheorized ‘analyzer’ of power relations in modernity, but it breaks with Foucault by looking precisely to his philosophical opponent, Thomas Hobbes, to do so. I argue that civil war is philosophically undertheorized primarily because insufficient attention has been paid to the first term in the conjunction—the 'civil' determination of civil war—and a reconstruction of Hobbes’s conception of faction helps redress this deficiency. Central to this reconstruction is a thorough analysis of the governmental imperative, clearly discernible in Leviathan, to establish and preserve a rigorously individualized ('serialized') populace via the strict regulation of all associations and assemblies ('systems', in Hobbes's terminology). Ultimately, I connect Hobbes’s account of the governmental suppression of faction to what Foucault describes as the anti-seditious function of modern power apparatuses. The latter comprises both juridical and extra-juridical mechanisms for the attenuation of collective power, and hence the potential for faction. This enables me to identify, in the present political conjuncture, the anti-seditious structures that regulate and inhibit not just factionalism, but group formation as such.

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