Radical Democracy’s Religion: Hobbes on Language, Domination, and Self-Creation

Charles H.T. Lesch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent decades, prominent political theorists have responded to perceived flaws in liberalism by proposing more “radical” forms of democracy. What might a radically democratic state look like? I argue that we can find one answer, counterintuitively, by looking back to the thought of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ secularized theory of language introduces into political life a new way of conceiving human agency, one in which the commonwealth fills not only the negative role of stemming conflict, but the positive task of actualizing self-determination. By collapsing the distance between the true source of man’s politics and the nature of governance, Hobbes inaugurates a tradition of radical democratic thought that seeks to close the oppressive rupture of word and deed, maker and made. Yet rather than diminishing religious experience, Hobbes reconstitutes it in a new, profane, and political form. He invites us to acquire a capacity long reserved for God alone: the power to create human nature itself.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1405
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the author.


  • Hobbes
  • Leviathan
  • deification
  • democracy
  • domination
  • language
  • radical democracy
  • religion
  • rhetoric
  • secular


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