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Abstract

This dissertation investigates the influence of theology on Hobbes’s concept of political representation. Although his model of formal authorization between individuals and their chosen sovereign has long been regarded by scholars as a legal rationalist phenomenon, based purely upon consent, the resulting “real unity” of the commonwealth that Hobbes describes is not easily reduced to such rationalist measures. This dissertation argues that Hobbes appropriated specific theological tropes referring to Christ as the divine Representative of his church “body” in order to envision a political community with greater social cohesion than was possible through legal-rationalist mechanisms. Adopting this theological motif as the inspiration for an absolutist political vision involved Hobbes in contemporary debates over the appropriate application of Christology within the political sphere, a religious controversy that may have had a determinative influence on shifting attitudes toward political representation in England during the Civil War.

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