Ever since its publication in 1651, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan has unsettled and challenged how we understand the world. Condemned and vilified by each new generation, Hobbes' cold political vision continues to see through any number of political and ethical vanities. In his wonderfully stimulating book The New Leviathans, John Gray allows us to understand the world of the 2020s with all its contradictions, moral horrors and disappointments through a new reading of Hobbes' classic work.
The collapse of the USSR ushered in an era of near-apoplectic triumphalism in the West: a genuine belief that a rational, liberal, well-managed future now awaited humankind and that tyranny, nationalism and unreason lay in the past. Since then, so many terrible events have occurred and so many poisonous ideas flourished, and yet still our liberal certainties treat them as aberrations which will somehow dissolve away. Hobbes would not be so confident.
Filled with fascinating and challenging perceptions, The New Leviathans is a powerful meditation on historical and current folly. As a species we always seem to be struggling to face the reality of base and delusive human instincts. Might a more self-aware, realistic and disabused ethics help us all?