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Chapter: Sovereign Jurisdiction, Territorial Rights, and Membership in Hobbes

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Abstract: Although sovereign jurisdictional authority is not itself a kind of property right for Hobbes, it is the object of the sovereign’s (not the state’s) proprietary rights. Jurisdictional authority for Hobbes is foundationally over persons rather than territory, so that the sovereign’s territorial jurisdiction is parasitic on jurisdiction over persons. Territory nevertheless plays a significant role in determining subjects’ political obligations because the sovereign’s ability to protect subjects is necessary for such obligations, and control over space is necessary to protect subjects. Yet Hobbes shows why the modern ideology of the state does not univocally posit the state as an intrinsically territorial entity. There are two traditions here: The Lockean one that, in grounding jurisdictional authority in private dominion over things, portrays the state as intrinsically territorial, and the Hobbesian one that, in deriving property rights from jurisdictional authority, does not.

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