Leviathan on a Leash: A Political Theory of State Responsibility
University of Cambridge
Politics and International Studies
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Fleming, S. R. (2018). Leviathan on a Leash: A Political Theory of State Responsibility (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.32288
State responsibility is central to modern politics and international relations. States are commonly blamed for wars, called on to apologize, punished with sanctions, admonished to keep their promises, bound by treaties, and held liable for debts and reparations. But why, and under which conditions, does it make sense to assign responsibilities to whole states rather than to individual leaders and officials? The purpose of this thesis is to resurrect and develop a forgotten understanding of state responsibility from the political thought of Thomas Hobbes. Chapters 1 and 2 examine the two dominant theories of state responsibility and propose a Hobbesian alternative. According to the agential theory, states can be held responsible because they are moral agents like human beings, with analogous capacities for deliberation and intentional action. According to the functional theory, states can be held responsible because they act vicariously through their organs, much as principals act vicariously through agents. What makes Hobbes unique is that he considers states to be ‘persons’—entities to which actions, rights, and responsibilities can be attributed—even though they are neither agents nor principals. Hobbes’ idea of state personality relies on the concepts of authorization and representation, not of agency and intentionality, nor of functions and organs. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 develop the Hobbesian theory of state responsibility and apply it to three sets of problems. Chapter 3 addresses problems of attribution, such as whether the actions of dictators count as acts of state and whether states can commit crimes. Chapter 4 addresses problems of identity, such as whether revolutions and annexations negate the state’s identity and hence its responsibilities. Chapter 5 addresses problems of distribution, such as whether the subjects of the state ought to bear the costs of debts and reparations that their state incurred before they were born. I argue that the Hobbesian theory provides better answers to each set of problems than the agential and functional alternatives.
political theory, international relations, international law, state responsibility, Thomas Hobbes, history of political thought, corporate agency, corporate responsibility, sovereign debt, reparations, state identity, personhood
The research for this thesis was funded by the Rothermere Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.32288
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