Aftermath or Hurricane Katrina, Illustrating Hobbes’s Thesis that the State of Nature is a State of War, 2005
Aftermath or Hurricane Katrina, Illustrating Hobbes’s Thesis that the State of Nature is a State of War, photograph by Infrogmation, 2005.
The 2005 Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States (property damage estimates exceed $80 Billion). However, perhaps the more costly than these economic losses are the social, moral, and political impacts of the disaster and the governmental responses. In New Orleans, the epicenter of the disaster, reports of theft, looting, rape, and murder abounded in the days following the storm. In many cases, the actions of the destitute were simple attempts to survive in vacuum of disarray that remained as the aftermath of the destruction and the federal government’s deplorably sluggish response. Nonetheless, much of the popular media representations of the Katrina aftermath characterized the situation in a manner reminiscent of Hobbes’s famous thesis that the State of Nature—the lawless, extra-political form of human interaction—is tantamount to a State of War of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes). According to Hobbes, it is in the rational self-interest of all individuals to divest themselves of many natural rights and to submit to an Absolute Sovereign body in order to avoid the disasters of a State of Nature qua State of War. Indeed, it is Hobbes’s view that submission to laws determined and governed by an Absolute Sovereign is the only means of escape from the State of War.
Wikimedia Commons (for information on the photographer, see http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ User:Infrogmation)