Charlotte Epstein – When the Pre-modern is Post-Modern. Hobbes, Lacan and the Making of the International System

Event date: Wednesday 6 October 2010
5.00-6.30pm FW101, Founder’s Building, 
Royal Holloway University of London



Humanities and Arts Research Centre and the New Political Communication Unit
at Royal Holloway University of London

Dr. Charlotte Epstein, University of Sydney - When the Pre-modern is Post-Modern. Hobbes, Lacan and the Making of the International System

Abstract: From Hans Morgenthau to Kenneth Waltz, via Carl Schmitt, the writings of Thomas Hobbes have played a key role in shaping Realist understandings of the international system. Less appraised are the uncanny similarities that exist between his political ontology and that of Jacques Lacan. In this paper I return to this fount of Realism to I show how these two worlds – that of the early modern thinker of the post-modern psychoanalyst – reveal ontologies of dependence and relationality. Specifically, I show that the figure of the sovereign, the linchpin of Hobbes’ political order, represents none other than Lacan’s Other. The implications are significant, as, in the light of these resemblances, the conclusions realists have drawn with regards to the possibilities of states’ acting in that system appear a misreading of Hobbes. Underpinning Hobbes’s thought is in fact a sense of the fundamental dependence between the self and the Other that rule out the type of survivalist behavior that they describe and prescribe.

Dr. Charlotte Epstein is a senior lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney. Homepage

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