Recently published is Meghan Robison’s “Mother Lords: Original Maternal Dominion and the Practice of Preservation in Hobbes.” The article was published in Hypatia 38 (1) 2023.
Hobbes’s justification for original maternal dominion is often evaluated in connection to the ambiguous status of women in his political thought. Many feminist interpreters explain this ambiguity as a contradiction: following Carole Pateman, they see maternal dominion as one term of the “paradox of parental power.” The first aim of this article is to elaborate a second, alternative approach within some critical responses to Pateman’s reading. Rather than as one part of a contradiction, in these interpretations maternal dominion emerges as a self-standing form of authority that is very different from patriarchal domination. By offering a new synthesis of some of these interpretations, I aim to show this second view as more comprehensive and compelling than that offered by Pateman. Then, building upon this view, I give a new reading of the concept of preservation that establishes the mother’s dominion as an intersubjective practice that reflects an awareness about the interdependent conditions for human well-being and, hence, challenges the standard approach to Hobbesian individualism and sovereign power. Finally, drawing from my interpretation of preservation, I offer a new way to understand Hobbes’s argument that “parental authority is derived from the child’s consent.”