Hobbes on Wealth, Poverty, and Economic Inequality

David Williams published “Hobbes on Wealth, Poverty, and Economic Inequality”



While Thomas Hobbes is not typically cited as a philosopher concerned with economic inequality, there is a great deal of evidence in his writings to suggest that he was aware of inequality and worried about its effects on the commonwealth. This essay first contextualizes Hobbes in the development of the 17th-century English political economy to understand the mercantilist milieu that might have shaped Hobbes’s thoughts. Second, it then explores Hobbes’s thoughts on wealth, poverty, and inequality, as outlined in his major political works – revealing distinctively Hobbesian grounds for understanding these phenomena. Third and finally, it explores Hobbes’s constructive political philosophy for means by which he might offer prescriptions for addressing them.