Authority and Force: Investigating Authority in the Works of Thomas Hobbes and in J.M. Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year

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Issue Date
1-May-10
Authors
Darrell, Ciahnan Quinn
Publisher
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
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Abstract
`Authority' is said to govern force; it is a word one is born into, a word that shapes what one knows, and even what he is able to see, but it is also a word that conceals its precise meaning and which refuses to divulge its origins. The relationship between force and authority is dynamic, intimate, and infinitely complex; authority and force are often conflated, or differentiated only by the thinnest and most porous of tissue. As force and authority commingle, articulating the difference between the two becomes increasingly problematic, and the most profound consequence of this inability to distinguish between force and authority is that one cannot differentiate between legitimate force and illegitimate violence. Thomas Hobbes provides an account of authority, and J.M. Coetzee's novel Diary of a Bad Year provides an excellent forum in which to track the movement of authority and its relation to force, and to see if Hobbes' model obtains. Employing Hobbes and Coetzee, I investigate the dynamics of authority, arguing that the distinction between force and authority is not a matter of semantic nuance, but of necessity. Following this investigation, I articulate the importance of a particular conception of authority wherein it is understood that authority does not exert force but collects it, and thus that its utility as a concept lies in its capacity to reveal the axiological and epistemological topography of an entity's reasoning, i.e., the standard(s) according to which it evaluates and attributes value and truth.
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