, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 169–182

Group Dynamics In The State Of Nature

  • J. McKenzie Alexander

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012961512221

Cite this article as:
McKenzie Alexander, J. Erkenntnis (2001) 55: 169. doi:10.1023/A:1012961512221


One common interpretation of the Hobbesian state of nature views itas a social dilemma, a natural extension of the well-knownprisoner's dilemma to a group context. Kavka (1986)challenges this interpretation, suggesting that the appropriate wayto view the state of nature is as a quasi social dilemma. Iargue that Hobbes's remarks on the rationality of keeping covenantsin the state of nature indicate that the quasi social dilemma doesnot accurately represent the state of nature. One possiblesolution, I suggest, views the state of nature as a social dilemmabetween groups rather than individuals. Although thiscleanly represents the strategic problem faced in the state ofnature, it also means we should take intergroup dynamics intoaccount when putting forth a solution. I argue that Hobbes'ssolution of commonwealth by institution – the favored solution forHobbesian social contract theories – will not work in the state ofnature viewed this way.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. McKenzie Alexander
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineU.S.A.