Skip to main content

Circulation of Blood and Money in Leviathan – Hobbes on the Economy of the Body

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
History of Economic Rationalities

Part of the book series: Ethical Economy ((SEEP,volume 54))

Abstract

Metaphors played an indispensable role in the development and legitimization of early modern economic rationalities. One of the most prevalent metaphors described the state as a body, a strong expression of which is found in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651). But both the concept of the state and the body were constantly being reconfigured in this period. In this chapter, I argue that Hobbes’ conception of economy as a closed system of circulation ensuring the health and life of the state gained its specific character as a product of Hobbes’ dependency on William Harvey’s anatomical theory of the circulation of blood for his description of the state as a body. For Harvey, a proper circulation of blood was what ensured the life of the animal body, and thus for Hobbes the economy understood as circulation of money was nothing but a means to ensure the life of the political body.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    Charleton lifted this analogy directly from Sir Kenelm Digby, who had witnessed the mint at Segovia at work, cf. Sawday (1983, 28–33; 1995, 242–244) and Thomson (2008, 46).

  2. 2.

    For analyses of the body-machine metaphor in early modern natural philosophy, see Duchesneau (1998), Des Chene (2001), Shapiro (2003) and Smith (2011). For the reception of L’Homme, see the essays collected in Antoine-Mahut and Gaukroger (2016).

  3. 3.

    For the discursive role played by the concept of circulation in economic and political thought of seventeenth century England, see Johnson (1966), Finkelstein (2000), Desmedt (2005), Glaisyer (2005), Hont (2005) and Wennerlind (2011). Mirowski (1994), Riskin (2003), and Schabas (2005) make strong cases for the interdependency of economic and natural-philosophical thought in the early modern period.

  4. 4.

    For Hobbes’ use of a monster in his description of the state, see Stillman (1995). For the shifting epistemic roles played by monsters in the early modern period, see Daston and Park (1981, 1998, ch. 5).

  5. 5.

    Although the range and purity of Descartes’ mechanism when it comes to living bodies, especially, is a pressing point in recent scholarship on Descartes. See (Hutchins et al. 2016) for an overview of these debates.

Bibliography

  • Antoine-Mahut, Delphine, and Stephen Gaukroger. 2016. Descartes’ Treatise on Man and Its Reception. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Aubrey, John. 1898. Brief Lives Chiefly of Contemporaries Set Down by John Aubrey, Between the Years 1669 & 1696. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Balan, Bernard. 1975. Premières recherches sur l’origine et la formation du concept d’économie animale. Revue d’histoire des sciences 28: 289–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bertoloni Meli, Domenico. 2016. Machines of the Body in the Seventeenth Century. In Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy, ed. Peter Distelzweig et al., 91–116. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Boyd, Richard. 1979. Metaphor and Theory Change: What is a ‘Metaphor’ a Metaphor For? In Metaphor and Thought, ed. Andrew Ortony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Charleton, Walter. 1683. Three Anatomic Lectures. London: Walter Kettilby.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, P. 1994. Fire, Motion, and Productivity: The Proto-Energetics of Nature and Economy in François Quesnay. In Natural Images in Economic Thought: “Markets Read in Tooth and Claw”, ed. Philip Mirowski, 249–288. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cunningham, Andrew. 2003. The Pen and the Sword: Recovering the Disciplinary Identity of Physiology and Anatomy Before 1800 II: Old Anatomy – The Sword. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34: 51–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Daston, Lorraine, and Katherine Park. 1981. Unnatural Conceptions: The Study of Monsters in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France and England. Past and Present 92: 20–54.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daston, Lorraine; Park, Katherine. 1998. Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750. New York: Zone Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Des Chene, Dennis. 2001. Spirits and Clock: Machine and Organism in Descartes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Descartes, René. 1998. The World and Other Writings. Trans. and ed. Stephen Gaukroger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Desmedt, Ludovic. 2005. Money in the ‘Body Politick’: The Analysis of Trade and Circulation in the Writings of Seventeenth-Century Political Arithmeticians. History of Political Economy 37(1): 79–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Distelzweig, Peter. 2016. “Mechanics” and Mechanism in William Harvey’s Anatomy: Varieties and Limits. In Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy, ed. Peter Distelzweig et al., 117–140. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Duchesneau, François. 1998. Les modèles du vivant de Descartes à Leibniz. Paris: Vrin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Finkelstein, Andrea. 2000. Harmony and the Balance. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • French, Roger. 1994. William Harvey’s Natural Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Glaisyer, Natasha. 2005. ‘A Due Circulation in the Veins of the Publick’: Imagining Credit in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England. The Eighteenth Century 46(3): 277–297.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, William. 1847a. An Anatomical Disquisition on the Motion of Heart and Blood in Animals. In The Works of William Harvey, M. D, ed. Robert Willis. London: The Sydenham Society.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 1847b. An Anatomical Disquisition on the Circulation of the Blood to John Riolan. In The Works of William Harvey, M. D, ed. Robert Willis. London: The Sydenham Society.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 1847c. On the Generation of Animals. In The Works of William Harvey, M. D, ed. Robert Willis. London: The Sydenham Society.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hobbes, Thomas. 1839. The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. London: John Bohn.

    Google Scholar 

  • ———. 1996. Leviathan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hont, Istvan. 2005. Jealousy of Trade. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hutchins, Barnaby, Christoffer Basse Eriksen and Charles T. Wolfe. 2016. The Embodied Descartes: Contemporary Readings of L’Homme. In Descartes’ Treatise on Man and Its Reception, ed. Delphine Antoine-Mahut and Stephen Gaukroger, 287–304. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, Jerah. 1966. The Money = Blood Metaphor, 1300–1800. The Journal of Finance 21: 119–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lennox, James G. 2006. The Comparative Study of Animal Development: William Harvey’s Aristotelianism. In The Problem of Animal Generation in Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Justin E.H. Smith, 21–46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mirowski, Philip, ed. 1994. Natural Images in Economic Thought: “Markets Read in Tooth and Claw”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Riskin, Jessica. 2002. Science in the Age of Sensibility. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 2003. The “Spirit of Systems” and the Fortunes of Physiocracy. History of Political Economy 35: 42–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1997. Discourse of Political Economy. In The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Salter, Alan, and Charles T. Wolfe. 2009. Empiricism contra Experiment: Harvey, Locke and the Revisionist View of Experimental Philosophy. Bulletin d’Histoire et d’Épistémologie des sciences de la vie 16(2): 113–140.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sawday, Jonathan. 1983. The Mint at Segovia: Digby, Hobbes, Charleton, and the Body as a Machine in the Seventeenth Century. Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism 6: 21–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ———. 1995. The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schabas, Margaret. 2005. The Natural Origins of Economics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Shapiro, Lisa. 2003. The Health of the Body-Machine? or, Seventeenth Century Mechanism and the Concept of Health. Perspectives on Science 11(4): 421–442.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Skinner, Quentin. 1969. Thomas Hobbes and the Nature of the Early Royal Society. The Historical Journal 12(2): 217–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, Justin E.H. 2011. Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Stillman, Robert E. 1995. Hobbes’ “Leviathan”: Monsters, Metaphors, and Magic. ELH 62(4): 791–819.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomson, Ann. 2008. Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Turgot, Anne-Robert-Jacques. 1973. Reflections of the Formation and Distribution of Wealth. In Turgot on Progress, Sociology and Economics, ed. Ronald M. Meek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wennerlind, Carl. 2011. Casualties of Credit: The English Financial Revolution, 1620–1720. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe, Charles T., and Motoichi Terada. 2008. The Animal Economy as Object and Program in Montpellier Vitalism. Science in Context 21(4): 537–579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoffer Basse Eriksen .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 Springer International Publishing AG

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Eriksen, C.B. (2017). Circulation of Blood and Money in Leviathan – Hobbes on the Economy of the Body. In: Bek-Thomsen, J., Christiansen, C., Gaarsmand Jacobsen, S., Thorup, M. (eds) History of Economic Rationalities. Ethical Economy, vol 54. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-52815-1_4

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics