But considering the more common understanding of liberty--namely, that the subject may rightfully resist or disobey a sovereign's commands if he or she so chooses--Hobbes determines that such liberty goes back to the laws of nature. A subject has the right of self-preservation and is never bound to injure himself, put himself in danger of death, kill himself or injure another (the sovereign may rightfully punish or kill the subject for disobedience, but the subject then has a right to defend himself). However, for nothing else may the subject rightfully resist the sovereign, because such resistance detracts from the sovereign's ability to protect the commonwealth.

If the sovereign is no longer able to fulfill the function of protection, then the soul has left the body of the Leviathan, the commonwealth has collapsed, and subjects are no longer bound by contract to the sovereign. However, at this point, they have returned to the state of nature and must create a new contract or be imprisoned by fear and horror.

Hobbes has reinforced the metaphor of the Leviathan as an artificial person, and he now begins a lengthy examination of the systems of this artificial body. The "systems" of the Leviathanic body are defined as groups of individuals joined by some interest. Towns, provinces, trade organizations, and households are examples of systems. A "regular system" has a representative, while "irregular systems" do not. The representative is analogous to the sovereign in that the members of the system are contractual subjects of the representative, but the representative's power is not absolute because it is subordinate to the sovereign power. "Political systems" are established by the sovereign. "Private systems" are established by the people's own volition. "Lawful systems" are permitted by the sovereign, while "unlawful systems" are not.

"Public ministers" are appointed by the sovereign to administer certain sets of affairs. Public ministers are sovereign representatives of those involved in their affairs and are considered to be the joints of the Leviathan's body, coordinating the members.

Commodities and goods produced within the commonwealth or by other commonwealths are the "nutrition" for the Leviathan's body. Money is the blood that circulates throughout the body, keeping it animated. Finally, the Leviathan reproduces itself by bearing children: "Plantations" or "Colonies."


We saw earlier how each layer of Hobbes's argument mimics previous layers; the structure of the Leviathan is figured in a similar way. The Leviathan's body is like a set of nesting dolls, in which each doll is a bigger version of another doll inside of it. The Leviathan as a whole is a representative of all the people, but its body is made up of a succession of subordinated systems each with its own representative. The conditions of contractual sovereignty are identical for each representative in relation to its subjects, although only the Leviathanic sovereign has absolute sovereignty, because he is at the top of the structure. The smallest unit of representation is the family, in which the father represents the mother and their children by contract. The atomic element of the Leviathan is the individual human body, and, like the smallest motions of matter that ultimately determine human actions in Hobbes's philosophy, the individual constituents are the ultimate authors of the actions of the Leviathan as a whole. Each constituent part of the Leviathan's body strengthens and acts upon the others. This intricate engineering of the Leviathan renders it virtually indestructible, securing a supremely durable peace.