The state of nature is a fundamental concept of modern political philosophy. As such, it is particularly associated with Thomas Hobbes’ and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work. As the following article shows, the state of nature is not simply an auxiliary construction [Hilfskonstruktion] for a theory that aims to clarify the relation between the political order and its origins and normative principles. It is also a figure of thought that introduces colonial images into political philosophy. The following reading of Hobbes and Rousseau, which also draws on image analysis, traces how their conceptions of the state of nature are constitutively linked to imaginations of the savage that emanate from contemporary colonial discourses. Moreover, by comparing the writings of Hobbes and Rousseau it becomes apparent that the colonial difference increasingly takes on a systematic relevance. This development further contains significant similarities with the changing use of gender differences in political philosophy.
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