In Leviathan chapter 21, Thomas Hobbes discusses the nature of individual liberty under sovereign power. Hobbes defines liberty as the ability to act according to one’s will without being physically hindered from performing that act. Hobbes contended that although the civil laws mandated by the sovereign are hindrances preventing individuals from performing certain actions, absolute freedom and liberty still exist because the subjects themselves created the chains through the formation of a social contract with the sovereign.
Subjects participate in the formation of the social contract and are the ultimate authors of the sovereign’s power. Thus, argues Hobbes, the subjects prove responsible for their own hindrances to certain actions and therefore have no basis on which to rebel. If the sovereign resorts to imprisonment or death of the subject, the subject has been personally responsible for their own fate through participation in the system that lead to their death or imprisonment. Thus, Hobbes concludes, freedom can only truly exist under a sovereign power authorized by its subjects.