In this paper, I argue that there is a significant juridical root to the problem of authoritarian rule in Malaysia. That root is Hobbism, an authoritarian conception of legal authority as a solution to the problem of political instability. I show its influence by focusing on three pivotal events in Malaysia's legal and political history. The analysis aims to provide a more nuanced picture of the factors that contribute to the problem of authoritarianism in Malaysia and to suggest that these factors are not purely political; they also have a basis in how officials conceive of legal authority. My argument shows that the influence of Hobbism has worked in both ways to produce the problem of authoritarianism in Malaysia. It has subverted well-minded officials from affirming the ideals of democracy and the rule of law while allowing authoritarian politicians to exploit Hobbism to serve their authoritarian aims. I argue that Hobbism is so well entrenched in the legal and political culture that Malaysian law and politics will not easily transition to more meaningfully express a commitment to serve the ideals of democracy and the rule of law.
* Assistant Professor, Department of Law, Faculty of Public Affairs, Carleton University, C473 Loeb Building, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada.