Professor Elshtain begins her account of Hobbes (in a section titled Hobbes: the Great Undoer) by noting how one-sided Hobbes' account of human nature is:
[Hobbes] joins Machiavelli as an allegedly 'scientific' student of politics, this despite his extreme views on human nature and his relentless focus on worst-case scenarios as if these were the norm ... (p.104)
One finds in Hobbes, as in Machiavelli, a world of extremes represented as normal, a world of exceptions represented as the rule. (p.105)
Hobbes is a masterful reductionist. His "man" is an atom flung about by appetite and aversion. (p.106)
According to Hobbes, man is not by nature a social creature who fulfils his nature in relationship with others. There are no natural ties between men giving rise to a human society and to forms of governance. Instead, man in a state of nature lives a brutal and solitary life marked by fear of a war of all against all. This fear leads men to make a social contract in which they cede power to an absolute ruler to keep the peace.
Professor Elshtain continues:
What drives human beings, Hobbes tells us, is a desire for safety and whatever is good to ourselves. Whatever we give we do in anticipation of a reward ...
Human beings do not require human society to fulfill their natures ... but, rather, to protect them from their natures ... There can be no commonwealth unless it is directed by one judgement - otherwise particular appetites triumph and lead inevitably to the breakdown and a return of the "natural" state of a war of all against all. Men are continually in competition ... and they do not work together for a common good but, instead, for the immediate gratification of private benefits.
All moderns who see society as being made up of millions of competing wills have to come up with a way for such a society to hold together. Right-liberals have often looked to the free market to harmonise wills; left-liberals have preferred the idea of technocratic regulation by experts. Hobbes had a different idea: he wanted a uniting of wills through an absolute ruler:
Once brought into being the sovereign is above the law. Laws take the form of his untrammeled will ... Law as command flows from the uniting of wills, one having come out of many, a melee of contending wills is pressed into one will ...(p.108)
Hobbes was a relativist, believing that there was nothing inherently good or evil:
For strong nominalists, like Hobbes, neither reason nor nature gives any guidance about what is good and evil - unsurprising, therefore, that Hobbes reduces evil - and good - to the more or less arbitrary names we attach to things: "Good and Evil are names that signify our Appetites, and Aversions; which in different tempers, customes, and doctrines of men, are different." (p.110)
Hobbes does not even believe that the family is a natural institution:
He cannot permit the family to have its own being ... he argues that the family, too, arises from a coercive contract, with both parents as masters over the children who "sign on," so to speak, because they know that, being weak, they could be starved to death or otherwise eliminated by the more powerful parents. (p.111)
Modern liberalism is not cast entirely in the pattern set by Hobbes. Modern liberals would reject the idea of harmonising wills through an absolute ruler. But there is much in Hobbes that passed into the liberal tradition, such as an understanding of man as an asocial creature lacking natural ties or common interests.
It's a weakness at the very beginning of liberal philosophy that calls out for the kind of criticism delivered by Professor Elshtain.