Of the Ends of Political Society and Government. IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others:
The political theories set forth are the foundation for later political philosophers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose Du contrat social: Ou, Principes du droit politique ; The Social Contract, influenced the beginning of the French Revolution in Locke lived during a time of tremendous political upheaval in England, including the Civil Warthe beheading of King Charles Ithe interregnumthe Restoration of the Stuart monarchyand the Glorious Revolution of These events gave Locke the motivation to advocate the political changes that influenced his and future generations.
Manuscripts of his work circulated in England for several years prior tohelping to produce the revolution. The content of this essay is best summarized in five major points.
In this point, he declares his belief that government can exist only with the consent of free people. Locke then defines the political power that the government possesses as the power to make laws for the regulation and the preservation of property, to use the collective force of the people to execute the laws, and to protect the people and their property from foreign injury.
This summary of the duties of government is notable for what it omits—religion, for example. The first principle is that there is a need for a powerful political and social organization. Locke believes that all people are born free; he also believes that the only way free people can protect themselves and their property is to form a community.
The second principle is that the only legitimate claim by which a ruler can justify his or her power is by a definite agreement between the ruler and the ruled.
Locke uses this contract theory to form the basis for government by consent. The next principle is that different circumstances allow for different degrees of authority being given to the government. In chapter 8 of his second thesis, Locke gives the example of the chiefs of Indian tribes in America, who were absolute rulers during times of war, but who exercised very little power during times of peace.
Even if the government proves unsatisfactory, they cannot claim rights not contained in the agreement.
First is a pact of union, in which individuals surrender control over the natural rights to a community, which then acts as a unit to protect the rights of all.
Throughout his writings, Locke discusses community by consent but never defines the exact point of origin for that community.
He also writes much about the state of nature, which is what exists before the community is formed, but does not precisely describe that state.
Locke states that before an individual may be bound by community action, there must be solid evidence that he or she gave consent. Direct consent can be given when, upon reaching maturity, he or she takes an oath of allegiance to the government. Tacit consent may be assumed if a person stays in a community for a long period of time without going elsewhere.
Even if he or she is able to leave, his or her choices may be so limited that he or she is no more satisfied than before.John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Civil Government Summary Locke sets out to describe how a civil government can exist and dissolve based on the laws of nature regarding men.
Two Treatises of Government (or Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles, and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter Is an Essay Concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government) is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in by .
Brief Summary. The Second Treatise of Government places sovereignty into the hands of the people. Locke's fundamental argument is that people are equal and invested with natural rights in a state of nature in which they live free from outside rule.
The Second Treatise of Civil Government John Locke From a general summary to chapter summaries to explanations of famous quotes, the SparkNotes Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government Study Guide has everything you need to ace quizzes, tests, and essays.
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