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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reflection to the Declaration of Independence
The Second Treatise of Government provides Locke's theorizes the individual rights and involvement with the government; he categorizes them in two areas -- natural rights theory and social contract. 1.Natural state; rights which human beings are to have before government comes into being. 2.Social contact; when conditions in natural state are unsatisfactory, and there's...
Published on August 27, 2003 by M. A. ZAIDI

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete edition
There`s at least one major omission in this edition, in the third chapter ('On The State Of War'), and there are probably others as well. With a work this important and succinct, the full text is indispensable.
Published on February 27, 2011 by R. Thorpe


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reflection to the Declaration of Independence, August 27, 2003
This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
The Second Treatise of Government provides Locke's theorizes the individual rights and involvement with the government; he categorizes them in two areas -- natural rights theory and social contract. 1.Natural state; rights which human beings are to have before government comes into being. 2.Social contact; when conditions in natural state are unsatisfactory, and there's need to develop society into functioning of central government.
Political Power and Natural state: He explains the need for civil government; by detailing life with the absence of civil government. This is the premature state of an entity; through this one can see the need and a role for a government structure. He begins by defining political power; which is the right of making laws with penalties varying with the nature of transgression. The laws are maintained for the preservation of property; the enrichment of the community and its defense.
He determines the need for civil government by expressing the state of society without a government. To maintain harmony; there is a need to maintain equality; this is the state of nature. The chief end for the human species is survival; to attain it we need life, liberty, health and property. These are natural rights that we have in a state of nature before the introduction of civil government, and all people have these rights equally.
The Natural State personifies a state of utopia; as it does not account for the realistic issues of violations of this natural state. There are no police, prosecutors or judges in the state of nature as these are all representatives of a government with full political power. In addition to our other rights, we have the rights to enforce the law and judge on our own behalf. We may intervene in cases where our own interests are not directly under threat to help enforce the law of nature. Still, the person who is most likely to enforce the law under these circumstances is the person who has been wronged. The basic principle of justice is that the punishment should be proportionate to the crime. When victims are judging a crime; they likely to judge it of greater severity than an impartial judge. As a result, there will be miscarriages of justice.
Slavery: Is the state of being in the absolute or arbitrary power of another. On Locke's definition of slavery there is only one way to become a legitimate slave. In order to do so one must be an unjust aggressor defeated in war. The just victor then has the option to either kill the aggressor or enslave them. Locke tells us that the state of slavery is the continuation of the state of war between a lawful conqueror and a captive, in which the conqueror delays to take the life of the captive, and instead makes use of him; only in this condition is slavery legitimate. Illegitimate slavery is the state in which someone possesses absolute power over someone else without just cause. Locke holds that it is this illegitimate state of slavery which absolute monarchs wish to impose upon their subjects.
Property: In evolution of the state of nature to civil government. It is the account of nature and origin of property, which leads to the explanation of why civil government replaces the state of nature. In discussing the origin of private property Locke begins by noting that God gave the earth to all men. Locke holds that we have a property in our own person. And the labor of our body and the work of our hands properly belong to us. The state of evolution for property is hunter/gatherer to agriculture to introduction of money; each development provides more flexibility and removes limitations of trade; creating economical inequality. The inequality may cause quarrels which increases the numbers of violations of the law.
The institution of civil government comes about because of the difficulties in the state of nature. Rather clearly, on Locke's view, these difficulties increase with the increase in population, the decrease in available resources, and the advent of economic inequality which results from the introduction of money. These conditions lead to an increase in the number of violations of the natural law. Thus, the inconvenience of having to redress such grievances on one's own behalf become much more acute, since there are significantly more of them. These lead to the introduction of civil government.
Social Contract Theory: Locke's argument for the right of the majority is the theoretical ground for the distinction between duty to society and duty to government. When the designated government dissolves, men remain obligated to society acting through majority rule. It is entirely possible for the majority to confer the rule of the community on a king, oligarchs or an assembly. Thus, the social contract is not linked to democracy; still a government must perform the legitimate function of government.
Civil Government: The aim of such a legitimate civil government is to preserve, so far as possible, the rights to life, liberty, health and property of its citizens, and to prosecute and punish those of its citizens who violate the rights of others and to pursue the public good even where this may conflict with the rights of individuals. In doing this it provides something unavailable in the state of nature, an impartial judge to determine the severity of the crime, and to set a punishment proportionate to the crime.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Significant but sometimes difficult to follow, July 30, 2002
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Bruce H (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
The importance of this book, first published in 1690, cannot be denied. The book's most famous and controversial idea is that the people have a right to overthrow their government if the government fails consistently in its responsibilities and duties.
The book, which lacks an introduction or conclusion, may be challenging for modern readers. Locke's writing covers a wide range of topics; conquest, paternal power (i.e. the power that fathers have over their children), despotical power and his over-arching central concern, property.
The main ideas of the book are that government exists by the consent of the governed who found government for the purpose of securing their lives, rights and property. Locke frequently contrasts people who live in a state of nature (i.e. no government; people enjoy considerable personal freedom) and those that live under government. Under Locke's view of the social contract, men give up give up the unlimited freedom they enjoyed in the state of nature so as to secure their life, limb and property more securely under government. There is also some discussion of the idea of separation of powers; what is interesting here is that Locke does not use the traditional formulation (i.e. executive, legislative, and judicial), rather he discusses executive, legislative and "federative" (by which he means the conduct of self-defense and foreign policy) powers.
The type of government that Locke describes more closely resembles the system employed by Britain and Canada, more than the United States. He conceives of a monarch or prince at the top of the government (as in Britain and Canada; the Monarch is the Head of State), with the legislature representing the people (Parliament) and so on. This is not to deny that this book still holds value for Americans, as other reviewers have pointed out.
All that said, I would not recommend this particular edition of the book. The lack of introduction to put Locke in his historical context can make the book difficult to understand and some of Locke's 17th century references will simply be skipped over by most readers. However, if you simply want a copy of the book that is plain and plan to quote from it, this edition is quite useful. Each paragraph of the book is numbered allowing a researcher to precisely footnote information.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rock America Was Founded On, May 12, 2000
This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
"The enjoyment of property that [man] has in this state [the state of nature] is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property."
Locke is one of the most influential philosophers of all time. In his Second Treatise, Locke lays the foundation for what has become modern western civilization. Locke's arguments are fully developed as he addresses his two greatest adversaries, Sir Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes. Though his critique of Filmer's `Patriarcha' is primarily addressed in the First Treatise and only summed up in the first chapter of the Second Treatise, his ideas of the `tabula rasa,' refuting the divine right of Kings is the foundation of the essay.
Locke also gives a profound critique of Hobbes, as he sets forth the true `state of nature.' Locke's rational and logical conclusions make his ideas extremely easy to understand. This is a must read, since having a clear understanding of Locke's state of nature, state of war, property, power, political and civil societies, conquest, usurpation, and tyranny are fundamental to understanding the history and politics of America.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete edition, February 27, 2011
There`s at least one major omission in this edition, in the third chapter ('On The State Of War'), and there are probably others as well. With a work this important and succinct, the full text is indispensable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Second Treatise on Civil Government, July 23, 2002
This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
The Second Treatise on Civil Govenment by John Locke is the foundation of the philosophy with which Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and Hamilton read and determined to make a cornerstone of our government. This is a most influential essay in the history of political philosophy.
John Locke was an early enlightened thinker and philosopher in England and sought to bring reason and intelligent discussion into civil society. His endeavor to reconstruct the nature and purpose of government, a social contract is proposed. Locke sets out with a purpose, a detailed discussion of how society came to be and the nature of its inception. Locke was associated with powerful scientific minds of the time, one in particular was Robert Boyle.
Locke used Natural Law to define his thoughts. The sociopolitical climate of the seventeenth-century England, at that time was in violent civil war, counter-revolution, restoration, deposition of the monarchy and the subsequent Parliamentry rule with the eventual restoration of the monarchy.
Locke matured as a social philosopher and wrote "Two Treatises of Government" (1690) of which the second is most widely read. Locke's dedication to individual liberty, government by consent, the social contract and the right to revolt against governments that endanger the rights of citizens, has made the legacy of Locke. Later read by the Founding Fathers of the United States, Locke's ideas made an important impression and the fight for freedom began.
This is an important treatise and should be read by all as the foundation of a government by its citizens consent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Second Treatise on Civil Government, June 2, 2013
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Very smart man and a lot of insight on government. The Declaration and the Constitution could have been written without this knowledge. Every American should read this work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Locke and human nature, March 25, 2013
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This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
john Locke showed us the need for understanding nature and the needs of man. Locke had an emmense understanding of mans inability to control self interest and greed
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!, August 16, 2012
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This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
This is a great book. Well written. Easy to understand. It gives the knowledge to understanding how and why the founding fathers came to create our Constitution.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic: Must Read, May 17, 2003
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This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
I could not believe how different this book was from what I expected it to be based on professors in politics classes describing Locke. I think they never read this book or were confusing him with someone else. This book is short and sweet, and at the same time a cornerstone for what the world has become in most developed countries. Many ideas in this book were revolutionary in his time (in fact Locke would not let it be known he was the author) but are now so commonplace as to be things observed in any developed country without explaining why. At least the economic ideas could be classified as such; but the ideas of the people overthrowing a tyrant due to horrible ruling is equally revolutionary in monarchies and dictatorships today, and even in poorly governed "democracies" today. A must read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Worthwhile Read, December 2, 2008
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This review is from: The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
This work by John Locke should be read in its entirety. Too often the condensed descriptions of this book make Mr. Locke to seem rather naive. First there is the natural state of humanity before the formation of civil government. Locke does not really try to propound this period or situation as a utopia. He admits that in the natural state there would be strife. Instead what Locke does is formulate how rational beings would exist in a state of nature without a governing authority. In essence Locke formulates commonly consented rules by humans living in proximity. Thus Locke prefigures Frederick Hayek's order without design (see Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1: Rules and Order. Locke believed in a God of Reason and demonstrated how reason is the basic means humans can live together in absence of governing authority.

Locke uses his basic rational order to demonstrate that humans created the governing authority to protect human life and property. It should be stressed that Locke considers the labor of a person to be his property. Thus slavery and forced labor become a type of robbery.

Readers will note that Locke separates the community, which basically consists of people using their informal rules and manners, from the government. Locke demonstrates that government is not a be all but has only certain limited functions in the community.

Locke then demonstrates that a ruler who governs for the benefit of himself or for the benefit of a small elite to the detriment of the rest of the citizens of the community is in effect making war on the community and its members. Such a ruler should be overthrown.

Locke thus provides the rational for overthrowing absolute monarchs and other tyrants. Locke demonstrates that the totalitarian Nazi, Leninist, and Maoist tyrants have no right to govern since the basic principle is to confiscate the property and people of the community to serve the leadership.

Locke, when read in its entirety, is a strong voice for liberty and justice.
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