- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 3rd edition (October 28, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521357306
- ISBN-13: 978-0521357302
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 205 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Locke: Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) 3rd Edition
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Originally published in 1960, this analysis of all of Locke's publications quickly became established as the standard edition of the Treatises as well as a work of political theory in its own right.
From the Back Cover
John Locke laid the groundwork of modern liberalism. He argued that political societies exist to defend the lives, liberties, and properties of their citizens, and that no government has any authority except by the consent of the people. When rulers become tyrants and act against the common good, then the people have a right of revolution against them. Writing against the backdrop of Charles II's savage purge of the Whig movement, Locke set out to attack monarchical absolutism and demolished the intellectual fabric of the divine right of rulers.
Top customer reviews
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In the treatise, Locke tells the story that we were once in a state of nature, where we were all free and equal. Life was good for us all except when people wanted retribution for harms done, so this state of nature deteriorated into a state of war. Then we agreed to form governments to have an outside arbitrator who could provide us protections for our lives, freedoms, and property. It's unclear if Locke really believes this account but in some passages seems to half-heartedly endorse it. At any rate, Locke thinks that a sufficient reason for joining up with a government as opposed to living in an anarchist society (a society devoid of a formal State) is that the government or State could guarantee its citizens with protections that the anarchist society could not.
Locke has some interesting arguments in here about how we as human beings own our own bodies and are entitled to property because we mix our labor with natural resources and so we are also entitled to the fruits of our labor, since this labor is an extension of our bodies. But Locke puts a proviso in there, which, if took seriously, would have radical explanations. Locke thinks that we should only accept enough property so that there would be enough left for others. After he makes mention of this proviso, he doesn't really seem to take it seriously throughout the rest of the work, nor did those who adapted the work to their own purposes, like the American framers for example. But if they did, it would have major implications for what the organization of a more decent society would look like.
The writing style is dated, and some of the sentences are so long they take more time to read than most marriages last nowadays. However, it is well worth the time and effort.
As I read, I tried to think of the impact it must have had on our founding fathers. After all, Locke was trying to systemize a modern democratic government at a time when many of his beliefs must have been considered semi-treasonous. He accomplished this by starting at the roots of government (the family) and analyzing the relationship between government and those governed. In this book Locke uses the same kind of deduction that one finds in Darwin's "Origin of Species".
As impressive as Locke is today to a modern reader, imagine the startling revelation that it must have been in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. He questioned the devine rights of kings, established the limits of kings and magistrates, identifies the rights of those to be governed, and justified the rights of the governed to replace their governors.
Many of the problems we have now (in my not so humble opinion) are the results for forgetting some of those principles which Locke so ably identified. I also discovered a plethora of pithy bumper sticker slogans.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in government, either its justification or its origin.