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The Second Treatise on Civil Government (Great Books in Philosophy) Paperback – March 1, 1986
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's just John Locke's second treatise, what more is there to expect? Nothing fancy. Had to buy it for my history class.Published on August 25, 2014 by Katrina
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.Published on June 2, 2013 by Raphael Marhefka
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 greedPublished on March 25, 2013 by Richard Ritacco
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.Published on August 16, 2012 by Just Gus
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. Read morePublished on December 2, 2008 by Crosslands
I love what he said about government, politics and toleration. It's kind of cool how he used the bible to push his point. Read morePublished on January 13, 2005 by Milt Mori
I could not believe how different this book was from what I expected it to be based on professors in politics classes describing Locke. Read morePublished on May 17, 2003