[Classic] #4. John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government

John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government

1. Introduction of the Author

John Locke was born in 1632 in Somerset, England, and lived through the pre-Puritan Revolution era. He was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University, later developing political philosophy and empiricism. Locke emphasized the protection of liberty and property rights, and his thoughts became the foundation of modern democracy【9†source】.

2. Background of the Writing

17th-century England, where Locke lived, was a time of intense conflict between the monarchy and parliament. Through the Puritan Revolution and the Glorious Revolution, a parliamentary-centered constitutional monarchy was established【9†source】.

3. Summary of the Work

3.1 Structure of the Work Two Treatises of Government is divided into two parts, with the second part being the most important. The second part consists of 18 chapters, covering the state of nature, state of war, slavery, property, paternal power, political society, the purpose of government, etc.【9†source】.

3.2 Summary of the Work

3.2.1 On the State of Nature Locke describes the state of nature as one of perfect freedom and equality, where individuals regulate their actions through reason and protect their bodies and property. However, conflicts arise due to the desire for property, leading to the formation of society and government to resolve these conflicts【9†source】.

3.2.2 On the State of War The state of war is a condition of enmity and destruction that arises when individuals’ selfishness and greed break free from reason. Without impartial judges, conflicts continue, necessitating the formation of society and law to protect individuals【9†source】.

3.2.3 On Slavery Locke argues that individuals cannot be subjected to another’s absolute power and that freedom is protected under natural law. No one can arbitrarily take another’s life or property【9†source】.

3.2.4 On Property Locke explains that God provided nature as a common resource for all humans. Individuals can own property through their labor, and these property rights are protected under natural law【9†source】.

3.2.5 On Paternal Power Paternal power is the authority parents have over their children, which should be shared equally between fathers and mothers. This power is for the protection and education of children and is not absolute, unlike the divine right of kings【9†source】.

3.2.6 On Political or Civil Society Political society is formed to protect individuals’ property and punish those who violate the law. The legislative and executive powers ensure fair trials, distinguishing it from absolute monarchy【9†source】.

3.2.7 On the Birth of Political Society To overcome the instability of the state of nature, individuals form a society, creating laws based on the majority’s decisions. A fair judicial system is established to prevent the abuses of hereditary monarchy【9†source】.

3.2.8 On the Purpose of Political Society and Government The purpose of society is to protect life, liberty, and property. Individuals form society to rectify the flaws of the state of nature, where the law and impartial judges protect individual rights【9†source】.

3.2.9 On the Forms of Government The form of government depends on how legislative power is granted. It can be democratic, oligarchic, or monarchical, with each form defined by the separation of legislative and executive powers【9†source】.

3.2.10 On the Limits of Legislative Power Legislative power is the highest authority in the state, responsible for protecting the lives and property of citizens. It must act according to established laws and cannot arbitrarily take property without consent【9†source】.

3.2.11 On the Legislative, Executive, and Federative Power of the Commonwealth Legislative power directs the use of state power to protect the community, with executive and federative powers being subordinate to it. The federative power deals with external matters, while the executive power handles internal affairs【9†source】.

3.2.12 On the Subordination of the Powers of the Commonwealth Legislative power is the highest authority but is entrusted by the people. If misused, the people can reclaim this power【9†source】.

3.2.13 On Prerogative Prerogative is the discretionary power of the monarch to act for the public good, differing from absolute monarchical power【9†source】.

3.2.14 On Paternal, Political, and Despotical Power, Considered Together Paternal power is temporary and for the benefit of children, political power is entrusted by society to protect property, and despotical power is absolute and unjust【9†source】.

3.2.15 On Conquest A rightful conqueror can dominate the lives of those who support the war but cannot infringe on their property rights or the rights of those who opposed the war【9†source】.

3.2.16 On Usurpation Usurpation is an unjust takeover of power, unlike rightful conquest, and lacks legitimacy without the people’s consent【9†source】.

3.2.17 On Tyranny Tyranny is the use of power for personal gain, disregarding the people’s rights. Citizens have the right to resist a tyrannical ruler【9†source】.

3.2.18 On the Dissolution of Government Governments can dissolve due to external conquest or internal tyranny. If a government fails to protect citizens’ rights, the people can establish a new government【9†source】.

4. Memorable Quotes

  1. “The state of nature is governed by the law of nature, which applies to everyone.” (p. 12)
  2. “No one can be subjected to another’s political power without their consent.” (p. 87)
  3. “The legislative power is the supreme authority of the state, entrusted by the community.” (p. 117)
  4. “The people can retain legislative power or establish a new legislature.” (p. 216)【9†source】.

5. Impressions

John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government is the foundation of modern democracy. By advocating for the rule of law and the separation of powers, Locke’s theory protects citizens’ rights and prevents the abuse of power. His emphasis on liberty and property rights remains relevant today, despite potential issues such as economic inequality

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