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John Locke in United Kingdom

British Political and Social Thought: John Locke

Introduction to John Locke

In 1688 Parliament triumphed in the Glorious Revolution, securing the division of power between the throne and the legislature. John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690), best captured the predominant political theory that ensued after this final settlement of the constitutional crisis. Much like Hobbes, Locke conceived of civil government as a rational creation, established by people wishing to leave a chaotic state of nature. Locke, however, was more optimistic about the nature of human beings. He described a state of nature in which people tend to respect one another’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property. The assumption that human beings are inherently good is at the heart of what has come to be called Lockean liberalism.

However, Locke acknowledged that conflicts will inevitably arise over property, and the occasional thief will disregard the natural rights of others. Therefore, Locke maintained, individuals consent to be governed; in this claim, he echoed Hobbes. Locke differed dramatically from Hobbes, however, in asserting that the people, having consented to be governed, can change government if it interferes with the natural rights of those who contracted to obey it, or if it fails to protect individual rights. Locke’s description of the people’s power to change governments was embodied in the Glorious Revolution and was later enlisted by Thomas Jefferson during the American Revolution in the argument of the Declaration of Independence (1776).” (1)


Notes and References

  • Information about John Locke in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  • Guide to John Locke

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    Schema Summary

    • Article Name: John Locke
    • Author: Danny W.
    • Description: British Political and Social Thought: John Locke Introduction to John Locke In 1688 Parliament triumphed in the Glorious [...]

    This entry was last updated: August 24, 2014


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