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Slides on John Locke's Social Contract Theory for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  1. 1. John Locke’s Treatise on Government
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Who was John Locke? </li></ul><ul><li>What was Locke’s view of man in the state of nature? </li></ul><ul><li>What was the social contract according to Locke? </li></ul><ul><li>What were Locke’s ideas concerning government? </li></ul>
  3. 3. John Locke (1632-1704) <ul><li>Physician and Political Philosopher </li></ul><ul><li>Affiliated with the Whig party </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote in reaction to the revolutions following Cromwellian England </li></ul><ul><li>Famous works: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Essay Concerning Human Understanding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two Treatises of Civil Government </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Human Nature <ul><li>Men possess 3 natural rights: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The right to life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The right to liberty and equality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The right to own the fruits of their labor (Property) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. The State of Nature <ul><li>In the state of nature, men enjoy absolute liberty. </li></ul><ul><li>There exists an underlying “natural law” that ensures men can enjoy this liberty </li></ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. that man ought not to harm his fellows or their property </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The State of Nature (again) <ul><li>Thus, men judge for themselves how to use their own rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Naturally, this means that men can come into conflict </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Under such conditions, men’s natural rights end up abused </li></ul><ul><li>Hence properties are not secure </li></ul>
  7. 7. Civil Society <ul><li>Society arises because men seek to leave the state of nature </li></ul><ul><li>To do so, they surrender their freedoms (rights) to a power that will preserve their property </li></ul><ul><li>That power is also charged with punishing offenses against rights </li></ul>
  8. 8. Civil Society (cont’d) <ul><li>Civil society is a political society </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The surrendering of freedoms to a higher power offers the political character </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The right to have the laws of civil society enforced provides the civil character </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Civil Society (yikes!) <ul><li>Civil society is a society of laws </li></ul><ul><li>Laws enhance human freedom and preserve property </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The bias is that these laws must preserve as much of man’s natural freedom as possible. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The creation of civil society is the nature of the social contract </li></ul>
  10. 10. Social Contract <ul><li>The social contract creates a commonwealth for the people </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Establishment of laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designation of a supreme power </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By virtue of the contract, “majority wins” </li></ul><ul><li>The contract entails consent </li></ul>
  11. 11. Commonwealth <ul><li>Men surrender their freedoms to enjoy them more securely </li></ul><ul><li>Hence, the commonwealth is charged with the preservation of property through laws </li></ul><ul><li>Thus legislative power must be supreme in the commonwealth </li></ul>
  12. 12. Limitations <ul><li>Laws must always be directed towards the common good </li></ul><ul><li>The legislature can only operate according to standing laws and authorized officials </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody, not even the rulers , is above the law. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Limitations (more) <ul><li>The legislature may not deprive a person of property without his/her consent </li></ul><ul><li>Principle of non-delegation of powers </li></ul><ul><li>Separation between legislative and executive functions </li></ul>
  14. 14. “ People Power” <ul><li>Legislative power (etc.) is only fiduciary power for specific ends </li></ul><ul><li>People still possess the power to remove or alter the legislature </li></ul><ul><li>Abusive rulers command no allegiance over their subjects </li></ul>
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