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Two Treatises of Government (1689)

af John Locke

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Published in 1690, Locke's works were immensely influential in the politics of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and provided the foundation for liberal democracy.
  1. 00
    Debt: The First 5,000 Years af David Graeber (M_Clark)
    M_Clark: Graeber's book provides a more anthropological based explanation for the development of money, debt, taxation and government. It paints Locke's ideas about the evolution of government as closer to fantasy.
  2. 00
    Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia af Steven Stoll (M_Clark)
    M_Clark: Locke's theory of property is based upon the value-add provided to land by the person taking possession. It is therefore interesting to read Stoll's book describe how the land in Appalachia was owned by people that had not even visited it who then threw off the original settlers that had improved the land. One of those absentee landlords was, interestingly enough, George Washington. Of course, all of the European settlers in American used Locke's rational to toss the Indians off of their land since they felt, incorrectly, that the Indians had not done anything to improve the land justifying its takeover by Europeans.… (mere)

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Originally published in the wake of the Glorious Revolution these two essays were neglected due to a glut of tracts and treatise in support of the events of 1689-90, it wasn’t until the 1760s that they become important in political discourse. Two Treatise of Government by John Locke were a refutation of absolute monarchy and the theory of the state of nature and how government is created.

The less famous First Treatise is a straight line for line critique of Sir Robert Filmer’s divine right absolutist monarch supporting tract, Patriarcha, the conclusion of which Locke examines the Bible and history to demolish Filmer’s hypothesis. In the Second Treatise Locke turns from Filmer’s work into his own theories of the state of nature and how it eventually led to the formation of a government by contract between individuals. Overall, the First Treatise is slog with Locke apparently having to repeat the same evidence to refute Filmer and essentially isn’t needed to understand its follow-up. On the other hand, the Second Treatise begins slowly as Locke references Filmer until transition to his own theory of the state of nature that leads to his own contract theory that is thought-provoking and historically influential.

Two Treatise of Government while being connected as a refutation and then opposing argument, the latter work by John Locke this is more profound not only as political theory and from an historical perspective. ( )
  mattries37315 | Jun 22, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Dec 14, 2021 |
Skimmed over most of it, read parts in full ( )
  kladimos | Sep 23, 2021 |
A lot of it is wasted on pointless argumentation about what exactly does the Bible say about the right to rule. There's a lot of Bible quoting and it doesn't get sensible until halfway through. The rest of it is groundbreaking nevertheless quite common sense nowadays. Except the bit about rulers not being allowed to appoint other rulers who were not elected directly by the people and ceding any law making power to them. Sounds like what is annoying people about the EU. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
This is one of the classic texts of political philosophy and had a great influence on the development of the US political system. I nevertheless found the book disappointing finding that it providing much less than I had expected. In particular, I found Locke's discussion of property to be particularly unconvincing. That said, it is impressive to think that Locke feared imprisonment and even execution as a result of what he wrote.

One surprising aspect of the book was learning how big a role that American Indians played in the thinking of those days about the "natural state" of man. Locke's theories on the emergence of society and government are, however, pure fantasies and are not supported by modern anthropological research. it was tempted to imagine how different this book would have been if it had been written based upon real research rather than his armchair philosophizing. Unfortunately, for our thinking about politics, Locke's origin myths seem to persevere.

The first treatise is essentially a refutation of Sir Filmer's biblical justification of the monarchy and offers little to the modern reader. Despite that, I found it entertaining to see how Locke demolished Filmer's argunements and to identify a few places were Locke even turned snarky. The second treatise is, of course, the meat of what made this work so famous. It is therefore more entertaining and a more useful read.

This particular edition is not recommended for the casual reader since it strives to be more of a scholarly edition. One of the disadvantages is having to put up with 17th century spelling of words. The introduction material is also very dry and targeted more to explain textual issues than to explain the ideas in the work. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 29, 2018 |
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Published in 1690, Locke's works were immensely influential in the politics of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and provided the foundation for liberal democracy.

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