Social contract theory of john locke

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social contract Theory of john locke

John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and known as the “Father of Classical Liberalism”.He developed his Social Contract Theory in his famous book “Two Treatises on Civil Government (1690)”.
He divided ,in the formation of state, into two stages as “the state of nature” and entering into social contract for the formation of state.
THE STATE OF NATURE
Locke stated that the life in the state of nature was not as miserable and brutish as depicted by Hobbes, instead it was reasonably good and enjoyable. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions”. According to him, the state of nature was a golden age except that the property was insecure. Property plays an essential role in Locke’s argument for civil government and the contract that establishes it. According to Locke, private property is created when a person mixes his labor with the raw materials of nature. So, for example, when one tills a piece of land in nature, and makes it into a piece of farmland, which produces food, then one has a claim to own that piece of land and the food produced upon it. (This led Locke to conclude that America didn’t really belong to the natives who lived there, because they were, on his view, failing to utilize the basic material of nature. In other words, they didn’t farm it, so they had no legitimate claim to it, and others could therefore justifiably appropriate it.) Given the implications of the Law of Nature, there are limits as to how much property one can own: one is not allowed to take more from nature than one can use, thereby leaving others without enough for themselves. Because nature is given to all of mankind by God for its common subsistence, one cannot take more than his own fair share.
State of Nature
Locke stated that the life in the state of nature was not as miserable and brutish as depicted by Hobbes, instead it was reasonably good and enjoyable. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions”. According to him, the state of nature was a golden age except that the property was insecure. Property plays an essential role in Locke’s argument for civil government and the contract that establishes it. According to Locke, private property is created when a person mixes his labor with the raw materials of nature. So, for example, when one tills a piece of land in nature, and makes it into a piece of farmland, which produces food, then one has a claim to own that piece of land and the food produced upon it. (This led Locke to conclude that America didn’t really belong to the natives who lived there, because they were, on his view, failing to utilize the basic material of nature. In other words, they didn’t farm it, so they had no legitimate claim to it, and others could therefore justifiably appropriate it.) Given the implications of the Law of Nature, there are limits as to how much property one can own: one is not allowed to take more from nature than one can use, thereby leaving others without enough for themselves. Because nature is given to all of mankind by God for its common subsistence, one cannot take more than his own fair share. Property is the linchpin of Locke’s argument for the Social Contract and civil government because it is the protection of their property, including their property in their own bodies, that men seek when they decide to abandon the State of Nature.

Social Contract
State of Nature
Locke stated that the life in the state of nature was not as miserable and brutish as depicted by Hobbes, instead it was reasonably good and enjoyable. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions”. According to him, the state of nature was a golden age except that the property was insecure. Property plays an essential role in Locke’s argument for civil government and the contract that establishes it. According to Locke, private property is created when a person mixes his labor with the raw materials of nature. So, for example, when one tills a piece of land in nature, and makes it into a piece of farmland, which produces food, then one has a claim to own that piece of land and the food produced upon it. (This led Locke to conclude that America didn’t really belong to the natives who lived there, because they were, on his view, failing to utilize the basic material of nature. In other words, they didn’t farm it, so they had no legitimate claim to it, and others could therefore justifiably appropriate it.) Given the implications of the Law of Nature, there are limits as to how much property one can own: one is not allowed to take more from nature than one can use, thereby leaving others without enough for themselves. Because nature is given to all of mankind by God for its common subsistence, one cannot take more than his own fair share. Property is the linchpin of Locke’s argument for the Social Contract and civil government because it is the protection of their property, including their property in their own bodies, that men seek when they decide to abandon the State of Nature.

Social Contract
It was for the purpose of protection of property that man entered into the ‘Social Contract’. By property was meant life, liberty and estate. Locke says “every man has a property in his own person”. Property was insecure because (i) there was no established law, nor (ii) an impartial judge, and (iii) the natural power to execute natural law was not always commensurate with the claim.
To remedy this flaw man entered into the Social Contract by which he yields to the sovereign, not all his rights, but only the power to preserve order and enforce the law of nature. People made two contracts, namely social and political contracts. The Social Contract was made between the people themselves. They surrendered only some of their rights- the right of interpreting and enforcing the law of nature. It was only a limited surrender and not a complete surrender of their rights. Moreover, they surrendered their rights to the community as a whole and not to any particular individual. Thus, they established a civil society. The second contract, called the governmental contract was made between the people and the rule. It was made to enforce the first contract. By this the government came into existence. The state of nature was put to an end by means of these two contracts.

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