Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Second Treatise of Government” as Want to Read:
Second Treatise of Government
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Second Treatise of Government

(Great Books in Philosophy)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  18,185 ratings  ·  284 reviews
The Second Treatise is one of the most important political treatises ever written and one of the most far-reaching in its influence.
In his provocative 15-page introduction to this edition, the late eminent political theorist C. B. Macpherson examines Locke's arguments for limited, conditional government, private property and right of revolution and suggests reasons for th
Paperback, 148 pages
Published June 1980 by Hackett Publishing Company (Indianapolis, IN) (first published December 1689)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Second Treatise of Government, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ginny Having "Mein Kampf" second and "Communist Manifesto" fifth should answer this question. It's the opinion of those who voted that individual rights, pe…moreHaving "Mein Kampf" second and "Communist Manifesto" fifth should answer this question. It's the opinion of those who voted that individual rights, personal property, capitalism, etc. are, in the end, more "harmful" than the murderous rampages of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,185 ratings  ·  284 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Second Treatise of Government
100 things I’ve learned† from Ayn Rand'sJohn Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government”:

1. God gave the world to Adam, and his successive heirs.

2. Therefore, by the natural laws of succession (i.e. primogeniture), that means everything in the world should now be owned by one supreme King.

3. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound so good.

4. Hey! What’s that over there!?

5. As I was saying, everything in the world is owned in common by everyone.

6. But not like the stupid way the English do it with “Common land”, w
B. P. Rinehart
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who get to, or want to, vote for their political leaders
"3. Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of [private] property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good."

So I finally have read political philosophy that makes sense. This is the philosopher that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison swore by and who
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
It feels sort of like Hobbes for optimists, except he places a much higher emphasis on personal vs. collective property rights, which comes across as the precursor to most of the capitalist-oriented d-bag philopshy that's sprouted up in the past century. The notion that not being able to personally own something makes it useless and trifiling to us gets its foundation here. I could see Karl Marx frothing at the mouth and writing some bitter diatribe after reading something like this.
I was also
This is Locke’s most famous political work, in which he explains the role of legitimate government and the basis for legitimate revolution.

Locke argues that the people have the right to dissolve the government if it is usurped by a tyrannical executive power, or if the government ignored its own duties. Then the people have the right to reform the structure of government so that it protects against future abuses of power or breaches of trust. Locke wants to show that his argument for a right to
Erik Graff
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: citizens
Recommended to Erik by: David Schweickart
Shelves: philosophy
This book was assigned reading for the "Social and Political Philosophy" class at Loyola University Chicago. It's a rewarding, yet easy, read.

John Locke's Second Treatise has long been mentioned as a major factor in forming the mindsets of the authors of the Constitution of the USA. There is certainly, as Wittgenstein would put it, "a family resemblance", but a study of the library contents of the period indicates that actually it may not have been much read at the time. It certainly wasn't his
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Always a favorite.
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Even if all of the concepts in this book are bullshit it is still an important read because powerful people thought it was important.

I enjoy the idea that property is a product of labour, but it really doesn't hold up in most circumstances, and especially not in our world of scarce resources (I can't just pick a plum and claim it mine).

I like the idea of a 'state of war' in which all the rights and duties fly out the window. But, when do I know if I'm in a state of war. And, furthermore, if by
Michael O'Brien
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think that the best description for this book is that it formed much of the Founding Fathers' source code behind their political thought, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Now, we largely take it for granted that all men are created equal and are endowed with natural rights. In 1690, in a time when the Divine Right of Kings was still very much in acceptance, Locke's contention that all men are have the same natural rights was a revolutionary notion which he developed in ju ...more
Jacob Aitken
A book much talked about (sometimes maligned) but rarely read. There are several good reasons, namely Locke articulates a rather clear and logically coherent theory of resistance--but more on that later.

Like Hobbes and Rousseau, albeit with different and more godly conclusions, Locke analyzes man in his state of nature. What is this state of nature? It is men living together in reason without a common superior (III.19). If that is so, then why would anyone surrender a portion of his liberty and
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
The gist of Locke's political philosophy is amazing, especially in the context of when it was written, but I was disappointed with his fuzziness in a few areas:

Property rights: What if property rights protection causes more harm than benefit to an impoverished local population? Locke's defence of property rights is based, after all, on his proposition that private ownership is preferable to letting resources go to waste. Unfortunately, it seems that what constitutes "going to waste" is subjectiv
Knox Merkle
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is one that I’ll definitely have to come back to. When you come away from a classic with an entirely different opinion about it than much of Western civilization and many people whose opinions you greatly respect, the problem’s probably with you and not everyone else. That said, I think his entire philosophy is built on unbiblical and unchristian foundations. The Bible is clear that man’s state of nature is political. Taking the Garden of Eden by itself, it’s not all that clear; but Christ, ...more
May 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Whether or not Hegel was right that history is inevitably moving in a positive direction, he was most assuredly right that History is moving a direction that can limelight past social contradictions. When we look at Locke we see Hegel’s claim completely vindicated. His Second Treatise is both revolutionary for its time, and conservative for ours. Moreover, Locke, while challenging mainstream Political Theory of his day (e.g., Men are beasts in a state of war, and Kings have divine rights, and Mo ...more
Job Title: Men of Industry
Organization: Locke’s Utopia (as outlined in Second Treatise of Government)
Location: The Commonwealth
Salary: Depending on experience and circumstance
FT (+ over)

Job Description:
Under general supervision of God, men of industry are responsible for making the land productive, working to ensure individual prosperity, which will secure civil harmony so man’s true destiny and society’s objecktives are met. Specific areas of responsibility include:

-Self-preservation; prot
Mike M.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I've been aware of John Locke for a while now - you could even say I was a bit of a fan of his - so when I saw The Second Treatise of Government in a library, it immediately caught my eye. I swiftly read the introduction to the work and made the decision to carry on reading. Now, I’m not saying that the introduction (written by editor, Thomas P. Pearson) was particularly interesting, in fact it was quite the opposite, but I was intrigued by the fact that the introduction seemed to point out some ...more
 Imani ♥ ☮
I've "read" this one twice now and apparently have the same reaction to it. Whereas before, when I read this as a wee bitty freshman in college, and I am now more seasoned to see even more bullshit in this text than before.

Unfortunately, Locke and I will never get along. I understand the pertinence of this text in relation to the ultimate project of America's Founding Fathers. I understand that Locke's analysis of property is essential in understanding modern day capitalism - especially as it re
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a classic text for political science and worth reading to understand the argument that democracy and property rights are instrumentally tied - even if you read with an eye to critiquing this argument.
John Yelverton
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting read for those who seek a career or education in government.
Feb 22, 2020 added it

I should preface this by saying that you should only read this book if you are a huge political science geek, going to take POL200 with Clifford Orwin at the University of Toronto, or only have 2 days to live and want it to feel as long as possible.

I think that people might be really upset at me for disliking this book, or claiming that it was 149 pages of drudgery, but my gosh was this boring. Not boring in a 'you just don't understand it' type way, boring in a ‘rip your eyes out, countdow
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
If it's any consolation, Locke is way easier to read than Hobbes.
Lovely Fortune
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
I think this is my second time within less than a year that I've had to read Locke's second treatise. I appreciate how this document shaped American Democracy, but gosh darn, I did not want to have to read that in such close proximity twice.
Emma Story
My buddy Locke, defending those fundamental rights. Way to go, little man.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm a fan of his ideas on the state of nature and the state of war.
Sang Agung
This is the foundational text of liberalism. When we in the 21st century are speaking about 'human rights', 'private property', and 'liberal democracy', we are indirectly referencing this text from Locke. I first read this back in high school, though I didn't get its significance then. Most of what Locke wrote here had felt very obvious. But really, its obviousness was the result of how successful this text is at elaborating and commencing our current hegemonic ideology that is liberalism.

The mo
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Locke's seminal work laying out his philosophy of the contract between government and governed. A key focus is 'consent of the governed' as well as 'property', by which he means not just physical possessions but also life and liberty. It's easy to see how much of this structure and relationship between the state and individuals made its way into the Declaration and Constitution in the following century, including its closing chapters on tyranny and the circumstances under which government needs ...more
Bob Nichols
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Locke's political theory begins with the state of nature where men have perfect freedom within the bounds of the law of nature to pursue what is necessary for their preservation. In the state of nature also is a state of equality "wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another." In this state of freedom and equality, the law of nature is that each ought to respect each other's ends so that the state of nature is a state of balance. The state of nature is no ...more
Jack Hansen
John Locke is a most fundamental influence on the United States of America's foundation. His worldview, logical mind, and sense of justice for men and women in society pave the way for our founding fathers. The reading can be challenging because of his style but the gist is clear once read.

Locke introduces the reader to the reasoning behind the choices one makes in becoming a member of society. All societies differ in many ways but the source of power in a society may be abusive to its people or
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very important material presented in a way that comes off as dull and dry. (Maybe it was dull and dry back then too). While every thinking person should have a notion of what Mr. Locke was trying to get across they should not suffer through the original text. A square deal might be reading a well thought out synopsis with snippets of the most important text. It's interesting to read about his postulations of society citing both nature and scripture. His establishment of family building is off, f ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Locke has been considered father of liberalism and for valid reasons. His Second Treatise of Government is an answer to Hobbes' Leviathan. It also sets the basis for a social contract theory based on a state of nature, but unlike Hobbes he brings God into the equation. It is interesting that for Locke property means "life, liberty and estate". Locke also sparks controversy today because of his advocacy for slavery as he put it "master has authority over his slaves". Yet he says that people have ...more
Max Ritter
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
John Locke was an incredibly influential writer and thinker. But his writing is dense and outdated, so hard to sift through, and it's all a little redundant now. I love old theory writings but this one didn't really jump off the page at me, and plus Locke was super racist when it came to indigenous Americans. His beliefs are basically structured around keeping property in the hands of the elite so long as they seek to "better the collective stock of mankind", which seems very in line with some o ...more
Peter Martuneac
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If the framers of the US Constitution are the Founding Fathers, then Locke and his Second Treatise on Government are our Founding Grandfather. The spirit of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are based primarily on Locke’s writings here. I especially like his concept of the people’s ‘right to revolt’, declaring that if citizens find their government no longer tolerable, they have the RIGHT to cast it down and replace it. Small wonder that Locke did not originally attach his name to this tre ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Well-Educated...: Completing John Locke 5 10 Aug 26, 2018 08:06AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Leviathan
  • Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
  • Politics
  • Utilitarianism
  • Democracy in America
  • The Republic
  • On Liberty and Other Essays
  • The Social Contract
  • The Basic Political Writings
  • Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • The Federalist Papers
  • On Liberty
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • The Social Contract and Discourses
  • Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo
  • The Discourses
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Locke was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenmen

Other books in the series

Great Books in Philosophy (1 - 10 of 28 books)
  • The Basic Bakunin (Great Books in Philosophy): Writings, 1869-71
  • Charles S. Peirce: The Essential Writings (Great Books in Philosophy)
  • Considerations on Representative Government
  • Discourse on Metaphysics/The Monadology (Philosophical Classics)
  • The Essence of Christianity
  • The Essence of Religion
  • The Essential Writings (Great Books in Philosophy)
  • The Ethics of Belief and Other Essays
  • German Ideology
  • Good Sense Without God: Or Freethoughts Opposed To Supernatural Ideas A Translation Of Baron D'Holbach's Le Bon Sens

News & Interviews

Space operas, magic, destiny, dystopia, aliens: There's a bit of something for everyone in 2020's latest offerings in science fiction and fantasy...
0 likes · 0 comments
“Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” 109 likes
“Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.” 21 likes
More quotes…