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Second Treatise of Government

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  19,434 ratings  ·  346 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)
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Sinta It is essentially the original text outlining liberalism (the inspiration for neo-liberalism). Depending on your political leanings, the way his argum…moreIt is essentially the original text outlining liberalism (the inspiration for neo-liberalism). Depending on your political leanings, the way his arguments have been used to justify colonization and the obsession with rampant economic growth under capitalism despite widespread environmental degradation and social inequality can definitely be described as 'harmful'. For example, his conception of private property is an important concept that capitalism rests on.

However, this is debatable. He does outline certain constraints that aren't acknowledged in the actual practice of capitalism, therefore some argue 'pure liberalism' is not actually inherently harmful. (less)

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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
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
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
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
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
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
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Easier than I thought... I mean I always thought classical philosophy texts are hard to grasp but this one actually wasn’t. Many parts of it have lost validity over centuries; there is a part where he mentions “there aren’t many examples of people abolishing their political bonds to create a new body politic” and I am pretty sure when Jefferson was reading those lines he was like “bitch, sit back and watch!” However, there are key notions to it which are still valid: political consent, state of ...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
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
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
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
 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
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
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
The structure of his writing, from organization of ideas to structure, was a pain to decipher✨ I’ll admit that it’s a very important part of political philosophy though.
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
Maria Fernanda
Apr 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
I hate political science. Why their writing is so complicated?
Feb 22, 2020 added it
Shelves: philosophical

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
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.
Jacob Jones
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 19, 2021 rated it liked it
Many of the principles Locke promotes are relevant to the political thinking of today and some passages capture an idea really well. But the text is very repetitive - needlessly summarising and re-summarising points that were already made clear.

Some of the principles Locke describes (like his view on the right to property being based solely off of labor) are very outdated or completely non-sensical today. In a way, this is a benefit as there is a lot to criticise in this work.

I probably won't r
Justas Sim
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read and comprehend main ideas, although a reader can oppose Locke’s thoughts every three sentences. Many self-contradictions as well as poor explaining in some parts of the book. However, Locke’s views are well oriented towards future of capitalism, the role of a government and status of property in it.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
If it's any consolation, Locke is way easier to read than Hobbes. ...more
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. ...more
Emma Whear
My buddy Locke, defending those fundamental rights. Way to go, little man.
Aug 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
The idea that the primary function of liberal democracy is to protect property is a little... horrifying?
Deb in UT
I'm not rating this particular edition since I read from the Great Works books, but the length of this one is closest to the words I read. So much of Locke sounds like common sense to me. Maybe that's because many of his ideas are widely applied and accepted. Maybe they're just sensible. ...more
Michael Wayne
Oct 18, 2020 rated it liked it
at least it isn't Hobbes
he makes some good points but then covertly throws in a "men should be in charge" and "most slavery is fine" here and then. it is what it is
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The Well-Educated...: Completing John Locke 5 11 Aug 26, 2018 08:06AM  

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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

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