Second Treatise of Government [1689]

John Locke (C. B. Macpherson, ed., Hackett, 1980)

Locke’s Second Treatise, one of the great texts in the history of liberal political thought and a great influence on the American founders, is simultaneously a continuation of Hobbes’ thought and a criticism of Hobbes’ scheme. ┬áLike Hobbes, Locke draws his moral and political teaching from the state of nature and the requirements of that consent which founds civil society. However, Locke criticizes Hobbes’ conception of absolute sovereignty, claiming that it is incompatible with the security whose protection is the purpose of government, and substitutes a conception of limited government and separation of powers that in his view better preserves the people’s liberty.

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