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Why does Locke's political theory contain an account of property rights? Does this account succeed in serving his purpose?

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Introduction

Why does Locke's political theory contain an account of property rights? Does this account succeed in serving his purpose? Locke, following Hobbes, based his second treatise on the state of nature. However for Locke the state of nature was a moral code whereas for Hobbes it was essentially behavioural. Locke, who with many of his time was deeply religious, based his politics on the moral obligation of man to God, by way of a set of duties owed to Him. Locke argued that self-preservation was important, as with this comes the freedom to continue to discharge ones duty to God. Locke spent the vast majority of his first treatise forming a critique of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha. Filmer argued that as God granted Adam the right to private property and that the monarchs of the world were descended from Adam, then all property within their dominion was their private property. However Locke argues that God gave the world to man in common and that 'every Man has a Property in his own Person'1. ...read more.

Middle

Locke doesn't not bring the concept of employed labour into his treatise in a formal way, although we can take it that he assumes it as he states that 'Thus the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut; and the ore I have digged...become my property'2. This takes Locke's theory of property rights to another level as the economy moved from a very oversimplified view, arguably the type of economy that existed in biblical days of individuals and their families, to one of Locke's time, that of large land owners and paid employment. It is from this that Locke moves towards his introduction to labour theory of value, as he says that those without land can seek employment from those that have and that the labour they have will have a value to the employer, as he posses more land than he cultivate on his own and without that labour the land has a diminished, or indeed no, value. ...read more.

Conclusion

If his overriding aim was to offer a critique of Filmer, then it must be said that he puts forward a convincing alternative argument and although very controversial at the time it certainly rings truer today than Filmer's theory. Indeed if nothing else Locke's views on labour certainly laid the foundation for Ricardo's and Marx's work on his labour theory of value. However during his lifetime Locke's two treatise didn't incite the political change that he hoped they would and so if Locke hoped that his papers would change much in Britain he was to be sadly disappointed. However they had a profound effect much nearly a century later. It is often argued that Locke's philosophy was instrumental in the drafting of the US constitution. And in France, Voltaire was a supporter of Locke although the French never embraced his theory of property rights during their revolution. Overall I think it can be stated that Locke's account of property rights does fulfil its purpose to a certain extent although it didn't have the immediate effect that he hoped for. ...read more.

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