John Locke: Founding Father of Modern Era Liberalism

1444 WordsJul 13, 20186 Pages
Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke are all great thinkers who were greatly influential in forming philosophies that would affect the future of politics. By analyzing each philosopher’s ideology, we can identify which thinker’s theory reflected modern era liberalism the most. For this paper I will be arguing that, John Locke provides a more compelling framework of modern era liberalism because of his perception of the state of nature, the social contract and the function of government. Before explaining how Locke’s philosophy reflects modern liberalism, it is important to first understand the characteristics that make up modern liberalism. Modern era liberalism stresses the idea that individuals are of great importance…show more content…
Labour essentially creates a distinction between the common and the private (The Second Treatise of Gov., V, 28-29). By analyzing the priority Locke places on private property, we can see how it reflects the fundamental feature of modern liberalism: individualism. Unlike Locke, Hobbes viewed the social contract as a way to avoid any justification of revolution and believed that the rights humans possessed in the state of nature must be surrendered to a sovereign, in exchange for order (Leviathan, XIV, p. 80). In comparison to Locke and Hobbes, Rousseau did not see the social contract as a solution to the good life, but rather a way for people to improve themselves. Rousseau essentially wanted to establish a relationship between citizens that provided everyone with adequate protection endorsed by the community while preserving the free will and liberty of each (A Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, II, p. 29). Rousseau’s account of the social contract does not reflect the framework of modern liberalism due to the fact that it stresses the importance of community, whereas modem liberalism emphasizes the importance of individualism, an aspect that Locke focuses on when discussing private property. Thirdly, Locke provides the most compelling account of modern era liberalism through his description of the function of government. Locke believed that government should be strictly

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