Essay on Locke's Theory of Resistance

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Locke's Theory of Resistance


This essay focuses attention on the political philosophy of John Locke [1632 to 1704], set out by him at length in The Second Treatise of Government, originally published in 1689, but almost certainly written during late 1682 and early 1683 [1].

Locke assumes that people must have found it to be necessary to establish political societies when the concepts of meum and tuum first entered their vocabulary, and differences then began to arise within the body of the people concerning the question of ownership and distribution of material goods. He also assumed that we have the freedom, and thus the right, to dispose of, within the bounds of the laws of nature, those properties which are
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In Locke's exposition law combined with the public good is repeatedly placed in opposition to coercive force and to private will or appetite [4]. Locke emphasises that tyranny includes any violation of right, but that there are some violations of the law that are not necessarily tyrannical. His thesis is that no positive law is valid unless it accords with the natural law. When legislative actions are taken to advance or enhance private interests, at the expense of the public good, then such action is referred to not as 'tyrannical law', but as an act of war [5].

A prerogative act, in accordance with this standard, can be seen to be lawful and rightful and can then be accorded equivalence. It is in this sense that prerogative powers are seen by Locke to be rightful or legitimate insofar as they derive from the natural law and depend upon the consent of the people [6]. Locke creates the impression that tyranny is most usually an executive phenomenon, and that it can be recognized as such due to its violation of the corpus of the positive or standing law. It is that law alone which authorises the use of government power, and at the same time defines the scope and extent of that power [7]. Therefore, tyranny can be equated with illegality to the extent that the laws of society may be equated with the public good, and to that extent only.

For Locke tyranny and usurpation
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