John Locke: Founding Father of Modern Era Liberalism

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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 in the society, each individual is, to an extent, equal to all other individuals and that each has certain inalienable rights such as life and liberty. By looking at the ideologies of each philosopher, we can see that John Locke has had the most significant role in the development of modern era liberalism.
In Locke’s book the Second Treatise on Civil Government, he begins by describing the state of nature as a place where men exist in perfect freedom where they are able to pursue their own goals, as long as they do not infringe on the equal liberty of others (II. 4-7). This limitation differentiates Locke from Hobbes. Hobbes argued that freedom and equality and the importance of individual rights, allowed individuals in the state of nature to pursue their survival and interest without limitation (Leviathan, XII, p. 80). They had no duty to respect the rights of others. This is why the state of nature, for Hobbes, was a state of war (Leviathan, XII, p. 79). Whereas Locke believed that individual...

... middle of paper ... has had the most influence on modern liberalism is John Locke. Although Rousseau displayed some influence in the infrastructure of democracy, his ideology did not reflect modern era liberalism as much as Locke. Also, Thomas Hobbes did not have any influence on modern era liberalism due to his totalitarian perspective. It is clear that Locke’s preference for individual liberty, representative democracy, and inalienable natural rights, reveal his significant role in the development of modern era liberalism.

Works Cited

Hobbes, Leviathan, with an Introduction by C.B. McPherson, Penguin Classics, First
Published in 1968, ISBN 978014043157
Locke, Political Writings, ed. David Wootton, (Hackett Pubulishing) 2003, ISBN: 978-
Rousseau, Basic Political Writings, 2nd Edition, Translated by Donald A. Cross,
(Hackett Publishing) 1987, ISBN: 978-08722200470