John Locke and The Egalitarian Principle

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Considered to be the ‘Father of classical liberalism,’ John Locke established the core values of classical liberalism, which included liberty, individualism, protection of natural rights, consent and constitutionalism. Classical liberalism that developed in the United States focused on a ‘minimal state’ in terms of government restriction while John Locke centralized his focus on the social and political means of the individual. Generally, egalitarianism is defined as “a belief in human equality in terms of social political and economic affairs.” Under this standard, John Locke cannot be labeled an egalitarian in all terms since he does not believe in equality of persons in all aspects. John Locke’s form of classical liberalism can be best categorized as egalitarian because of his emphasis on the idea of tabula rasa, equality of opportunity and natural rights.
John Locke believed that everyone is born with a blank slate, meaning that no one is born with innate qualities and knowledge is gained through sensation and reflection. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke states that the mind is “…white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas” (Locke 674). Persons absorb the external information and process it in their mind, which reflects in their actions. Locke believed that the blank slate that men were born with would soon be developed through their inherent faculties (things done unconsciously such as breathing and understanding) (Locke 678-679). Since egalitarianism's main focus is on the basis of equality, Locke's proposal for the tabula rasa coincides with equality because it states that all persons are born the same. Not a person is born with innate qualities that will allow him to have a better chance at pro...

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... of liberalism, which is a doctrine for industrious individuals. Colonialism corresponds with his spoilage limitation, which validates Locke’s classical liberalism. In addition, by excluding women, Locke is only acting as a subject of his time. Just as Althusser stated, the ideology of the time ‘hailed’ him into becoming a concrete subject. John Locke deems people as equal in protection and at birth, but strongly believes that men are to make their own success. His classical liberalism supports egalitarianism, but not in all positions. Men are born the same and will always have the same natural rights that will be protected, but in terms of the results of their opportunities it will be up to them to control.

Works Cited

Cahn, Steven M. “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” Classics of Western
Philosophy. N.p.: Hackett, Incorporated, 2012. 672-739. Print.

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