Marxist Locke

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Marxist Locke

Karl Marx and John Locke both place a great deal of importance in both labour and property in discussing their political philosophies. At first glance, the two thinkers seem to possess completely different ideas on property, its importance, and the form of society which should grow from it. The disparity in their beliefs is evident, but they share a similar approach to labour and acceptable conditions while constructing philosophies which inherently attack each other. Locke’s suggestion that capitalism is a natural political progression can only be accomplished when the worker himself becomes a commodity to be traded, a transformation which Marx identifies as a major problem with capitalism. In looking at capitalism through a Marxist lens, we can see that Locke may find substantial problems with it.

At the outset of Locke’s fifth chapter in the Second Treatise of Government, he sets the stage for property acquisition. “God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience” (Locke 18). Locke implies that God’s creation of the world ultimately serves men, for their property will come of it, and with it, the best advantages of life. As the fruits of the world ripen, men find themselves picking it off the trees and placing it under their command as part of their property. One cannot underestimate the importance of property for Locke. It is the single most important aspect of human relation. Disputes over property directly proceed to Locke’s state of war, an important term which I will return to later. In Locke’s mind, property plays a key role in the creation of civil society. “The only way whereby any one divests himself of h...

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...o thinkers place a great deal of worth in the same concepts, though their philosophical focuses tend to settle on different issues. Were Locke to consider his own philosophy in the sense that Marx analyzed capitalism, he may have come to different conclusions about the accumulation of wealth.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. London: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1978. 473-500.

Marx, Karl. “Wage Labour and Capital.” The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. London: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1978. 203-217.

Marx, Karl. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.” The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. London: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1978. 66-125.

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Ed. C.B. Macpherson. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 1980.
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