John Locke And The Liberal Thinkers Essay

John Locke And The Liberal Thinkers Essay

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Throughout history, man has sought after the preservation of his natural rights. The idea of protecting these rights has put many political thinkers into conversation with one another, opening the door to a plethora of ideas and critiques on these important ideas. Liberal contract theorists, such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Adam Smith, are seen as committed to the protection of individual rights above all other powers. On the other hand, many critics such as, Karl Marx, Carole Pateman, and Charles Mills, address foundational issues that the liberal theorists omit. In the critics’ view, they see the individual not as a free being in the liberal capitalism government; rather, they see the individual as estranged, subordinated, and exploited in their government. Overall, the the liberal critiques do not fully withstand the critics’ views, and have some flaws in their logic.
Foremost, many liberal thinkers were committed to the protection of individual rights against all forms of tyranny. John Locke, the seventeenth and eighteenth century social contract theorist expounds this idea in his chapter on property within his Second Treatise on Government. Within Locke’s essay, the philosopher first deems that all beings are free and equal in the state of nature. Central to Locke’s treatise is the idea that the purpose of government is to protect and expand one’s property. Thus, one may may see with the social contract theorists, particularly with Locke, the government state exists to enforce property rights. Furthermore, one may see Locke against tyranny and for the protection of individuals’ rights in his views on leadership in the state. As mentioned, Locke says that all men are free and equal. Thus, Locke questi...


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...ment “all men are created equal,” to include African Americans. Therefore, while one may be able to dissect the liberal contract theorists’ views and their explicit wording with regards to race, that does not mean in the modern day we cannot reinterpret these meanings and use them to further new lines of thought.
Overall, the idea of individual freedoms has been debated for numerous years amongst many philosophers, economists, and political scientists. While the liberal contract theorists may pride individual rights above all, there exists many foundational issues that go unaddressed. Critics of liberal theories such as Marx, Pateman, and Mills address some of these issues such as socio-economic, gender, and racial critiques. While not all liberal contract theorists withstand these critiques, there may be ways in which their texts can still be used in modern times.

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