John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract

John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract

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The Enlightenment was an astonishing time of transformation in Europe. During this time in the eighteenth century there was a progressive movement that was labeled by its criticism of the normal religious, social, and political perceptions. A number of significant philosophers, with new philosophies, had inspired creativeness and change. These thinkers had many different thoughts and views on people and the way they act, and views on the government. Two well-known and most influential thinkers of this time were the English political philosopher John Locke and the French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These two men had laid down some of the intellectual grounds of the modern day government and both had different opinions on what the government’s role in a society.
John Locke published his Two Treatises of Government in 1690. In his writing Locke argued that individuals had the natural rights of life, liberty and property that the state could never be taken away because these rights were “inalienable.” The natural rights of individuals limited the power of the king. The king did not hold absolute power, but acted only to enforce and protect the natural rights of the people (IEP).
What John Locke was concerned about was the lack of limitations on the sovereign authority. During Locke’s time the world was surrounded by the monarch’s constitutional violations of liberty toward the end of the seventeenth century. He believed that people in their natural state enjoy certain natural, inalienable rights, particularly those to life, liberty and property. Locke described a kind of social contract whereby any number of people, who are able to abide by the majority rule, unanimously unite to affect their common pur...


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...n making for the good of the community rather than just the individual. Locke held that the government is responsible for the protection of rights and freedoms in the state of nature, yet Rousseau relinquished these rights and says that it is the government’s job to advance the general will of the people. The notions of democracy and inequality stem from the dissimilar ideas of Locke and Rousseau’s state of nature that humans leave and enter into a social contract.



Works Cited
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .
Locke, John, and Peter Laslett. Two Treatises of Government. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.
Porter, Jene M. Classics in Political Philosophy. [Scarborough, Ont.]: Prentice-Hall Canada, 2000. Print.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. The Social Contract. New York: Dutton, 1946. Print. Reprint.

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