Both John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe deal with the question of property. In these two texts, the following questions arise: when does common property become an individual's property; and what factors make the appropriation of property justifiable or not? These questions may be answered by looking at each author's political views, followed by how they are incorporated in their work. Locke outlines the procedures for the transition of property to private ownership, while Defoe details the way Crusoe appropriates property (i.e., food, accommodations, and slaves) during the course of his stay on the deserted island. However, in order to really examine the question of ownership, it first must be established how property was viewed during Locke's and Defoe's eras.
Property was "a revolutionary force in the seventeenth century" (Larkin 56). A dictionary from that time period distinguished an individual's property by "its independence from others' control, defining it as 'the highest right that a man hath or can have to anything, which is no way depending vpon any other mans courtesie'" (Harris 224). Property was widely distributed in England during Locke's life (Larkin 57). Since it was natural to associate political authority with property during the seventeenth century, Locke's theory of property was "seated with a view to politics" (Harris 226; Larkin 57). His Treatise of Civil Government was written after the civil war of 1642 (Larkin 57). Referring to property as that which individuals have "in themselves, and also in goods," Locke expressed the view that "the supreme power cannot take from ...
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Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
Harris, Ian. The Mind of John Locke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Larkin, Paschal. Property in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Howard Fertig Inc., 1969.
Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government, The Works of John Locke. Vol. 5. London: Thomas Teggs et al., 1823. 352-367.
Novak, Maximillian E. Defoe and the Nature of Man. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
Shinagel, Michael. Daniel Defoe and Middle-Class Gentility. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968.
Simmons, A. John. The Lockean Theory of Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
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Welch, Dennis. Thesis Statement Feedback. 27 October, 1998.
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