Two Treatises of Government (Texts in the History of Political Thought)

ISBN: 052135448X
ISBN 13: 9780521354486
By: John Locke Peter Laslett

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About this book

This is a new revised version of Dr. Laslett's standard edition of Two Treatises. First published in 1960, and based on an analysis of the whole body of Locke's publications, writings, and papers. The Introduction and text have been revised to incorporate references to recent scholarship since the second edition and the bibliography has been updated.

Reader's Thoughts


The edition itself is OK, featuring informative introduction, annotations and rich appendices consists of suggested readings, bibliography and index.As for the contents of the main body of the book, by John Locke, though I know that I am not in a position to criticise such a classic endorsed by countless academicians, I regret to confess that I could not enjoy reading these Treatises for following reasons:1) Though I understand the main purpose for the author to have written it, the First Treatise is too long for establishing a refutation. In addition, in my opinion, the way he uses quotes from the Bible is less convincing nor skilful than Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan.2) The Second Treatise is less organised in its structure and is unfriendly to the readers for mingling general political thoughts and ideas from Locke the thinker and blurred examples and ideas taken from Locke the politician in his real life.3) Too much weigh on the notion of 'property' makes difficult for modern readers to agree with the author, especially in times where the so-called 99% are made to suffer from problems caused by greedy bankers and those who can afford to care about their own properties, which used to guarantee them the franchise and dominion of the politics exclusively, up to the early twentieth century.


John Locke is probably better known for developing the idea of individual freedom into one of self-property - in other words, he ascribed to the list of fundamental, natural rights of every human that of property, and therefore extended the role of the government from the defense of the individuals to the defense of those individuals and their property, which he regarded as fundamentally part of those individuals. The revolutionary character of bourgeois capitalism can often appear a remote, even odd characteristic, in a world where property is more often presented to us, both by it's proponents and by it's critics, as both the natural state of things and the dominant statu quo; Locke's theory of property makes a compelling case for the radicalism of such a concept, expectably, on the political level, but also in a sense, on a theological level: The first of the two treatises, often regarded as a painful read for anyone not specifically interested in early modern history, is indeed excruciating at times, addressing the arguments of a Robert Filmer now completely forgotten, as are his theses -at the time predominant- on the theological character of absolute kingship. Someone with an interest in political theology will none the less be able to salvage from this jungle of biblical quotations and genealogical discussions, at least two things: the religious function, nowadays largely disregarded by a secular republican tradition, of contractual political theory, and the everlasting meeting point of political theology and political philosophy, the "fall", or transition of the state of nature to civilization. The second treatise is the one that has duly received much attention over the past centuries as a defining text of modern politics, and offer to compliment the compelling debunking of absolute monarchy the author proceeded with in the first treatise, with a tentative proposition as to what should replace it. If the same sharp and spirited rhetoric (which makes for the solace of the reader in the previous book) comes to show, here and there, in this one, that is not where our mind is drawn: the concepts developed by the author are compelling, in particular his famous theory of labour as the transition from primitive communism to property, of which complete understanding (and that of the related theological views of Locke) requires -and justifies in my eyes- the reading of the first treatise.Locke is a compelling read, a good writer as well as an original thinker and his text makes it clear how property brought about the collapse of an incredibly enduring political model. It has acquired such a central place in history that little defense should be needed to justify it's reading but I should just add to this that the reading of the first treatise might well be worth for someone interested in gaining a more original insight in the ideological foundations of liberalism.


The introduction and notes definitely get in the way of Locke's work, though they add to the understanding of the advanced student. They focus primarily on when the passages were written or edited and to whom or what Locke was referring. Once you get past them, it is a solid read. I find the Second Treatise far more interesting and useful than the first. Overall it was less than I had hoped, but still useful and thought-provoking in some areas.


The first of the two treatises is fairly irrelevant. It's a very witty refutal of Robert Filmer's theory of divine right, which was a relevant case in the 18th Century, but now it's become so ingrained in the democratic/republican tradition (and I use that term very, very, very broadly) as to be an essential component of most every state on Earth.I cannot argue with the fact that history has vindicated John Locke's political philosophy. His writings were a necessary step in the evolution of a liberal political mindset, and I respect that. However, I can't help but thinking that his philosophy of markets that seems pretty accepting of conquest is decidedly self-interested. It's the philosophical approach of a rising bourgeoisie.

أحمد البخاري

يوضح هذا الكتاب لمن يقرأه سبب الأزمة التي نعانيها في التحول للدولة المدنية، فنحن قد إتخذنا الدولة المدنية نظاماً وغاية دون أن نمر أو نعي أو نفهم الفلسفة والأفكار القائمة عليها هذه الدولة، وبطبيعة الحال، لم نتشربها، لكي نفهم "الإحتياج القاهر للدولة المدنية".. جون لوك هنا يقول لنا بوضوح : لماذا أصلاً نحن نريد الدولة المدنية..؟ ويبدأ جون لوك بالفرق بينها وبين الحالة "الطبيعية" التي كان عليها الإنسان قبل هذه الدولة ..ومنها ينطلق لمناقشة مبادئ ومفاهيم أساسية مثل : مفهوم العبودية ..الملكية.. السلطة الأبوية.. المجتمع السياسي والمدني..ثم ينتهي بنشأة المجتمع السياسي وغايات الحكومة المدنية..مفاهيم كهذه أصبحت مفاهيم تاريخية عفى عنها الزمن في العالم الأول، وتجاوزها العقل، أما نحن فنحتاج إلى تشربها والنقاش فيها نقطة نقطة خاصة وأنها تصتدم مع ثراتنا بشدة في بعض النقاط، أيضاً الكتاب ذو لغة صعبة ويحتاج إلى تبسيط برؤية أكثر حداثية لتصل فلسفة وإحتياجنا للدولة المدنية بشكل أكثر وضوح..


This book is a must read for understanding social contract theory. Although it is not my cup of tea, it does confront a great many current political issues that were also present in the 17th century. I also liked Locke's. emphasis that government is meant to be supportive of the public & their rights, not the rights of the politicians or corporations.

Kenghis Khan

Those of us living in liberal democracies owe tremendous intellectual debt to John Locke. His "Second Treatise" in particular helped lay the foundation for a political system that emphasized "life, liberty, and property." The First Treatise is interesting to skim through, though it is in the second where the Locke is most substantive. His Theory of Private Property, which could also be construed as a theory of value, is an unmistakable revolution in political thought. It is, as Locke contends, when man applies his labor to nature that he is entitled to it. Questions about environmental ethics or indegenous rights aside, this observation, made in a still heavily ecclesiastical society, is a brilliant one. Furthermore, Locke's understanding of the formation of government is based on a hypothetical "state of nature" account. Locke's arguments are intellectually pleasing, and his social-scientific models make intuitive sense. Given that, perhaps the only weakness of the work is its failure to adequately analyze such concepts as the social contract or his theory of labor-property relations. For example, Locke fails to seriously consider what we should do with states that are clearly formed by mere force. Indeed, he doesn't adequately address the possibility that such a state could justify its existence on the grounds that "better tyranny than nothing." While Locke believes that a state that doesn't respect private property cannot last for very long, history says otherwise. Of course, in retrospect it is easier to criticize Locke in these regards, but with Machiavelli before him it was not as though these ideas were not known. There are admittedly other inconsistencies, such as his view on taxation later in the book and on who "owns" the grass his serf cuts. Interestingly enough, Locke is unwilling to expound on the distinction between property garnered for the sake of personal enjoyment (possessions) and property garnered for the sake of profit. Nevertheless, the work is a passionate defense of a liberal government, and the points are persuasively argued. As long as the reader, as Locke himself urges, keeps a skeptical attitude, this work has much to offer.

Danijel Brestovac

str. 16 - …da je vsaka oblast absolutna monarhija. temelj, na katerem zida, pa je, DA SE NIHCE NE RODI SVOBODEN. str. 92 - veliko vprašanj, ki je človeštvo vznemirjalo v vseh obdobjih in mu povzročilo večino tistega zla, ki je uničilo mesta, deželo oropalo prebivalstva in porušilo mir na svetu, ni bilo, ali obstaja oblast na svetu, niti od kod izvira, temveč KDO NAJ BI JO IMEL.

Giovanni Gigliozzi Bianco

Obra máxima de John Locke Para a Ciência Política. Um clássico. Nela estão as bases do pensamento liberal ea Aplicação de conceitos como o estado de natureza, o estado de guerra, uma formação da sociedade civil, bem como o direito à propriedade como base do contrato social.Tradução magistral da Martins Fontes. Sem dúvida a melhor tradução deste texto para o português. Uma introdução muito esclarecedora - e longa - de 180 páginas. Além disso, um terço do livro é constituído de notas de rodapé muito minuciosas e pertinentes, perfeitas para quem Deseja uma leitura sistemática e profunda.

Jennifer Smoliga

Eh… I am not really a Locke lover so maybe that is why I didn't like the book. I feel his views are so far from what I know that it is hard to even relate. They don't make sense to me.

Jon Wexford

This is the essence of the Enlightenment, which America's founding documents were loosely based on.

حسين العُمري

الدولة إنما نشأت لحماية حقوق طبيعية كانت قائمة وتنازل الفرد عن جزء من حقوقه إنما ليضمن لنفسه ما تبقى من حقوق وحريات أساسية ،، وليس في وسع الأفراد منح الحاكم سلطة غير محدودة لأنهم لا يملكون هذه السلطة وبالتالي لايمكن أن تكون سلطة الحاكم مطلقة إذ هي محدودة بطبيعتها وإذا حاول الإستزادة من سلطته أو أساء استخدامها كان من حق الشعب أن يخلعه ، لذلك كان هدف الكتاب الدفاع عن النظام الدستوري فهناك فرق بين الحكومة والدولة ،، الحريات والحقوق أساس في كل هذا ،، الجميع حكومة وبرلمان مسئولون أمام الشعب


yes . . . ive read it, and you should too . . . this dude was thomas jefferson's BFF!!!!

Joel Blunt

Fascinating. John Locke is a great read for those interested in understanding the intellectual climate of the era when the founders drew up the constitution for the u.s.a. I wish his views on property were clearer. Some of what he said in the first treatise, on those who gather resources only to waste them are wrongdoers, I feel could almost justify Keynesian spending and progressive taxation. Overall, his strong emphasis on the right of property as being fundamentally linked to our right as free human beings is an important concept that I should remember more often. Definitely should be read in conjunction with John Rawls.

Stephen Schutt

OMG! So good.Christianity had a causal relationship with democracy - and natural law is the key. Not the faith of the founders of America (as some falsely believe).This is dry in most parts (like 90%), but if you can stomach it, the 10% left is amazing! I also think women's rights has its base here as well.

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