31 Mar 2022


The Second Treatise by John Locke Discussion

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The Second Treatise is John Locke’s political philosophy regarding a number of themes such as the state of nature, property and civil power and governance. The discussion of these themes helps put in perspective the workings of a government in a democratic context. Locke looks at power and sovereignty of a nation and how authority is vested in executive power and legislature (Locke, 1990). It also looks at the inefficiencies of governance systems such as absolute monarchy in contrast to democracy. The text is invaluable to political science students as well as historians that are keen on understanding the contextual foundation of governance.

Locke’s The Second Treatise looks at a number of principles. Firstly, it focuses on the state of nature to understand the individual and community. Under this principle, Locke investigates the position of an individual citizen within a state as well as his interpersonal relationship with the rest of the community members. Each person according to this principle is free and ought to be treated equally before the law. This means that no individual has power or control over another. Likewise, each individual enjoys liberties that are protected by both the state laws and natural laws (Locke, 1990). Further, the principle notes that individuals are within the state of nature until such a time when a system is crafted, or an arrangement arrived at to make them members of a political system. To enhance the sense of community, the natural law is used to bring in a system of morality. This is fundamental to improving justice which in turn ensures balances in the society. This balance is cemented by appeal to calm reason and conscience. On breaking the laws of nature, the community can punish the offender in order to deter future offenses. The state of war, as a principle, exists when one individual uses unwarranted force against another. This can only be amended through reparations or when the aggressor is executed. War is thus looked down upon and is not justified. This also applies to rulers and their subjects where the use of force can be tantamount to the creation of a war between the leadership and the subjects.

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The Second Treatise also looks at the role of the civil society in protecting property. Locke recognizes that not all property belongs to the state. This means by extension an individual “owns self” and his or her labor (Locke, 1990). This means that an individual is an autonomous being and not anybody’s property or slavery. A man under this principle is allowed to own what he puts his labor into. With growing masses, a civil government is expected to institute measures to protect the property of its citizenry.

The Second Treatise also looks at the civil power and governance principle which delves into the explicit and implicit commitments to one’s society. Through Locke’s assertions, the civil society has a functional government constituting of the executive power, judiciary, and legislature. The power wielded by the legislature is confined on the creation of the supreme law of the land. The executive arm of the government in a civil society looks into the enforcement of the laws set out by the legislature (Locke, 1990). The executive power, however, does not blindly enforce laws but rather has the prerogative of instituting discretion when arriving at the public good. This means that laws can be ignored or circumvented for the greater good of the public. The judiciary, on the other hand, interprets laws of the land and ensures that the supreme law is protected. This arm of government is further tasked with the role of dispensing justice.


Locke, J. (1990).  Second treatise of government . Raleigh, NC: Alex Catalogue.

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