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John Locke’s Ideas on Citizens and Authorities Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2021

John Locke is a prominent philosopher and thinker who was concerned about the nature of human society and the ways it evolves. Trying to understand why people cooperate with each other and what are the types of relations between them, he introduced a number of ideas that became one of the most important paradigms explored by specialists who tried to understand the nature of existing social agreements.

The significance of his work can be evidenced by the fact that many of Locke’s ideas are still considered topical and are studied by learners to possess all perspectives on how communities interact. However, because of the nature of any philosophical assumption and because of the further evolution of our societies, some of these ideas can be doubted using some arguments that are relevant to the modern world.

First of all, the main idea offered by Locke regarding the origins of any authority is that its legitimate basis is the explicit, rational consent by free, equal, and independent agents. However, this statement can be doubted. The fact is that any power emerges due to the existing differences in available resources and their distribution. Historically, a group that had a bigger pool of available tools also had better opportunities to evolve and hold leading positions.

In such a way, one cannot say that the appearance of authority rests on the equal or free agreement of agents. On the contrary, it emerges from the deep differentiation and segmentation of the society that is natural because of the basic features of the evolution. The formation of governing social classes is a long-term process that is impacted by the current religion, culture, and people’s mentalities under the impact of available material resources and their use to support a certain power. For this reason, this statement can be doubted from the modern perspective on authority.

Locke’s other popular assumption is that the aim of any legitimate state is the secure the life, liberty, and property of its citizens as its formation emerged on the basis of their agreement to provide power to some most suitable actors. However, this idea can also be doubted. Being a unique formation, any state preserves the main purpose of becoming more powerful to compete with other actors and hold leading positions in the international discourse.

To accomplish this very goal, any state might ruthlessly exploit its citizens by making them work hard to generate new resources and provide new levers of influence by accumulating outstanding economic power. It means that the concept of public good becomes replaced by another idea of the state’s good which can be considered the major purpose of any government. At the same time, Locke’s perspective can be taken as an ideal one that can hardly be applied to the majority of contemporary nations with their focus on dominance at the global level. It might presuppose multiple hardships for citizens and the creation of new duties that should be observed to create the basis for the further development and accumulation of competitive advantage.

Continuing his cogitations about the nature of the state and its relations with citizens, Locke assumes that the relationship between individual and the authority is a certain kind of trusteeship as the last one acts as the guarantor of basic and natural rights. In other words, people trust the state because of its focus on the cultivation of their needs. In fact, in many cases, the state becomes the major force that limits individuals in their rights and might disregard some basic demands because of the focus on some other ideas or concepts.

For this reason, Locke’s framework can be doubted and refuted by emphasizing the existence of multiple human rights’ infringements emerging because of the work of governments and their attempts to create more powerful tools that can be used to compete with other similar actors. It also means that the modern idea of social contract presupposes that the state might act in ways that might be not appreciated by its citizens just because it has all levers of influence and all authority.

However, there is the assumption of this philosopher that cannot be doubted even today because of its universal character and its critical importance in the functioning of modern society and people’s lives. Locke states that all humans are born free, equal, and independent to enjoy the right to life, liberty, and property. These basic demands and benefits come from the laws of nature as any animal does not have limits for its evolution.

The given assumption remains topical today as all individuals are equal and should enjoy all available benefits. Regarding the existing focus on the cultivation of humanistic values peculiar to modern society, Locke’s assumption can be considered a basic idea that is driving the development of modern communities, groups, and philosophical thought. Equality and freedom are two basic values that are given to people because of their nature.

Following this very perspective and ideas of inborn independence, Locke builds his paradigm naming the state and authority as the main limiting power that serves to avoid anarchy and help people to form communities and evolve. Being the continuation of the previous statement, this idea remains topical today. Adhering to the paradigm of social agreement, people consciously engage in a special form of relations that provide some individuals or their groups with the authority and right to govern while others should obey. That is why there are new barriers that emerge because of the social interaction, and this framework provides some limitations regarding people inborn rights.

The necessity to monitor equality, freedom, and economic rights can be taken as the basis of any government or state as it uses its power to guarantee the preservation of the social order. In such a way, this assumption can be agreed upon because of the universal character of the outlined regularities and qualities that are associated with the laws of nature.

Altogether, John Locke can be considered one of the most prominent philosophers that tried to describe the nature of the state and the way it cooperates with citizens. His ideas of the main purpose of any authority and the way it evolves appeared because of the ideal vision of relations within a country and the role of people in its development. At the same time, they can be doubted from the modern perspective and using the ideas of the state’s focus on its needs instead of individuals’’ ones. However, the existence of inborn rights such as freedom and equality cannot be doubted as it remains fundamental for the evolution of our society and people’s comfortable living in it.

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"John Locke’s Ideas on Citizens and Authorities." IvyPanda, 2 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/john-lockes-ideas-on-citizens-and-authorities/.

1. IvyPanda. "John Locke’s Ideas on Citizens and Authorities." June 2, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/john-lockes-ideas-on-citizens-and-authorities/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "John Locke’s Ideas on Citizens and Authorities." June 2, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/john-lockes-ideas-on-citizens-and-authorities/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'John Locke’s Ideas on Citizens and Authorities'. 2 June.

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