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The Symbol & Reality of Property for Locke

John Locke wrote at a time of social unrest and questioning, at a time when the long-standing sovereignty of kings as ordained by God was being questioned. Locke did not see the power of kings as derived from the will of God but rather as developing as the result of some social condition. Locke asked first what state man would be in if there were no government, and he found that human beings originated in the state of nature, the state that existed before human beings came together to form a society and a government. Locke saw this state of nature is placing the individual into a state of perfect freedom, with no necessity to ask any other person before determining his or her own actions or disposing of their own property. Property was an essential element in Locke's thinking, with the relationship of the individual to his property as being of paramount importance. The ownership of property was seen as a fundamental right, meaning that it was a right born in the state of nature. For Locke, the defense of individual liberty is inseparable from the defense of private property.

The individual in society does not have absolute freedom, showing that something has been lost from the state of nature. Locke sees human beings as having agreed to give up certain rights and powers through some form of agreement. Society is thus formed when men cede certain powers to a central authority. Private property rights are to be protected by this state that has been created--human beings have given up certain rights in order to assure the protection of their property from the depredations of others. Locke traces the concept of private property from the time when God gave the world to Adam and his posterity. Locke sees political power as being "for the regulating and preserving of property" (Locke 4), among other things. Property for Locke seems to symbolize rights in concrete form, as something a human being can conceive of as distinguisha...

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The Symbol & Reality of Property for Locke. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:25, June 27, 2016, from