Locke’s Political Society

Some Problems of Terminology in Two Treatises of Government

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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This paper not only describes a confusing network of terms (including “political society”, “commonwealth”, and “community”), thus defining a problem of interpretation, but also partially solves the problem. One result is that Locke turns out to differ in at least one important way from those theorists of social contract supposedly belonging to the same tradition, especially Hobbes, Rousseau, and Rawls. The Two Treatises lacks any social contract, that is, a contract constituting society in the inclusive sense usually given “society” in discussions of “social contract”. Locke’s concept of “political society” deserves a closer look, since it has largely been overlooked until now.




Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Basic Books: New York, 1974), pp. 12–25.


Simmons, p. 5. Of course, Simmon’s error here may arise in part at least from his misunderstanding of Locke’s theory of consent. For more on that, see Michael Davis, “Locke on Consent: The Two Treatises as Practical Ethics”, Philosophical Quarterly 62 (July 2012), pp. 464–485.


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