Locke’s Concept of Social Contract and Political Society

Locke’s Concept of Social Contract and Political Society

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso


A. Contract

In Locke’s system of thought, we see that he first describes the natural state as a state of peace and mutual aid, and then defines natural rights as rights that exist before society, according to the example of property right. After that, Locke tried to derive civilized society from the approval of its members[1].

Like Hobbes and Rousseau and some other thinkers, Locke also bases the foundation of civilized society on contract. Although Locke defends the state of nature as a reality[2], as in Hobbes and Rousseau, we can accept that he took the assumption of the “state of nature” and “social contract” only as a starting point in the establishment of his political theory. What these thinkers really want to show is not to find an answer to the question of what the source of the state is, but what the basis of the political community called the state should be[3].

Locke puts forward the rationale for the transition from the natural state to the civilized society as follows: Although people are free and equal in the state of nature, the exercise of these rights is far from secure and can always be attacked by others. Because they are all as king as him and all are equal to him. Moreover, the majority are those who do not strictly adhere to naivety and justice. That’s why it’s so vague and unsafe to use what he has as he pleases. This situation prompts man to leave the state of nature, which although free, is full of fears and constant dangers. For this reason, people have united in states and placed themselves under their governments in order to protect their property (life, freedom and property)[4]. People made a contract because they needed it, when they formed the political society. This contract is, or should be, made between persons who participate in or make up the state. For this, the unanimity of a sufficient number of free people in society is required. This was the beginning of a legal government on earth. However, while people were establishing the political society, they also transferred the necessary powers[5].

According to Locke, in the state of nature, leaving aside the freedom of a person in small entertainments, he has two powers: first, the power to do whatever he finds fit for the protection of himself and others within the limits of the law of nature, and secondly, the power to punish crimes committed against this natural law.

He leaves the first power to the extent that he and the rest of the society must be protected, to be regulated by the laws of the society. He leaves his second power (punishment power) completely[6].

While Locke expresses the social contract and its content (boundaries) in this way, he does not clearly indicate whether this “first agreement” led to the emergence of society or government. Thinkers like Althusius and Puffendorf, who studied contract theory very carefully, accepted that there were two kinds of contracts. The first is the contract between individuals that establishes the society, and the second is the contract between the community and the administration. Although it can be said that Locke accepted this attitude, since formal clarity was not a very valuable quality for Locke, he was content to bring two points of view together[7]. Locke’s statement that society will not disappear with the fall of government at the end of a political revolution[8] is evaluated as not binding society and government to the same contract[9].

B. Objectives of Political Society and Administration

Although people are free in the state of nature, they want an acceptable order in which freedom is meaningful, justice governs, and property is secure. According to Locke, people therefore formed political society. However, the imperatives of natural law do not cease in the case of society. Because the purpose of the law is to extend and protect freedom, not to repeal or suspend it. Locke thus developed the logic inherent in the contract. As human logic determines, what is meant by society is not to give the political establishment to a single power, but that the state is an invigorating, effective determiner[10].

The most important difference that distinguishes the state of nature from the political or civilized society is that in the political society there is a jointly made law and judicial body that people can apply to decide their disagreements and punish the criminals. Those who do not have a common place of application are still in a state of nature[11].

Therefore, in order to speak of a political or civilized society, a whole group of people must relinquish their power to enforce the law of nature and unite in a society to give it to the public. This happens when a group of people form a society or when anyone joins an established government and merges with it[12].

Locke, who defines the political or civilized society as having a place where people can apply in common, also clearly states that the absolute monarchy is incompatible with the civilized society in this context, because there is no open place of application for anyone in the absolute kingdom,