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Essay 2 poli 231

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Essay 2 poli 231
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  Pellegrin Charlotte Words #: 1210 260499829 TA: Cameron Fleming “The Right to Revolution”   Critically assess Locke’s thesis that there is a right to armed revolution.   John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government   proposes a solid and valid theory on the importance of government, in which sovereignty is placed into the hands of the  people. Based on his appeal to a republican liberal government, Locke goes further and suggests a right to armed revolution, which is the right to overthrow a forcible government, in order to establish a new one, at any time. Indeed, Locke’s theory is that,  people, by quitting their State of Nature, enter into a civil society in order to protect their  property. The government is legitimate insofar as the common good is directed towards the protection of property, meaning the life, freedom and estate of the people, as well as the protection of human rights. If the government fails to act toward the common good, either through the violation o f people’s property, or by breaching their trust, the people have the right to rebel. First of all, people quit their State of Nature, in which freedom and equality were guaranteed, in order to enter a civil society, under which they tacitly, meaning implicitly, consent to give up some of their natural freedom for the protection of their property as well as the protection of human rights. Therefore, if people give up some of their natural freedom in exchange of the protection of their property, the government’s ultimate end is  the protection of people’s property. ( Locke, John. "Of Political of Civil Society." Second Treatise of Government  . Hackett, 1980. 8. Print.) Moreover, to enforce the protection of their property, people consent to live under the laws erected by the legislative and enforced by the executed power: “The first and fundamental positive law… is the establishing of th e legis lative power”. (“Of the E xtent of the Legislative P ower”, 69.) Th e laws are legitimate, meaning morally justified, insofar as they are founded on the consent of the society. ( “Of the Extent of the Legislative Power  ” , 70.) Thus, people consent to the govern ment’s law as long as it goes towards the common good, the protection of property and of individual rights. Consequently, if the government breaches the people’s trust, or when it invades the people’s property without their consent, the government enters in a state of war with the people, described as a “state of enmity and destruction” , in which “he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him”. (“Of the State of War”, 14.) The civil body ei ther endures a state of tyranny, in which the executive body ceases to function for the benefit of the people, or have the right to rebel. Locke states that it is preferable to avoid the state of tyranny by dissolving the government in the first  place, because it may be hard to overthrow a powerful and oppressing government. (“Of Tyranny”,  102.) People should avoid being in a state of tyranny, and they should rather engage in armed revolution, on two conditions. First, when the legislative is altered, and w hen “the legislative or prince act contrary to their trust” (“Of Dissolution of Government, 107.), thereby forfeiting the power the people had put into their hands, and  “devolving” the power to the people, who have the right to establish a new legislative.   (“Of Dissolution of Government, 112.)   As one major objection to Locke’s theory, one may ask: how do people justify the right to engage in an armed revolution, regardless of some individuals’ opposite will? Does the insurgence of a revolution not inhibit other peoples ’ freedom?  Indeed, it can be argued that a revolution would impede on the rights of some individual  beings living in the same society. Firstly, a minority of people may have conflicting interests with the general will, and they may not revolt against the government’s violation until a greater threshold is met. Secondly, an armed revolution would trigger collateral damage on the civil society. Thus, paradoxically, an armed revolution, through its violent and bloody process, would trigger some life losses, and this would conflict with one of Locke’s first premises, being freedom as a building block of any political society.   (“Of the State of War, 15.) Furthermore, another objection to Locke’s theory would be to ask: how do the  people determine when the government has wronged them? In Locke’s words, “Who shall be the judge?” (“Of the Dissolution of Government”, 123.) Finally, a last criticism to Locke’s right to revolution would concern the necessity of an “armed” revolution, a s opposed to a more moderate one. One could argue that an armed revolution is more likely to trigger material and physical losses, preventing people from establishing a stable government, thus resulting in an even more corrupt, absolutist government.   However, the counterargument in advance of the minority rights does not stand. Locke argues that when people consent to enter into a political society, they tacitly consent to liver under a legislative power set up by the majority. (“Of the Beginning of Political Societies ” , 52.) Indeed, a society cannot reflect every individual’s personal desires. Thus, the individuals have consented to give up their natural freedom to enjoy civil liberties, and to be ruled through the majority rule. Besides, Locke states that the  people may change its government at any time. For example, the violent and bloody uprising characterizing the 1789 French Revolution, revealing the oppressed anger of the majority, the Third Estate, prove to be useful in its result, being the change of regime. Therefore, individual minorities, though not represented through the majority, by consenting to the majority rule, may not refute an armed revolution.  Next, an armed revolution is necessary to trigger change. Locke argues that an “unarmed” rev olution would have lesser effects, and would not necessarily lead to a government turnover, since an absolutist government, especially in a state of tyranny, hinders people’s common voice. (“Of Tyranny”, 103.)  To finish, Locke assets that the right to  judge of a government’s violation of  property is determined by the people: “The people shall be the judge”. (“Of the Dissolution of the Government”, 123.) If one may doubt the effectiveness of an armed revolution, we may suggest that people’s sense of subs istence and self-preservation would prevent them from falling into a state of anarchy. To add to this, since it is the majority which has the power to raise up a revolution, individual or small resistance will not interfere with the government’s ability, t hat is factions do not have the physical ability to overthrow a government, unless the movement spreads to the majority, which  would then encompass the entire civil body’s will and thereby legitimizes it. (“Of Tyranny, 105 and 106.) To conclude, Locke’s theory states that people, by entering into political society, enjoy their civil liberties in exchange of the protection of their property, and consent to live under a fair and legitimate legislative pow er. However, when the people’s property  is violated by the government, the right to trigger an armed revolution is justified by the  people’s  judgment, based on the majority rule. Insofar as the government acts against  people’s consent, the nature of the contract is no longer defined as a political  society, but rather as a state of war, which legitimizes  people’s right to overthrow an oppressing, despotic government. Locke’s theory is therefore logic, valid and consistent. Bibliography Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government  . Hackett, 1980. Print.

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Apr 16, 2018
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