This chapter examines the concept of distributive justice, asking in particular whether citizens should have the liberty to acquire and dispose of property however they see fit, or whether there are justified restrictions on economic activity in the name of liberty or justice. It begins with a discussion of the problem of distributive justice, taking into account a variety of differing opinions on how a liberal society should distribute property, along with the so-called income parade. It then considers property and markets, focusing on John Locke's ideas, and the free market principle. It also explores John Rawls's theory of justice and some of the criticisms levelled against him, including those by Robert Nozick.
David Boucher and Paul Kelly
This volume introduces a canon of major political thinkers from ancient Greece to the present, including Socrates and the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Hannah Arendt, John Rawls, and Michel Foucault. The text focuses on the ways that these thinkers have shaped the intellectual architecture of our modern conceptions of the scope of politics and its place in social life. This introductory chapter discusses the origins of the study of political thought as a distinct activity and describes four sets of considerations that shape approaches to the study of political thought and help answer the question of why we should study it. It also analyses the problem of so-called perennial questions and the attempt to explain and defend what it is that makes a book a ‘classic’ text.
This chapter examines whether it is possible for human beings to live in a state of nature. Sometimes it is claimed that not only have human beings always lived under a state, but that it is the only way they possibly could live. On this view, which is often associated with Aristotle, the state exists naturally in the sense of being natural to human beings. In response, some theorists argue that human beings have been able to live without the state. To elucidate the issue further, this chapter analyses the views of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It also considers the arguments of anarchists and suggests that the gap between rational anarchism and the defence of the state is vanishingly small.
This chapter examines and defends the relevance of John Locke's writings as political philosophy. Locke's political philosophy continues to have an enormous impact on the framing and the pursuit of liberal ideas in modern political thought — ideas about social contract, government by consent, natural law, equality, individual rights, civil disobedience, and private property. The discussion and application of Locke's arguments is thus an indispensable feature of political philosophy as it is practised today. After providing a short biography of Locke, the chapter considers his views on equality and natural law, property, economy, and disagreement, as well as limited government, toleration, and the rule of law. It concludes with an assessment of Locke's legacy as a political thinker.