Locke was an English philosopher. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 represented the triumph of the Whig Party and its principles. Lock’s philosophy is an apology for the same.

His main mission was to defend the gains of the Glorious Revolution, i.e., estab­lishment of constitutional monarchy in England. He proved, through his thesis, the theory of government by consent.

Locke took up the social contract theory of Hobbes but used it to draw conclusions opposed to those of Hobbes. Locke develops his theory in his Two Treatises of Civil Government published in 1690.

State of Nature:

Like Hobbes, Locke also starts with assumption that there was a ‘state of nature’ before man entered into the civil society and established state. According to him people in the state of nature were free and equal. The freedom was not license. It was guided by natural laws and conditioned by natural rights.


Man according to Locke was not essentially selfish and evil. There was no anarchy in the state of nature. Peace, reason and goodwill prevailed everywhere.

The first difficulty was that there were no clear and definite laws made by common consent to act as the standard of right and wrong. Secondly, there was no authority to enforce these laws and settle disputes among the people. Thirdly there was no authority to punish those who would break laws.

Thus according to Locke, there were both “laws” and “rights” in the state of nature. Man was innocent and peace loving. Each respected the rights of others. In spite of these congenial conditions, people experienced certain inconveniences.

Social contract:

To avoid these inconveniences, people enter into civil society and establish government. While for Hobbes there was one contract by which both society and state or government were created, for Locke there were two separate contracts to create society and govern­ment.


By the first contract among the individuals, civil society is created.By the second contract the society establishes government. The govern­ment or the king under this second contract was obligated to defend property, life and liberty of the people, the rights which people enjoyed in the state of nature.

He was to do so by governing according to the ‘Laws of Nature’. The government could be changed by the society through majority if it failed to protect the natural rights that man enjoyed in the state of nature.

Analysis of Locke’s Contract:

1. Bilateral Agreement:

Locke’s contract is bilateral and the sovereign is a party to it. It is not an unconditional contract like that of Hobbes. The sovereign can be changed if he docs not rule over the people according to the ‘laws of nature’. The contract is, therefore, revocable.


2. Government of consent:

The sovereign has limited powers. He is simply supposed to interpret the laws of nature and protect the rights of life, liberty and property of the people.

In no case can he carry on the government arbitrarily. It is thus a government by the consent of the people. Lockean conception of the social contract inevitably points to the theory of the sovereignty of the people. While Hobbes justified absolute monarchy, Locke pleads for constitutional monarchy.

3. Distinction between State and Government:


Locke for the first time distinguishes between the state and the government. This is indeed, a valuable contribution of his to political thought. According to Locke people in the state of nature first had an agreement amongst themselves to establish a civil society or state.

The Society then elected its government. Thus a clear distinction between state and government is made by Locke. It may be noted that according to Hobbes, people appointed a certain person as king and with that state came into existence.

In case the king or government were removed, the people would be pushed back to the state of nature which was a non-political, and stateless society. Hobbes thus identified state and government.

4. According to Locke, functions of the government are limited. Its main function is to protect the natural rights. Beyond that it must leave the man alone.


In fact when man enters into society, he surrenders only a small part of his rights and not all as in case of Hobbes’ contract.

5. Right prior to the State:

For Locke the rights are prior to state but not prior to society. People had rights even in state of nature.

6. Leader of Democratic Government:


The theory of Locke led to revolution in France and America for the establishment of democracy.

7. Locke’s philosophy basis of British Political System:

In the words of Laski, “Locke gave to the theory of consent a permanent place in English politics. While the idea of social contract as an explanation of origin of state has been given up, Locke’s Central idea of the government resting on the consent of the governed is valuable”.

This means in practice that a government can continue to rule the people if it heeds to their wishes. The moment it runs counter to the wishes of the people, it is liable to be overturned.

Criticism :

1. Locke draws a beautiful picture of the life of people in the state of nature. His primitive man is like a propertied gentleman insisting upon his own rights and respecting the rights of others.

His natural man is highly reasonable and rational. It is difficult to believe that a man could possibly remain without a government. He in fact pectoris’s the psychol­ogy of the English people in his own times.

2. Locke talks of natural rights of life, liberty and property in the stale of nature. It is now a well established fact that rights arc conditions of social existence guaranteed and upheld by the state.

Rights thus cannot exist prior to the state.

3. With Locke, the state is a mere aggregation of individuals, who agreed to act together for certain specified and limited purposes and who reserve their primitive freedom in all other matters.

The state in this form appears to be only a limited liability concern.

The fact of the matter is that Locke wrote his theory to meet the urgent need of the Whig party which had gained power after the civil war. His theory represents the changes in social, political and economic order of England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.