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Posted on March 14th, 2013, by

John Locke is one of the most influential thinkers, who affected consistently the development of liberalism and the concept of the social contract and natural laws. In this regard, John Locke was particularly influential in regard to his concept of the state of nature, which he viewed as an essential element of the life of people but which he believed people should derive from because the state of nature prevented people from the effective social life and close interaction. In fact, the philosopher stood on the ground that the state of nature exists a priori and people are inclined to such a state but they have to obey to existing social norms and rules established within the society to maintain the existing social order and to avoid the violation of natural rights of other people.
In actuality, John Locke stands on the ground that people are born free and they have natural rights which make them all equal. At the same time, in the course of their life people develop and accept conventional norms and standards which limit their individual liberty and the liberty of their state of nature:
they are left with the liberty of the state of nature, which they had all along. When any number of men have in this way consented to make one community or government, that immediately incorporates them, turns them into a single body politic in which the majority have a right to act on behalf of the rest and to bind them by its decisions (Locke, 2000, p. 32).
In such a way, John Locke argues that the limitation of individual liberty of the state of nature occurs under the impact of the social environment and the existing socio-political system. To put it more precisely, John Locke stands on the ground that, at first, people are born free and equal. However, in the course of their personal development, they have to obey to existing rules and norms because they live in the society. To be a part of the society people need to develop and accept certain set of norms and standards that regulate their relationships between each other and allow them to interact effectively and to comprise a part of the society. If individuals fail to obey to existing social norms and standards, they turn into outcasts and cannot live within the society.
In addition, John Locke stresses a significant role of the government, which is essential to prevent the anarchy that may arise within the society, if the society is ruled by natural laws solely. In other words, if all people stay in the state of nature, this state may wreak havoc in the society. Therefore, people need a government, some authority that will guide and manage the life of the society:
if someone has once by actual agreement and an explicit declaration given his consent to belonging to some commonwealth, he is perpetually and irrevocably obliged to continue as its subject; he can never be again in the liberty of the state of natureunless through some calamity the government in question comes to be dissolved, or by some public act cuts him off from being any longer a member of that commonwealt (Locke, 2000, p. 39).

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