The Lockean Commonwealth

By Ross J. Corbett

Subjects: Political Theory, Political Philosophy, History Of Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438427928, 251 pages, July 2010
Hardcover : 9781438427911, 251 pages, August 2009

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Table of contents

Notes Regarding the Texts
1. The Condition of Man without Government
The Law of Nature
Inconveniences of the State of Nature
2. The Rule of Law
Individual Consent and Majority Rule
The Principle of Majority Rule
The Limits of Consent and Compulsion
3. Prerogative and the Limits of Legislative Supremacy
The Need for Prerogative
Redefi ning Prerogative
Beyond Political Society
Beyond Obligation, Consent, and the Social Compact
Prerogative and Absolute Monarchy
4. Resistance, Revolution, and the Limits of Politics
Resistance and the Right of Self-Preservation
Locke’s Doctrine of Revolution
Diffi culties Regarding Revolution
5. The Lockean Commonwealth
An Outlook, Not a Constitution
6. Justifying Secular Politics
Locke and Religious Toleration
Justifying the Commonwealth

Timely reappraisal of John Locke’s thoughts on the clash between executive emergency power and the importance of the rule of law.


The tension between executive prerogative in times of emergency and the importance of maintaining and preserving the rule of law has been a perennial concern for modern democratic states. The Lockean Commonwealth reappraises John Locke's contribution to this timely topic. By paying careful attention to the arguments put forward in Locke's famous Two Treatises on Government, Ross J. Corbett advances a new interpretation of Locke's political agenda, one that argues that the interplay between "prerogative" and "legislative supremacy" formed the axis around which turned the practical component of Locke's political theory. With a firm grasp of Locke's historical context, Corbett is able to show how Locke's attempts to balance these competing interests provides insight, not only into the development of the liberal democratic state, but also into questions that trouble us to this day and into questions of political life more generally.

Ross J. Corbett is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University.