.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, October 28, 2004

John Locke

Today is the 300th anniversary of the death of John Locke. These are extracts from an article by Martin Kettle for The Guardian about this great philosopher:

Locke certainly has his faults, and his critics, and it is important not to romanticise him. There is confusion, self-contradiction and much that is unresolved in his thinking. He was a man of the 17th century, and his advocacy of tolerance did not extend to Catholics or to atheists. His civil society of free, equal and rational men essentially excluded women and the labouring poor. Yet you do not have to be an enthusiast for Locke to recognise the sheer scale of his contribution to British life or his central position at the fountainhead of so much that came later.

Indeed, it is hard to think of anything important about societies in general, and our own in particular, on which Locke did not have something pertinent and lasting to say. He is the essential philosopher of consensual constitutional government, the key expounder of the notions of the social contract, the sovereignty of the people, majority rule, minority rights and the separation of powers. He is our leading defender of individual civil liberty, the greatest advocate in our history of religious and civic tolerance, and the first proponent of progressive educational methods, as well as the principal godfather of all those attitudes of common sense, reasonableness, kindness and politeness that later eras have so often thought of as essentially British.

He concludes:

...it is time to return to Locke and the tradition at whose head he still stands. Liberalism without social justice is not a political programme in the democratic age. But nor, we should have learned from the 20th-century experience, is social justice without liberalism. The things that Locke thought were important - government by consent, the parliamentary system, civil liberty, freedom of thought and religion, the rights of minorities, an education that is more than functional, the rule of law - have never seemed more modern than they do today. Disregard for these principles has marked every instance of the failed socialist experiment. And it is also perhaps the most lasting - and least excusable - of all New Labour's failings too. To the politics of the future, as of so much else, Locke still holds the key.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?