This essay theorizes how the enforcement of universal norms contributes to the solidification of sovereign rule. It does so by analyzing John Locke’s argument for the founding of the commonwealth as it emerges from his notion of universal crime in the Second Treatise of Government. Previous studies of punishment in the state of nature have not accounted for Locke’s notion of universal crime which pivots on the role of mankind as the subject of natural law. I argue that the dilemmas (...) specific to enforcing the natural law against “trespasses against the whole species” drive the founding of sovereign government. Reconstructing Locke’s argument on private property in light of universal criminality, the essay shows how the introduction of money in the state of nature destabilizes the normative relationship between the self and humanity. Accordingly, the failures of enforcing the natural law require the partitioning of mankind into separate peoples under distinct sovereign governments. This analysis theorizes the creation of sovereign rule as part of the political productivity of Locke’s notion of universal crime and reflects on an explicitly political, rather than normative, theory of “humanity.”. (shrink)
In order to address whether states can ever have the proper authority to militarily punish other international agents, I examine three attempts to justify punitive warfare from Augustine, Grotius and Locke for their relevance to both our contemporary international legal and political order and our contemporary security threats from sporadic terrorist or militant violence. Once a plausible model for a state’s valid authority to punish international agents is found, I will consider what punitive aims it can support and what challenges (...) such punitive warfare would have in satisfying the remaining jus ad bellum conditions. (shrink)
This essay argues that the thief, a liminal figure that haunts the boundary of political membership and the border between the law of reason and the law of beasts, drives Locke’s accounts of the foundation of the commonwealth and the right to rebellion in the Second Treatise of Government. Locke’s political theory is best read through punishment as a theory of subject formation, which relies on an unstable concept of proportionality to produce this liminal figure in order to secure the (...) member as a “stable” political subject. (shrink)
Locke's admittedly 'very strange' sounding doctrine of natural executive power, according to which the individual has the right to execute the law of nature, has long been one of the most controversial features of his moral philosophy. In contrast to the many commentators who deny its theoretical innovation and challenge its individualist premises, this study proposes that the philosophical significance of Locke's natural right to punish derives from its critical departure from earlier moral and political theory. It also argues that (...) the individualist political and religious implications of the natural punishment doctrine are only fully intelligible in light of Locke's theory of property and the assessment of the epistemological limits and possibilities for acquiring moral knowledge in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. (shrink)
This article provides an assessment of Jeremy Waldron's arguments (in God, Locke and Equality and his subsequent 'Response to Critics') that Locke provides us with a compelling version of liberal equality. A close examination of the case of the criminally convicted in The Second Treatise shows how Locke's commitment to the principle of equality is compromised. This is revealed in part through recourse to contextualist considerations. This leads to the suggestion that Waldron's principled rejection of contextualist approaches to the history (...) of political ideas can lead to a distorted understanding. It also suggests a need for a more thorough consideration of how a substantive principle of moral equality should apply in the field of criminal justice and in liberal democracy more generally. (shrink)
Brian Calvert has offered us a clear and careful analysis of Locke's views on punishment and capital punishment. The primary goal of his paper - that of correcting the misperception of Locke as a wholehearted proponent of capital punishment for a wide range of offenses - must be allowed to be both laudable and largely achieved in his discussion. But Calvert's analysis also encourages, I think, a number of serious misunderstandings of Locke's true position.
At the end of the opening chapter of his Second Treatise of Government , Locke describes political power in the following terms: ‘Political Power then I take to be a Right of making Laws with Penalties of Death, and consequently all less Penalties, for the Regulating and Preserving of Property, and of employing the force of the Community, in the Execution of such Laws, and in the defence of the Common-wealth from Foreign Injury, and all this only for the Publick (...) Good.’. (shrink)