Tygojinn The Problem of the Franchise 2. Macpherson — Wikipedia The present study … suggests that the difficulties of modern liberal-democratic theory lie deeper than had been thought, that the original seventeenth-century fb contained the central difficulty, which lay in its possessive quality. These assumptions do correspond substantially to the actual relations of a market society. Macpherson was a political philosopher who placed a genuinely novel interpretation on the history of political thought in The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Macpherson spent most of his career battling these premises, but perhaps the greatest single exposition of this view can be found in The Political Theory of Possessive Individualismwhere Macpherson examines the function of this particular kind of individualism in HobbesHarrington and Locke and several writers in between, including the Levellers and its resulting pervasiveness throughout most liberal literature of the period.
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It was a concept of the relationship between human beings and the natural world that united all of its ideologues during the period when the class detached itself from preceding social relationships rooted in custom and hierarchical obligation, with the trajectory between the brutal and coarse views of Thomas Hobbes and the classical liberal viewpoint of John Locke illustrating this point.
Hobbes Possessive individualism was, for MacPherson, the defining characteristic of the bourgeoisie. Hobbes commenced the process by radically rethinking the status of the individual human being and constituting each as a complete identity prior to entering society.
The power to influence society was regarded as a commodity - something offered for exchange within the context of a market. Power itself was the greater ability of some individuals to influence society over and above others. For some people the drive for power is innate, and in others merely a defensive reaction triggered by the need for protection against those with power-driven natures.
But the motion of every individual had to be considered to be in conflict with the motion of others, with the danger of collision being ever present. This supported their essential equality, but one which could be transcended because, being the possess of their own powers, the individual could trade their exercise in either aggressive or defensive directions for other outcomes considered more valuable than the exercise of power.
The arena for this trade was the market and the outcome being pursued was greater security. Macpherson then moves the argument through a succeeding line of philosophical standpoints which have generally being considered more congenial to liberal outlooks.
The first of these is the Leveller current which represented itself during the course of the English Civil War. Less prepared than Hobbes to accept the authority of a supreme sovereign — a king acting with unlimited authority — as the sole power capable of sustaining the market which he considered necessary for his materialist moral order, the Levellers looked to democracy, and a sovereign parliament, as sufficient authority to maintain order.
The problem was determining who might participate in the political processes which sustained this democratic order. The free individual was a person who had property in his own person and capacities, able to enjoy them exclusively and exclude others from this enjoyment.
He differed in seeing class interests as being more important than the undifferentiated interests of all individuals to acquire security. Finally onto to Locke. Seen as the exemplar of what anyone could want from a modern liberal democrat — government by consent, majority rule, minority rights, moral supremacy of the individual, and sanctity of individual property. He achieves this by a line of reasoning which shows that, in the early ages human beings replaced the drive towards endless expansion into wilderness as a means to secure subsistence by a system which sought to increase the amount of trade that went on between communities.
The invention of money, the critical element driving trade, marked the border between primitive and civilised societies. Working with money as a theme, Locke takes a different view of the question of wage earning. Other early liberal thinkers had seen it as the point in which external authority was reasserted over the individual and made him always him the subject of power and lost to the realm of liberty.
For Locke, the money component of wage labour allows the worker to increase his productivity. Not only is the capacity to labour a property, the duty to alienate it in the market is a duty he owes to civil society. God and his Reason commanded him t subdue the Earth, ie to improve it for the benefit of Life, and therein lay something upon it that was his own, his labour. As MacPherson puts it, Locke reads back into nature a natural propensity on the part of man to accumulate, and the only check that there had been upon it had been the absence of money and commerce.
In finding the root of this state of affairs in nature, and the bearer of its historical truth the position of the individual, a continuum exists across 17th century English philosophy which allowed it to move from its initially unpalatable finding that a unrestrained Leviathan state was required to foster the forces of the market within which human beings were required to act, to, by stages the more democratic viewpoint of constitutionalism, which allowed citizens to relate to each other and regulate their mutual behaviour through a system of law.
But it nevertheless presumed that the social condition that that was to be brought about was one in which one part of society placed its productive power at the disposal of the other.
C. B. Macpherson
Life[ edit ] Macpherson was born on 18 November in Toronto , Ontario. He graduated from the University of Toronto in After earning a Master of Science degree in economics at the London School of Economics where he studied under the supervision of Harold Laski , he joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in At that time a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the social sciences was uncommon, but some twenty years later he submitted a collection of sixteen published papers to the London School of Economics and was awarded the Doctor of Science degree in economics. He took several sabbaticals on fellowships which were often spent at English universities including an Overseas Fellowship of Churchill College, Cambridge. Macpherson gave the annual Massey Lectures in Macpherson Prize for the best book on political theory written by a Canadian.
The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke
Innovative thinking about a global world Wednesday, August 17, Possessive individualism C. Macpherson was a political philosopher who placed a genuinely novel interpretation on the history of political thought in The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke when the book appeared in Macpherson was a Canadian philosopher who influenced quite a few young scholars in the s in North America and Great Britain. A first wave of criticism of narrow liberalism took this form: The repair that was needed [to liberal theory] was one that would bring back a sense of the moral worth of the individual, and combine it again with a sense of the moral value of community, which had been present in some measure in the Puritan and Lockean theory.