Attitude Of John Locke and Karl Marx to Violent Revolutions Essay

Topic: Both Locke and Marx agree that violent revolutions are sometimes justified. Compare and contrast their views of when these things are justified. Which view is stronger?

The government is responsible to protect and preserve individual civil liberties. John Locke defines nature when the individuals look out for themselves. However, a government is a group of people who define what justice is according to their viewpoints. The government feels threatened when there is violation of individual liberties. From Locke’s perspective, inequality occurs when the government is interested in majority of the people rather than the minority. In Marx’s argument, revolution occurs when there is inequality between social classes. The proletariats create the bourgeois because they create wealth. Locke and Marx argue that when inequality occurs it results in a revolution.

Locke argues that government promised people with two rights that were to protect their lives, land, liberty, shelter, and their pursuit of happiness. Secondly, when people lived in Nature they delivered justice through punishment. Government is in place to protect basic individual rights. However, when the government has excessive power, the majority can encroach on certain people that do not favor the minority. When the government has extensive authority, some citizens do not have protection and this leads to people protesting and demanding change. Recently, there have been large protests in New York City over the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island. The commonalties they share were that both were men of color who were unarmed and shot by the police officers. Another commonality they share is that there was no indictment to the police officers.

Mike Brown did not receive justice because the officer who killed him received no indictment. This case is controversial because there was inconsistent information from varying witnesses. Eric Garner death was different because there was video that could have lead to the officer being indicted because it can be heard and seen the victim screaming, “I can’t breathe” several times. Locke argues that citizens are free to exercise their right to punish people who threaten their natural rights. Locke’s point in the Second Treatise is that citizens should rise up, if government does not protect the rights of citizens and allows injustice to occur. Our society is causing us to fear the police officer because they can get away with murder. The law enforcement handled the Ferguson riots with human rights violations because they used excessive force towards the protesters. Locke believed protests could cause revolutions when there are no proper actions. The Ferguson riot captures what Locke stated in his argument, which was that if government did not work in their favor, then people have a right to restore order to the framework of their natural rights.

Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto where he stated that violent revolutions occur due to inequality between the rich and the poor. His argument states that the rich build their wealth on the backs of the poor through exploitation. Marx agrees with Locke by making a point that if you work towards a goal, you would morally own it because you are investing in its profit. For example, a factory worker that is paid but they do not have ownership because it does not belong to them. Marx is frustrated with capitalism because the owner owns the individuals by having them work against their will. “The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of that means of subsistence, which absolutely requisite in bare existence as a labourer” (Marx, pg 286). Marx believed that workers should have their basic needs met for them to sustain themselves. When there is higher number of poor than rich people it can cause a revolution because of increased inequality. When the government is overthrown the poor will replace it with a government of equality that can lead to Communism.

The film V for Vendetta conveys Marx’s point of view about government having too much power. The government becomes a nanny state because it sets the curfew, decides how much food is eaten, and kills weak people. These actions violate individual rights and the protagonist is seen as a martyr for his beliefs of having a government for the people. He is seen trying to take down the government and says “The people should not be afraid of their government, the government should be afraid of their people”. This film represents the government as a threat rather than the protector of the people. In Marx viewpoint, these actions would lead to a revolution that would ultimately remove the corrupt system.

Locke and Marx agree that people have the right to revolt against their government. Locke believed that people should rise up when they feel that government has too much authority and is not protecting their civil liberties. Marx had a similar viewpoint because he believed that oppression of one class leads to inequality that can cause a government to get overthrown. For Marx, the rich have a strong influence because they can influence the government to make decisions for the public. In Locke’s perspective, even though people have an equal say, the majority can make decisions that are not beneficial to everyone. Locke and Marx share these ideals in overthrowing an unjust government.

The Second Treatise and the Communist Manifesto have two different viewpoints of wealth distribution because they come from two varying philosophers. Locke believes that people can achieve wealth when they have an equal say in government. A person acquires their fortune through interests of private property. Marx addresses inequality between the rich and the poor by equalizing the playing field and making everyone equal. This would mean taking away private property and redistributing the wealth equally to everyone. This viewpoint is utilitarian because everyone will have the maximum amount of happiness. However, this can become a problem because it can lead to an economic downturn. People will not be motivated to work hard and achieve their passions and accomplishments. People will not like a communist society because by nature, everyone has a free will in achieving their success and in a capitalist society, they have a freedom of choice.

Both arguments justify that violent revolutions occur as a way to overthrow a government. In my opinion, Marx makes a distinction between how the government favors one group in a capitalist society and abuses the civil liberties of the other. In order for the poor to protect themselves from abuse they take the matters into their own hands to demand change. He also makes it clear that if a government sides with one profitable class, the proletariat have a legitimate reason to correct this wrong by revolting against the corrupt government. I agree with Marx argument because citizens should revolt against their government if there is unequal distribution of wealth.

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