The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke

Paperback | December 13, 2010

byC. B. MacphersonIntroduction byFrank Cunningham

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This seminal work by political philosopher C.B. Macpherson was first published by the Clarendon Press in 1962, and remains of key importance to the study of liberal-democratic theory half-a-century later. In it, Macpherson argues that the chief difficulty of the notion of individualism thatunderpins classical liberalism lies in what he calls its "possessive quality" - "its conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them." Under such a conception, the essence of humanity becomes freedom from dependence on thewills of others; society is little more than a system of economic relations; and political society becomes a means of safeguarding private property and the system of economic relations rooted in property.As the New Statesman declared: "It is rare for a book to change the intellectual landscape. It is even more unusual for this to happen when the subject is one that has been thoroughly investigated by generations of historians. . . . Until the appearance of Professor Macpherson's book, it seemedunlikely that anything radically new could be said about so well-worn a topic. The unexpected has happened, and the shock waves are still being absorbed."A new introduction by Frank Cunningham puts the work in a twenty-first-century context.

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This seminal work by political philosopher C.B. Macpherson was first published by the Clarendon Press in 1962, and remains of key importance to the study of liberal-democratic theory half-a-century later. In it, Macpherson argues that the chief difficulty of the notion of individualism thatunderpins classical liberalism lies in what he...

C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987) was professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Widely regarded as Canada's pre-eminent political theorist of the twentieth century, he was the author of numerous books, including The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy and The Real World of Democracy, and was named to the Order of Canada, t...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:328 pages, 8 × 5.25 × 0.52 inPublished:December 13, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195444019

ISBN - 13:9780195444018

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Table of Contents

Frank Cunningham: Introduction to the Wynford EditionI. INTRODUCTION1. The Roots of Liberal-Democratic Theory2. Problems of InterpretationII. HOBBES: THE POLITICAL OBLIGATION OF THE MARKET1. Philosophy and Political Theory2. Human Nature and the State of Nature3. Models of Society4. Politcal Obligation5. Penetration and Limits of Hobbes's Political TheoryIII. THE LEVELLERS: FRANCHISE AND FREEDOM1. The Problem of the Franchise2. Types of Franchise3. The Record4. Theoretical ImplicationsIV. HARRINGTON: THE OPPORTUNITY STATE1. Unexamined Ambiguities2. The Balance and the Gentry3. The Bourgeois Society4. The Equal Commonwealth and the Equal Agrarian5. The Self-Cancelling Balance Principle6. Harrington's StatureV. LOCKE: THE POLITICAL THEORY OF APPROPRIATION1. Interpretations2. The Theory of Property Right3. Class Differentials in Natural Rights and Rationality4. The Ambiguous State of Nature5. The Ambiguous Civil Society6. Unsettled Problems ReconsideredVI. POSSESSIVE INDIVIDUALISM AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY1. The Seventeenth-Century Foundations2. The Twentieth-Century DilemmaAppendixSocial Classes and Franchise Classes in England, circa 1648NotesWorks and Editions CitedIndex