It could easily be argued that without some of the theories proposed by John Locke, the later ideas of Marx might not have existed, especially in terms of the function and rights and government. One of John Locke’s primary assertions was that a government was only functional if it had the will of the people behind it and a social contract between people and state was formed. In addition, this government was obliged to offer its citizens a number of natural rights including those of life, liberty, and the right to own property.

In other words, Locke was asserting that government had to be fair and equitable in order to be sustainable. In addition to this is the crucial fact that Locke believed citizens had the right to revolt if government was not meeting their needs. Marx and Locke were aligned along these terms although the ideas of Karl Marxdid not have the same implicit trust in the inherent “good" of government, especially if a ruling class were supporting a government. According to Marx, government was not an entity through which change could be brought about. Rather, for change to happen and for the class struggles to be resolved it was necessary for the people to rise up and bring about the necessary adjustments to society.

In the words of John Locke, Karl Marx is also suggesting and affirming the idea that, “As usurpation is the exercise of power which another has a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to" (Locke 95). While Marx was not advocating anarchy or calling for an abolition of government itself, he was wary of the problems associated with government, particularly when it was based on uneven notions of class. He saw that there were inherent problems in a government where there was an upper class or ruling elite and advocated a government that was part of the people—a government that was not based on the principles and revolution-inspiring problems class inequity.

Despite the problems Marx had with government he was willing to look toward it as a chance for hope if his party could be in power. At one point he states, in one of the important quotes from “The Communist Manifesto”, “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeoisie society, conquest of political power" (Marx 288). Locke and Marx are similar in that they wish for fairness to be at the heart of government but differ on how they believe in their government—Locke is far more optimistic about the powers of government. Still, without Locke Marx might not have had groundwork for his ideas on government, especially in terms of natural rights and the right to revolt.

Where Locke and Marx seem at first to differ most significantly is on the issue of private property. Locke saw ownership of property as fundamental to a good government and society and believed that all citizens had a right, if they had the means, to acquire and own property. For Marx on the other hand, the abolition of ownership of private property is one of the central aspects to the theories of Marx as expressed in “The Communist Manifesto”. This is not simply meant in terms of owning a home or a piece of land, but more importantly it refers to the means of production. This is true in the case of a factory owner just as it is true for a large landholder who owns several acres that need worked. To Marx, this was a timeless imbalance that harkens back to the feudal days and doing away with the whole notion could happen through revolution. Without an uprising the issue of private property and the associated inequities would only continue unchecked. In many ways it can be suggested that to Marx, private property was at the center of almost all problems he saw in human society since it contributed to and signaled unequal distribution of wealth. Interestingly though, Marx and Locke had more in common in terms of property than it may seem. Since Marx believed that everyone had natural rights, he felt that there should be property owned, but only in common rather than in the more capitalist sense.

Related to the issue of property is that of labor. Locke felt that ownership of property was the fruit of labor and wished to see more equity in terms of the amount of labor expended and how it was rewarded. While he was before the Industrial Revolution, Locke still saw the opportunity for workers to be exploited and this of course violated his idea of a social contract and the notion that everyone is entitled to natural rights. In terms of labor, Marx felt that there were many inequities between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In his view, these two groups were constantly at odds, especially since the bourgeoisie owned the means of production. Because of this ages-old system of production and labor, it was only natural that there would be a working class who would be constantly exploited by an overseeing upper class. As a result of their ownership of the means of production these upper class were also given special positions within government and thus two systems, labor and government, were tarnished by class inequity. Only through attempting to even out the system and put an end to the upper class owning the means of production could there be fairness in terms of labor. On another note, Marx saw that labor itself was where the power of the proletariat was. The working classes possess strength in numbers and have the power to affect great change, both for the better or worse and Marx encouraged the worker to understand his position in the scheme of society.

Other essays and articles in the Main Archives related to this topic include : Analysis and Summary of General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard KeynesAnalysis and Summary of Principles of Political Economy by John Stuart MillThe Economics of Socialism: An Historical PerspectiveSummary and Analysis ofThe Essential Adam Smith by Robert L. HeilbronerSummary and Analysis of Das Kapital by Karl MarxThe Impacts of the Industrial Revolution on the New England FamilyThe Historical and Societal Functions of World Revolutions

Works Cited

Locke, John. Second Treatise on Government. New York; Dover, 1965.

Marx, Karl and Fredrich Engels. Communist Manifesto. New York; Signet Classics, 1999.