The central principles of what today is broadly known as political liberalism were made current in large part by Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690). The principles of individual liberty, the rule of law, government by consent of the people, and the right to private property are taken for granted as fundamental to the human condition now. Most liberal theorists writing today look back to Locke as the source of their ideas. Some maintain that religious fundamentalism, "post-modernism," and socialism are today the only remaining ideological threats to liberalism. To the extent that this is true, these ideologies are ultimately attacks on the ideas that Locke, arguably more than any other, helped to make the universal vocabulary of political discourse.
About the Author
Born in 1632 in Somerset, England, Locke was the son of an attorney in a middle-class family. In 1652 he went to Oxford and studied medicine. The first earl of Shaftesbury introduced Locke to the world of politics, and early in their association, Locke served as secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and secretary to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas. In 1696, Locke was made Commissioner of Trade, a position he held for several years before his death in 1704.