John Locke’s influence on American political culture has been largely misunderstood by his commentators. Though often regarded as the architect of a rationally ordered and civilized liberalism, John Locke and the Uncivilized Society demonstrates that Locke’s thought is culpable for the rather uncivilized expressions of political engagement seen recently in America. By relying upon Eric Voegelin’s concept of pneumopathology, Locke is shown to be subtly constructing a liberal ideology and thereby individuals who approach liberalism as closed-minded ideologues, not as deeply responsible and mature citizens. Because Locke’s citizens will be slogan chanters instead of deep thinkers, Locke’s work does not create a liberalism that provides the best possible regime for humans, but a mere shadow of the best possible regime.
Scott Robinson is assistant professor of political science and assistant director of the Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty at Houston Baptist University.
Chapter 1: The Uncivilized Society: John Locke’s Ironic Place in America Today
Chapter 2: Conflicting Views of Locke in the Secondary Literature
Chapter 3: Locke’s Political Thought and Pneumopathology
Chapter 4: Locke’s Speculative View of History
Chapter 5: Locke’s Abstract Definition of Rebellion
Chapter 6: Locke’s Limited Idea of Reason
Chapter 7: Locke’s Limited Idea of Religion
Chapter 8: Locke’s Limited Idea of Education
Chapter 9: Islamic Terrorism, Locke’s Theory of Positive Toleration and How the Ideological Dynamics of the War on Terrorism Advantaged the Islamic State
Chapter 10: The Hole in the Fence: Shortcomings of Lockean Theory and How to Improve Liberal Justifications for Resistance
John Locke and the Uncivilized Society offers a fresh and provocative account of John Locke's political theory that both speaks to scholars and the public today. By showing how Locke's philosophical ideas of history, religion, and education inform his theories of consent, property, and resistance, Robinson illuminates how Locke is relevant to understanding contemporary events like radical Islam, Black Lives Matter, and cattle ranchers' rights. For Robinson, our current state of incivility is not a symptom of civic decline but a manifestation of Locke's philosophical ideas that ultimately are limited and self-serving. John Locke and the Uncivilized Society is the book to start this re-investigation of Locke's theories to understand how they are used - and misused - in contemporary American politics.
Scott Robinson has written an engaging, thought provoking, and timely analysis of Lockean theory and its impact on modern day American politics. He convincingly demonstrates that the current political climate is infected with an attitude of selfish, individualistic resistance towards legitimate political authority. While certainly not blaming Locke exclusively for the cultural and spiritual decline, Robinson persuasively argues for a more philosophically oriented liberalism, grounded in the thought of Algernon Sidney and amplified by classical philosophy and Christianity. This is a must read for Lockean theorists, scholars of Liberalism, and citizens looking for a philosophically grounded explanation of the political turmoil in 21st century America.