For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"John Locke, Property Rights, and Economic Theory"

by Henry, John F (1999)


… Second, the appropriation of land ( property in general) previously held in com- mon could not work to the … Potential workers could simply claim unused land unless they were coerced into working for others-and Locke rules out … John Locke , Property Rights, and Economic Theory …

Key Passage

During the period in which Locke wrote, wage labor, while certainly extant, had not yet crystallized as the dominant form of labor relationship we are now accustomed to in modem capitalist economies. Rather, various forms of labor existed, running the gamut from indentured servitude to independent craft production. Indeed, when Locke lists examples of labor [see Locke 1967, 316], his examples could all be associated with independent craft producers or representatives of various contract workers who still had some semblance of independence but were certainly not wage laborers during the time Locke wrote- plowman, baker, stonemason, carpenter, rope maker, and the like. Labor appears to be used generically, rather than as a classification of a class of people who live by selling their skills for a wage. Petty production, then, which is not based on wage labor (though where wage labor could exist), would be consistent with Locke's general position on legitimate claims to property within the larger, embedded nature of the economy where moral rights supersede property rights. (p.617)


Locke, Political Economics, History, History Of Ideas, Labor, Labor Theory Of Value, Property Rights


On Locke

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