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Single Idea 19903

[catalogued under 25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / c. Despotism]

Full Idea

Despotical power is an absolute, arbitrary power one man over another, to take away his life whenever he pleases; and this is a power which neither Nature gives, for it has made no such distinction between one man and another, nor compact can convey.

Gist of Idea

Despotism is arbitrary power to kill, based neither on natural equality, nor any social contract


John Locke (Second Treatise of Government [1690], 172)

A Reaction

Colonies of seals, walruses and apes seem to display despotism, based on physical strength, though that is largely to do with mating. There could be such a compact, but Locke would regard it as invalid.

Book Reference

Locke,John: 'Two Treatises of Government' [Everyman 1988], p.205

Related Idea

Idea 19904 Legitimate prisoners of war are subject to despotism, because that continues the state of war [Locke]