This paper explores how John Locke’s theory of property, elaborated in chapter five of his Second Treatise of Government, provided a compelling conceptual and practical justification for the appropriation of Indigenous peoples’ territories in America by the early English settler-colonists of the 17th century. It examines how his property theory facilitated the nullification of Native American conceptions of land through the superimposition of European private property regimes in the settler colony. It further highlights briefly how indistinguishable dynamics also characterize the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian settler-colonial context, where the reverberations of Locke’s thought on property are pervasive. To do so, this paper examines two of the key components of Locke’s conceptualization of property (namely, human beings’ transition from a state of nature to political society, and the agricultural improvement argument) specifically in the context of their application in settler-colonial settings. Ultimately, this paper hopes to generate a more exhaustive appreciation of Locke’s theory of property by underlining its implications in settler-colonial enterprises and its function in abetting the expropriation of autochthonous lands.
"John Locke's Theory of Property, and the Dispossession of Indigenous Peoples in the Settler-Colony,"
American Indian Law Journal: Vol. 10:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/ailj/vol10/iss1/4