chapter  X
30 Pages

Popular Consent-A Theory of Revolutionary Action

WithM. Seliger

John Locke’s attempt to align the principle of popular consent with that of political inequality by admitting the right of popular resistance raises a question. Locke held the majority of people to be unfit to participate in the election, and hence in the judgement, of their representatives. Men, Locke thought, are more likely to judge correctly present rather than future enjoyment and suffering. Yet while for the most part, ‘the greatest present uneasiness is the spur to action’, the ability to pass an objective judgement depends on the mind’s ‘power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires’. The determination does not carry further than passing sentence on the rulers’ wrongdoing, although the majority is granted not only the right to reject an existing regime but to choose any form of government which they think fit. Although there is a difference between dissent and consent, they are connected inasmuch as their effect is identical in decisive respect.