Two Treatises of Government


Two Treatises of Government


In Chapter 6 of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government about paternal power, he mentioned that the phrase “paternal power” seems to “place the power of parents over their children wholly in the father, as though the mother had no share in it; whereas reason and revelation both tell us that she has an equal title” (Locke, 304). He also mentioned that the one of the reasons why people would prefer “paternal” instead of “parental” is because “the monarchy wouldn’t be well supported if the very name showed that the fundamental authority from which they want to derive their government by only a single person belonged not to one person but to two” (Locke, 304). The word choice of “paternal” suggests a certain degree of absolute dominion that is only possible when one man is in power. Without any assistance or share of authority, the monarch, usually male, could yield his influence and leadership on the subordinate hierarchical orders. The association between paternal power and the political power of a monarch was built when using the word “paternal” instead of parental. By suggesting that there were fundamental differences between paternal and parental power, Locke was implying that in his view of the government, paternal power and political power should be separated, and could be achieved by including the mother’s responsibility of bringing up a child. He considered parental power more like a responsibility that would disappear when the children could think with reason, while submitting oneself to a political power is the voluntary will of an individual (Locke, 316).
Locke’s argument, on a radical perspective, could be considered as the dissolution of the association between power and male identity. In the parental process, when women share the responsibility with men, they also share the power and influence that they have on their children with men, who was originally considered to have the sheer dominance on children, or a monarchical nation.


John Locke


Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government, 1690.




Changlan Wang


Public Domain



John Locke, “Two Treatises of Government,” HIST 139 - Early Modern Europe, accessed June 23, 2024,

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