The Relationship between the Individual and the State in Selected Modern Theories of Property

Wojciech Włoch

The aim of the article is to show through an analysis of selected modern theoriesof property how the philosophical (natural-law) justifi cation of property influences anindividual’s legal and constitutional position according to a particular doctrine. The objectsof the aforementioned analysis are theories by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant, whereasthe result is an isolation of two types of absolutist theories and two types of liberal theories. Absolutist theories strictly connect the institution of property with the state, they are differentiatedmainly by the goal served by the state and the law (peace in Hobbes’s theory,“common interest” in Rousseau’s), as well as the authority (a sovereign or general will). The concept of power is similar in both theories: the authority is not limited by the rights of individuals. Liberal theories articulate the opinion on the priority of the right to property in relation to the institutions of the state and law (their fundamental role is to guarantee rights). Locke’s liberalism is “flexible”, i.e. it does not determine a priori principles regarding the conventional forms of obtaining property, whereas Kant’s liberalism may be defi ned as “rigid”, since it formulates certain a priori principles of legitimate acquisition of property. Both the empirical liberalism of Locke and the normative liberalism of Kant express the concept of limited authority together with the postulate of primacy of subjective rights.


Keywords: Hobbes · Locke · Rousseau · Kant · property · liberalism · absolutism

Wojciech Włoch – Ph.D. in the humanities (philosophy of law), doctorate student at the Department of Law and Administration at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń; scholarly editor of the 5th volume of the Polish edition of I. Kant’s Collected Works; main scientific interests: I. Kant’s philosophy of law, H. Kelsen’s pure theory of law, the concepts of social contract, the theory of subjective rights.   »  

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