I just got through reading Locke's Second Treatise of Government, and I read quite a bit of Marx a while back. They both have interesting ideas on the state of humans in a world devoid of civilization and basic societal structures. Locke, from what I understand, makes the claim that anarchy is necessarily bad for people because, without government and society, life and property are insecure. On the other hand, Marx seems to romanticize anarchy, as he describes it as a state in which people are free from the chains of feudalism, societal structures that oppress those of a certain sex or race, and the inconveniences that come with private property. Which view is more realistic? Do philosophers today side with Marx or Locke on the concept of anarchy? Thanks for the help. I'm just an ignorant teenager trying to learn, so I'm no expert on philosophy.

  • Disclaimer: I have only taken one class on political philosophy so my interpretation may not be correct. I'm not sure if philosophers are quite concerned with "validity" of the assumption of the state of nature. Specifically in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, one of Nozick's first points is claiming that the no matter the validity or eventual effectiveness of a certain state of nature, the resulting conclusions can be quite useful. Even in some cases, like in Theory of Justice by Rawls, he removes the idea of a state of nature entirely and creates his own with the idea of the original position Apr 8, 2018 at 0:39
  • Marx's "anarchism" is, simply saying, "let's enjoy bourgeois style of life, everybody." which, is impossible. I try to answer.
    – user13955
    Apr 8, 2018 at 10:28
  • We’ve experienced Lockean but never Marxist anarchy. What does that suggest?
    – h_undatus
    Feb 25 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


This is pretty key to especially political philosophy. Contrast Hobbes' vision that the 'state of nature' was a war of all against all, to Rousseau's view of (essentially) the noble savage. Their political philosophies unfold from this analysis, authoritarianism from the former, direct democracy as the ultimate arbiter from the later.

more realistic

Is that the criteria? This fascinating map suggests the USA is composed of 11 different cultures https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-map-11-separate-nations-colin-woodward-yankeedom-new-netherland-the-midlands-tidewater-greater-a8078261.html with different views about a variety of moral topics, including about things like the 'state of nature'.

Can we get a 'dispassionate' view of human nature? Maybe we can. But, it only becomes 'meaningful' as part of a narrative, as part of deciding how to change things, of where we should go, in a culture. In what Foucault calls a discourse. Because meaning is not disspassionate, not morally neutral. Hear the stories from different sides, pick one, become part of that side. Whichever propagates more 'wins'.

The anarchist theories of Hakim Bey have been strongly criticised from many sides. Yet, his description of temporary autonomous zones, and implicit ideas about human nature or 'the state of nature' was a major influence on Burning Man, an ongoing political influence (even if only on other festivals and gatherings https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/gqy95y/how-burning-man-culture-made-its-way-around-the-world )

So, it is not just a popularity contest. Hobbes' ideas aren't much more popular than Bey's. But they must be answered. It is a dialogue, about influence, about power to help give people meaning in their lives. Does it become meaningful, even as a reaction against? What shapes the group narrative?

Marx looked like a winning theorist, a big influence, for a long time. But now we look at his justification of ends over means as fundamentally contradictory. His analysis of his times may hold some weight, but his diagnosis of what to do, has beeen categorically dismissed in practice. The popularity of his ideas, requires that they be answered to. But their failure in practice, dismisses them as that answer. Locke is a lot more popular now than Marx. But we need both, to explain history.

  • As we learn more about anthropology, do we immediately repudiate philosophies that counter findings about the development of past humans? Does history need to line up with a philosophical vision of the 'state of man'?
    – Longmire
    Apr 8, 2018 at 3:39
  • We tell new stories, that take account of the -inevitably scant- facts. They cannot force how we feel about the past, go ask a Creationist. But rational people must reconcile themselves with those findings, yes. Asking 'what is the state of nature' has huge philosophical bearing, but treated as a philosophical question is just speculatuve rambling. We took a path somewhere between chimpanzees and bonobos, and that may have made all the difference. economist.com/node/10278703
    – CriglCragl
    Apr 8, 2018 at 10:12

Since I said on the comment line, I answer.

I am not able to answer regarding Locke's with sorry due to lack of the knowledge, so that I would like to focus on the Marx's.

The main and important points Marx's concern were followings, in my opinion.

1 Fetishism to commodity and money as intermittent and human's endless pursuit of money.

2 Therefore because of 1, the exploitation of the labor and the unbalance that arise from it ( the over production and the relative less volume of consumption ) and its misery.

3 Human beings can be human beings through their intercourse with labor and with Nature ( aka the exploitation of Nature ( resources ) so that human beings can "exploit another Nature = human beings" which is equal to 2.

4 "Someday", in the future, thanks to the "final" culmination of these contradictions, something society-like, described at 5 can come "naturally". ( Marx saying with no responsibility )

5 From German Ideolgy

while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

  1. Such a "society" or "association" described in 5 is impossible to me, so that his idealism aka the anarchism aka the freedom society is completely like the prophecy of that of Christianity although Marx was a genius only in analyzing the work of capital and its relationship with labor and its problem.

Thank you.

  • Please note. I replied, as Dostoevsky says, the complete "free" society is equal with something without any regulation = anarchy.
    – user13955
    Apr 8, 2018 at 22:32
  • May be I answered as "Marx's obscure goal is itself is the very anarchism". I have no particular clue about Marx's view on anarchism. Does anyone else have an idea?
    – user13955
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:11
  • I just want to comment on your 5th point because it's a good reflection of the limitations of Marx's ideology in practice. In the society proposed, one would want to be "hunter", "fisher", etc., but probably not a plumber or trashman. Thus, some sort of administrative body would have to force people to play these undesirable roles in society. Ironically, to provide these jobs (trashman, plumber, etc.), these unfortunate workers would be alienated from their labor. So Marx's philosophy in practice violates itself.
    – Longmire
    Apr 9, 2018 at 2:11
  • @Longtime Perfectly. Marx's ( aside from the analysis of the function of the work of capital and its effect ) ambiguous "promised" ( which Marx "really" intended to expect or not ) "entity" ( or not ) requires, on the contrary to his critic on the society then ( and probably today too ), requires the human being as machines to make these people who want to enjoy the 5th life style. To be continued.
    – user13955
    Apr 9, 2018 at 2:53
  • For example, should everyone be able to "hunt in the morning", "fish in the afternoon", "rear cattle in the evening", so on, 1. Who will make and manage the hunting estate for everybody? 2.**Who will set up bridges and monitor the amount of fish to be hooked up enough not to damage the nature**? , Who will feed the animals for rear cattling? His future image, again on the contrary to his critic, will require division of labor against which he fiercely attacked.
    – user13955
    Apr 9, 2018 at 3:07

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