C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke
C. B. Macpherson’s 1962 The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke challenged the canonical interpretation of seventeenth-century English political theorists by exploring their allegiance to “possessive individualism,” the idea that man’s normative essence consists in his self-ownership. After surveying the work’s impact, this chapter analyzes Macpherson’s concept of possessive individualism and considers the inter-relations amongst its economic, ontological, and psychological postulates. The chapter argues that—while Macpherson’s exegesis erred in trying to graft the concept onto early modern political theorists like John Locke—his core idea remains significant today. Possessive individualism accurately describes an influential normative perspective increasingly pervading and facilitated by contemporary global capitalism, as exemplified in the global financial crisis of 2007–09.
The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Contemporary Political Theory
Political Theory and Political Philosophy