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Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism$
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Onur Ulas Ince

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190637293

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190637293.001.0001

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In the Beginning, All the World Was America

In the Beginning, All the World Was America

John Locke’s Global Theory of Property

Chapter:
(p.38) 2 In the Beginning, All the World Was America
Source:
Colonial Capitalism and the Dilemmas of Liberalism
Author(s):

Onur Ulas Ince

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190637293.003.0003

This chapter offers an analysis of John Locke’s theory of property in the context of Atlantic colonial capitalism. Breaking with interpretations that center on Locke’s theory of labor, the chapter identifies Locke’s theory of money as the linchpin of his liberal justification of English colonization in America. It brings into conversation the colonial interpretations of Locke with the earlier economic debates on the place of natural law, morality, and accumulation of capital in Locke’s theory of property. It argues that by predicating property and improvement on monetization, Locke construes the absence of monetization in America as the sign that the continent remains in the state of “natural common” open to nonconsensual appropriation. By invoking a fictive “universal tacit consent of mankind” as the origin of money, Locke bridges the gap between his liberal theory of private property and the illiberality of extralegal colonial expansion in the New World.

Keywords:   John Locke, liberalism, empire, America, Atlantic, conquest, colonization, property rights, money, terra nullius

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