Locke on consent, membership and emigration: A reconsideration

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This article revisits long-standing questions about consent, membership and emigration in Locke’s thought. Commentators such as A John Simmons have argued that Locke opens political membership to both express consenters and some kind of tacit consenters, and not just to the former, as some have suggested. Simmons’s reading seems to render Locke more sensible in that it does not exclude large numbers of people from membership or burden the few members with all the civic duties, and also in that it allows at least tacit-consenting members the right to relocate, while this right is denied to express-consenting members. Against this reading, the article shows, by resolving seemingly conflicting claims in the text, that people become members only by express consent. It also responds to the criticism that the express-consent-only reading would limit membership to a few and so would render Locke’s account implausible from a practical point of view. The article then addresses the purported restriction Locke imposes on express consenters’ right to emigrate, arguing that the restriction concerns the change of membership and not the right to relocate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-229
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr


  • Citizenship
  • Locke
  • emigration
  • express consent
  • membership
  • right to relocate
  • tacit consent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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