C. B. Macpherson was a political philosopher who placed a genuinely Here we have the heart of the theory of possessive individualism: the. C. B. Macpherson’s The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke challenged the canonical interpretation of seventeenth-century . The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Hobbes to Locke). By C. B. Macpherson. Oxford University Press, Those of us who have had the good .

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C. B. Macpherson – Wikipedia

This seminal work by political philosopher C. Macpherson was first published by the Clarendon Press inand remains of key importance to the study of liberal-democratic theory half-a-century later.

In it, Macpherson argues that the chief difficulty of the notion of individualism that underpins classical liberalism lies in what he calls its “possessive quality”–“its conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them.

As the New Statesman declared: It is even more unusual for this to happen when the subject is one that has been thoroughly investigated by generations of historians. Until the appearance of Professor Macpherson’s book, it seemed unlikely that anything radically new could be said about so well-worn a topic.


The unexpected has happened, and the shock waves are still being absorbed. Introduction, Frank Cunningham Part One: The Roots of Liberal-Democratic Theory 2. Problems of Interpretation Part Two: The Political Oblication of the Market 3.

Philosophy and Indivudualism Theory 4. Human Nature and the State of Nature 5. Models of Society 6.

Franchise and Freedom 8. The Problem of the Franchise 9. Types of Franchise Theoretical Implications Part Four: The Opportunity State The Balance and the Gentry The Bourgeois Society The Equal Commonwealth and the Equal Agrarian The Self-Cancelling Balance Principle Harrington’s Stature Part Five: The Political Theory of Appropriation The Theory of Property Right Class Differentials in Natural Rights and Rationality The Ambiguous State of Nature The C Civil Society Unsettled Problems Reconsidered Part Six: Possessive Individualism and Liberal Democracy The Seventeenth-Century Foundations Widely regarded as Canada’s pre-eminent political theorist of the twentieth century, he was the author of numerous books, including The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy and The Real World of Democracyand was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor.


Understanding Society: Possessive individualism

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Academic Skip to main content. Choose your country or region Close. Macpherson Introduction by Frank Cunningham Wynford Books One of the key works of twentieth-century political philosophy Long out of print and now available in an affordable new edition New introduction by Frank Cunningham of the University of Toronto puts individuaalism work in a twenty-first-century context.

C. B. Macpherson

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