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Claire Rydell Arcenas
University of Montana (Missoula, MT 59801-4494)

Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2019 – 7/31/2020

The Influence of Philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) on American Thought and Culture

The completion of a book-length study on the influence of John Locke’s writings on America’s political and cultural history, from the colonial era to the 20th century.

My book, Locke in America, elucidates the extraordinary trans-Atlantic influence of the 17th-century English philosopher John Locke on American thought and culture from before the American Revolution through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement to today. It tells the story of how and why Americans transformed Locke, best known to them in the 18th and 19th centuries as an epistemologist of the Scientific Revolution, into “America’s Philosopher” in the 20th century—the supposed founder in his Second Treatise of a distinctly American liberal democratic political tradition resting on property rights, individual liberty, freedom of religious practice, and representative government. This is the first sustained study of Locke’s American influence across multiple centuries. By addressing the political and cultural resonance Locke has in the United States today, this project seeks to advance the goals of the Common Good Initiative.