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In
moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...
and
political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or un ...

political philosophy
, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link=n ...
and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
over the
individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of interest within an entity–relationship model or d ...
. Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining
rights Rights are legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is desc ...
or maintenance of the
social order The term social order can be used in two senses: In the first sense, it refers to a particular system of social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergence, emergen ...
. The relation between
natural and legal rights Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights. * Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental rights, fundamental'' and ''inali ...
is often a topic of social contract theory. The term takes its name from ''
The Social Contract ''The Social Contract'', originally published as ''On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Right'' (french: Du contrat social; ou Principes du droit politique) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, , ; 28 June 1712 ...
'' (French: ''Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique''), a 1762 book by
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
that discussed this concept. Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
and
Stoic STOIC (Stack-Oriented Interactive Compiler) is a 1970s programming language A programming language is a formal language comprising a Instruction set architecture, set of instructions that produce various kinds of Input/output, output. Progr ...
philosophy and
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...
and
Canon Law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry and technical drawing, as well as the engineering and construction industries, to measure dis ...
, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy. The starting point for most social contract theories is an examination of the human condition absent of any political order (termed the "
state of nature The state of nature, in moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', me ...
" by
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
). In this condition, individuals' actions are bound only by their personal
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
and
conscience Conscience is a cognitive process that elicits emotion and rational associations based on an individual's ethics, moral philosophy or value system. Conscience stands in contrast to elicited emotion or thought due to associations based on immedi ...

conscience
. From this shared starting point, social contract theorists seek to demonstrate why rational individuals would voluntarily consent to give up their natural freedom to obtain the benefits of political order. Prominent 17th- and 18th-century theorists of the social contract and natural rights include
Hugo Grotius Hugo Grotius (; 10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645), also known as Huig de Groot () and in Dutch as Hugo de Groot (), was a Dutch humanist Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundam ...

Hugo Grotius
(1625),
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
(1651),
Samuel von Pufendorf Samuel Freiherr (; male, abbreviated as ), (; his wife, abbreviated as , literally "free lord" or "free lady") and (, his unmarried daughters and maiden aunts) are designations used as title of nobility, titles of nobility in the German-speak ...

Samuel von Pufendorf
(1673),
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
(1689),
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1762) and
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
(1797), each approaching the concept of political authority differently. Grotius posited that individual humans had
natural rights Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights. * Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental Fundamental may refer to: * Found ...
.
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
famously said that in a "state of nature", human life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". In the absence of political order and law, everyone would have unlimited natural freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to plunder rape and murder; there would be an endless "war of all against all" (''
bellum omnium contra omnes ', a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, ...

bellum omnium contra omnes
''). To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish political
community A community is a social unit The term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term "unit of observation" in that the former refer ...

community
(
civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment ...
) through a social contract in which they all gain security in return for subjecting themselves to an absolute sovereign, one man or an assembly of men. Though the sovereign's edicts may well be arbitrary and tyrannical, Hobbes saw absolute government as the only alternative to the terrifying anarchy of a state of nature. Hobbes asserted that humans consent to abdicate their rights in favor of the absolute authority of government (whether monarchical or parliamentary). Alternatively, Locke and Rousseau argued that we gain civil rights in return for accepting the obligation to respect and defend the rights of others, giving up some freedoms to do so. The central assertion that social contract theory approaches is that law and political order are not natural, but human creations. The social contract and the political order it creates are simply the means towards an end—the benefit of the individuals involved—and legitimate only to the extent that they fulfill their part of the agreement. Hobbes argued that government is not a party to the original contract and citizens are not obligated to submit to the government when it is too weak to act effectively to suppress factionalism and civil unrest. According to other social contract theorists, when the government fails to secure their natural rights (Locke) or satisfy the best interests of society (called the "
general will In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politi ...
" by Rousseau), citizens can withdraw their obligation to obey or change the leadership through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence. Locke believed that
natural rights Natural rights and legal rights are two types of rights. * Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental Fundamental may refer to: * Found ...
were inalienable, and therefore the rule of God superseded government authority, while Rousseau believed that democracy (self-rule) was the best way to ensure welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law. The Lockean concept of the social contract was invoked in the
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known a ...

United States Declaration of Independence
. Social contract theories were eclipsed in the 19thcentury in favor of
utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a family of normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as ba ...
,
Hegelianism Hegelianism is the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, G. W. F. Hegel which can be summed up by the dictum that "the Rationality, rational alone is real", which means that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories. ...
and
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
; they were revived in the 20thcentury, notably in the form of a
thought experiment A thought experiment is a hypothetical situation in which a hypothesis A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can t ...
by
John Rawls John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...
.Patrick Riley, ''The Social Contract and Its Critics'', chapter12 in ''The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought'', Eds. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler, Vol4 of ''The Cambridge History of Political Thought'' (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.347–75.


Overview


The model of the social contract

There is a general form of social contract theories, which is:
''I'' chooses ''R'' in ''M'' and this gives ''I*'' reason to endorse and comply with ''R'' in the real world insofar as the reasons ''I'' has for choosing ''R'' in ''M'' are (or can be) shared by ''I*.''
With ''M'' being the deliberative setting; ''R'' rules, principles or institutions; ''I'' the (hypothetical) people in
original position The original position (OP), often referred to as the veil of ignorance, is a thought experiment used for reasoning about the principles that should structure a society based on solidarity. The phrases ''original position'' and ''veil of ignorance ...
or
state of nature The state of nature, in moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', me ...
making the social contract; and ''I*'' being the individuals in the real world following the social contract.


History

The concept of the social contract was originally posed by
Glaucon Glaucon (; el, Γλαύκων; c. 445 BC – 4th century BC), son of Ariston (Athenian), Ariston, was an Classical Athens, ancient Athenian and Plato's older brother. He is primarily known as a major conversant with Socrates in the ''Republic (P ...
, as described by
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
in '' The Republic'', BookII. The social contract theory also appears in ''
Crito ''Crito'' ( or ; grc, Κρίτων ) is a dialogue that was written by the ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Gl ...
'', another dialogue from Plato. Over time, the social contract theory became more widespread after
Epicurus Epicurus, ''Epíkouros'', "ally, comrade" (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism Epicureanism is a system of founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the . Epicureanism was originally ...

Epicurus
(341-270 BC), the first philosopher who saw justice as a social contract, and not as existing in Nature due to divine intervention (see below and also ), decided to bring the theory to the forefront of his society. As time went on, philosophers of traditional political and social thought, such as Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau put forward their opinions on social contract, which then caused the topic to become much more mainstream.


Classical thought

Social contract formulations are preserved in many of the world's oldest records. The Indian Buddhist text of the second century BCE, Mahāvastu, recounts the legend of Mahasammata. The story goes as follows: In his rock edicts, the Indian Buddhist king
Asoka Ashoka (; Brāhmi: 𑀅𑀲𑁄𑀓, ''Asoka'', IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit ...

Asoka
was said to have argued for a broad and far-reaching social contract. The Buddhist ''vinaya'' also reflects social contracts expected of the monks; one such instance is when the people of a certain town complained about monks felling saka trees, the Buddha tells his monks that they must stop and give way to social norms.
Epicurus Epicurus, ''Epíkouros'', "ally, comrade" (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism Epicureanism is a system of founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the . Epicureanism was originally ...

Epicurus
in the fourth century BCE seemed to have had a strong sense of social contract, with justice and law being rooted in mutual agreement and advantage, as evidenced by these lines, among others, from his ''Principal Doctrines'' (see also ):


Renaissance developments

Quentin Skinner Quentin Robert Duthie Skinner (born 1940) is a British intellectual historian Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectuals, people who conceptualize, discuss, write about, an ...
has argued that several critical modern innovations in contract theory are found in the writings from French Calvinists and Huguenots, whose work in turn was invoked by writers in the
Low Countries The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands ( nl, de Lage Landen, french: les Pays-Bas) and historically called the Netherlands ( nl, de Nederlanden), Flanders, or Belgica, refers to a coastal lowland region in Northwestern Europe ...
who objected to their subjection to Spain and, later still, by Catholics in England.
Francisco Suárez Francisco Suárez (5 January 1548 – 25 September 1617) was a Spain, Spanish Jesuit Catholic priest, priest, philosopher and theology, theologian, one of the leading figures of the School of Salamanca movement, and generally regarded among the ...

Francisco Suárez
(1548–1617), from the
School of Salamanca The School of Salamanca, also called Iberian School of Peace, ( es, Escuela de Salamanca) is the Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle ...
, might be considered an early theorist of the social contract, theorizing
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
in an attempt to limit the divine right of
absolute monarchy Absolute monarchy (or absolutism as doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme autocracy, autocratic authority, principally not being restricted by written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monar ...
. All of these groups were led to articulate notions of popular
sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate a ...
by means of a social covenant or contract, and all of these arguments began with proto-"state of nature" arguments, to the effect that the basis of politics is that everyone is by nature free of subjection to any government. These arguments, however, relied on a corporatist theory found in Roman law, according to which "a populus" can exist as a distinct legal entity. Thus, these arguments held that a group of people can join a government because it has the capacity to exercise a single will and make decisions with a single voice in the absence of sovereign authority—a notion rejected by Hobbes and later contract theorists.


Philosophers


Thomas Hobbes' ''Leviathan'' (1651)

The first modern philosopher to articulate a detailed contract theory was
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
(1588–1679). According to Hobbes, the lives of individuals in the
state of nature The state of nature, in moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', me ...
were "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short", a state in which self-interest and the absence of rights and contracts prevented the "social", or society. Life was "anarchic" (without leadership or the concept of sovereignty). Individuals in the state of nature were apolitical and asocial. This state of nature is followed by the social contract. The social contract was seen as an "occurrence" during which individuals came together and ceded some of their
individual rights Group rights, also known as collective rights, are rights held by a group ''wikt:qua, qua'' a group rather than by its members severally; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by Individuality, individual people; even if they are group-d ...
so that others would cede theirs. This resulted in the establishment of the state, a sovereign entity like the individuals now under its rule used to be, which would create laws to regulate social interactions. Human life was thus no longer "a war of all against all". The state system, which grew out of the social contract, was, however, also anarchic (without leadership). Just as the individuals in the state of nature had been sovereigns and thus guided by self-interest and the absence of rights, so states now acted in their self-interest in competition with each other. Just like the state of nature, states were thus bound to be in conflict because there was no sovereign over and above the state (more powerful) capable of imposing some system such as social-contract laws on everyone by force. Indeed, Hobbes' work helped to serve as a basis for the
realism Realism, Realistic, or Realists may refer to: In the arts *Realism (arts), the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully in different forms of the arts Arts movements related to realism include: *Classical Realism *Literary realism, a movem ...
theories of international relations, advanced by
E. H. Carr Edward Hallett "Ted" Carr (28 June 1892 – 3 November 1982) was a British historian, diplomat, journalist and international relations International relations (IR), international affairs (IA) or international studies (IS) is the scien ...
and
Hans Morgenthau Hans Joachim Morgenthau (February 17, 1904 – July 19, 1980) was one of the major twentieth-century figures in the study of international relations International relations (IR), international affairs (IA) or international studies (IS) ...
. Hobbes wrote in ''
Leviathan Leviathan (; , ) is a sea serpent A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of dragon A dragon is a large, snake, serpentine, legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Beliefs about dragons vary consid ...
'' that humans ("we") need the "terrour of some Power" otherwise humans will not heed the , "(in summe) doing to others, as wee would be done to".


John Locke's ''Second Treatise of Government'' (1689)

John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
's conception of the social contract differed from Hobbes' in several fundamental ways, retaining only the central notion that persons in a state of nature would willingly come together to form a state. Locke believed that individuals in a state of nature would be bound morally, by the Law of Nature, not to harm each other in their lives or possessions. Without government to defend them against those seeking to injure or enslave them, Locke further believed people would have no security in their rights and would live in fear. Individuals, to Locke, would only agree to form a state that would provide, in part, a "neutral judge", acting to protect the lives, liberty, and property of those who lived within it. While Hobbes argued for near-absolute authority, Locke argued for inviolate freedom under law in his ''Second Treatise of Government''. Locke argued that a government's legitimacy comes from the citizens' delegation to the government of their absolute right of violence (reserving the inalienable right of self-defense or "self-preservation"), along with elements of other rights (e.g. property will be liable to taxation) as necessary to achieve the goal of security through granting the state a monopoly of violence, whereby the government, as an impartial judge, may use the collective force of the populace to administer and enforce the law, rather than each man acting as his own judge, jury, and executioner—the condition in the state of nature.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau's ''Du Contrat social'' (1762)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(1712–1778), in his influential 1762 treatise
The Social Contract ''The Social Contract'', originally published as ''On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Right'' (french: Du contrat social; ou Principes du droit politique) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, , ; 28 June 1712 ...
, outlined a different version of social-contract theory, as the foundations of society based on the sovereignty of the ‘
general will In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politi ...
’. Rousseau's political theory differs in important ways from that of Locke and Hobbes. Rousseau's collectivist conception is most evident in his development of the "luminous conception" (which he credited to
Denis Diderot Denis Diderot (; ; 5 October 171331 July 1784) was a French philosopher, art critic An art critic is a person who is specialized in analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities ...

Denis Diderot
) of the ‘
general will In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politi ...
’. Summarised, the ‘
general will In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politi ...
’ is the power of all the citizens' collective interest - not to be confused with their individual interests. Although Rousseau wrote that the British were perhaps at the time the freest people on earth, he did not approve of their representative government, nor any form of representative government. Rousseau believed that society was only legitimate when the sovereign (i.e. the ‘
general will In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politi ...
’) were the sole
legislator A legislator (also known as a deputy or lawmaker) is a person who writes and passes law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified w ...
s. He also stated that the individual must accept “the total alienation to the whole community of each associate with all his rights”. In short, Rousseau meant that in order for the social contract to work, individuals ''must'' forfeit their rights to the whole so that such conditions were “equal for all". Rousseau's striking phrase that man must "be forced to be free" should be understood this way: since the indivisible and inalienable popular sovereignty decides what is good for the whole, if an individual rejects this "civil liberty" in place of "natural liberty" and self interest, disobeying the law, he will be forced to listen to what was decided when the people acted as a collective (as
citizen Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and t ...

citizen
s). Thus the law, inasmuch as it is created by the people acting as a body, is not a limitation of individual freedom, but rather its expression. The individual, as a citizen, explicitly agreed to be constrained if; as a private individual, he did not respect his own will as formulated in the general will. Because laws represent the restraint of "natural liberty", they represent the leap made from humans in the state of nature into civil society. In this sense, the law is a civilizing force. Therefore Rousseau believed that the laws that govern a people help to mould their character. Rousseau also analyses the social contract in terms of
risk In simple terms, risk is the possibility of something bad happening. Risk involves uncertainty Uncertainty refers to Epistemology, epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information. It applies to predictions of future events, to ...

risk
management, thus suggesting the origins of the state as a form of mutual
insurance Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management Risk management is the identification, evaluation, and prioritization of risk In simple terms, risk is the possibility of something bad happening. ...

insurance
.


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's individualist social contract (1851)

While Rousseau's social contract is based on
popular sovereignty Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The ...
and not on individual sovereignty, there are other theories espoused by
individualist Individualism is the moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Th ...
s,
libertarians Libertarianism (from french: libertaire, "libertarian"; from la, libertas, "freedom") is a political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of ...
, and
anarchists Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of ...

anarchists
that do not involve agreeing to anything more than
negative rights Negative and positive rights are rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people acco ...
and creates only a limited state, if any.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (, , ; 15 January 1809, Besançon – 19 January 1865, Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated popu ...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
(1809–1865) advocated a conception of social contract that did not involve an individual surrendering sovereignty to others. According to him, the social contract was not between individuals and the state, but rather among individuals who refrain from coercing or governing each other, each one maintaining complete sovereignty upon him- or herself:


John Rawls' ''Theory of Justice'' (1971)

Building on the work of Immanuel Kant with its presumption of limits on the state,
John Rawls John Bordley Rawls (; February 21, 1921 – November 24, 2002) was an American moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was ori ...
(1921–2002), in ''
A Theory of Justice ''A Theory of Justice'' is a 1971 work of political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships ...
'' (1971), proposed a contractarian approach whereby rational people in a hypothetical "
original position The original position (OP), often referred to as the veil of ignorance, is a thought experiment used for reasoning about the principles that should structure a society based on solidarity. The phrases ''original position'' and ''veil of ignorance ...
" would set aside their individual preferences and capacities under a "
veil of ignorance The original position (OP), often referred to as the veil of ignorance, is a thought experiment used for reasoning about the principles that should structure a society based on solidarity. The phrases ''original position'' and ''veil of ignorance ...
" and agree to certain general principles of justice and legal organization. This idea is also used as a game-theoretical formalization of the notion of fairness.


David Gauthier's ''Morals By Agreement'' (1986)

David Gauthier David Gauthier (; born 10 September 1932) is a Canadian-American philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom ...

David Gauthier
"neo-Hobbesian" theory argues that cooperation between two independent and self-interested parties is indeed possible, especially when it comes to understanding morality and politics. Gauthier notably points out the advantages of cooperation between two parties when it comes to the challenge of the
prisoner's dilemma The prisoner's dilemma is a standard example of a game analyzed in game theory Game theory is the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among Rational agent, rational decision-makers.Roger B. Myerson, Myerson, Roger B. (1991) ...
. He proposes that, if two parties were to stick to the original agreed-upon arrangement and morals outlined by the contract, they would both experience an optimal result. In his model for the social contract, factors including trust, rationality, and self-interest keep each party honest and dissuade them from breaking the rules.


Philip Pettit's ''Republicanism'' (1997)

Philip Pettit Philip Noel Pettit (born 1945) is an Irish philosopher and political theorist. He is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University Princeton University is a private university, priva ...

Philip Pettit
(b. 1945) has argued, in ''Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government'' (1997), that the theory of social contract, classically based on the
consent of the governed Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent as understo ...
, should be modified. Instead of arguing for explicit consent, which can always be
manufactured Manufacturing is the creation or production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ( ...
, Pettit argues that the absence of an effective rebellion against it is a contract's only legitimacy.


Criticism


Consent of the governed

An early critic of social contract theory was
Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as w ...

Rousseau
's friend, the philosopher
David Hume David Hume (; born David Home; 7 May 1711 NS (26 April 1711 OS) – 25 August 1776) Cranston, Maurice, and Thomas Edmund Jessop. 2020 999999 or triple nine most often refers to: * 999 (emergency telephone number) 250px, A sign on a beach ...

David Hume
, who in 1742 published an essay "Of Civil Liberty". The second part of this essay, entitled "Of the Original Contract", stresses that the concept of a "social contract" is a convenient fiction: Hume argued that
consent of the governed Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent as understo ...
was the ideal foundation on which a government should rest, but that it had not actually occurred this way in general.


Natural law and constitutionalism

Legal scholar
Randy Barnett Randy Evan Barnett (born February 5, 1952) is an American legal scholar and lawyer. He serves as the Patrick Hotung Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University Georgetown University is a private Jesuit research university A re ...

Randy Barnett
has argued that, while presence in the territory of a society may be necessary for consent, this does not constitute consent to ''all'' rules the society might make regardless of their content. A second condition of consent is that the rules be consistent with underlying principles of justice and the protection of natural and social rights, and have procedures for effective protection of those rights (or liberties). This has also been discussed by O.A. Brownson, who argued that, in a sense, three "constitutions" are involved: first, the ''constitution of nature'' that includes all of what the Founders called "
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
"; second, the ''constitution of society'', an unwritten and commonly understood set of rules for the society formed by a social contract before it establishes a government, by which it does establish the third, a ''constitution of government''. To consent, a necessary condition is that the rules be ''
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
al'' in that sense.


Tacit consent

The theory of an implicit social contract holds that by remaining in the territory controlled by some society, which usually has a government, people give consent to join that society and be governed by its government if any. This consent is what gives legitimacy to such a government. Other writers have argued that consent to join the society is not necessarily consent to its government. For that, the government must be set up according to a constitution of government that is consistent with the superior unwritten constitutions of nature and society.


Explicit consent

The theory of an implicit social contract also goes under the principles of explicit consent. The main difference between tacit consent and explicit consent is that explicit consent is meant to leave no room for misinterpretation. Moreover, you should directly state what it is that you want and the person has to respond in a concise manner that either confirms or denies the proposition.


Contracts must be consensual

According to the will theory of contract, a contract is not presumed valid unless all parties voluntarily agree to it, either tacitly or explicitly, without coercion.
Lysander Spooner Lysander Spooner (January 19, 1808 – May 14, 1887) was an American individualist anarchist Individualist anarchism is the branch of anarchism that emphasizes the individual and their Will (philosophy), will over external determinants such as ...

Lysander Spooner
, a 19th-century lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court and staunch supporter of a right of contract between individuals, argued in his essay ''
No Treason ''No Treason'' is a composition of three essays, all written in 1867: No. 1, No. 2: "The Constitution", and No. 6: "The Constitution of no Authority". No essays between No. 2 and No. 6 were ever published under the authorship of Lysander Spooner ...
'' that a supposed social contract cannot be used to justify governmental actions such as taxation because government will initiate force against anyone who does not wish to enter into such a contract. As a result, he maintains that such an agreement is not voluntary and therefore cannot be considered a legitimate contract at all. An
abolitionist Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end slavery. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and liberate the enslaved people. The British ...
, he made similar arguments about the unconstitutionality of slavery in the US. Modern Anglo-American law, like European civil law, is based on a will theory of contract, according to which all terms of a contract are binding on the parties because they chose those terms for themselves. This was less true when Hobbes wrote ''Leviathan''; at that time more importance was attached to consideration, meaning a mutual exchange of benefits necessary to the formation of a valid contract, and most contracts had implicit terms that arose from the nature of the contractual relationship rather than from the choices made by the parties. Accordingly, it has been argued that social contract theory is more consistent with the contract law of the time of Hobbes and Locke than with the contract law of our time, and that certain features in the social contract which seem anomalous to us, such as the belief that we are bound by a contract formulated by our distant ancestors, would not have seemed as strange to Hobbes' contemporaries as they do to us.Joseph Kary, "Contract Law and the Social Contract: What Legal History Can Teach Us About the Political Theory of Hobbes and Locke", 31 Ottawa Law Review 73 (Jan. 2000)


See also

*
Mandate of Heaven The Mandate of Heaven () is a Chinese political philosophy that was used in ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsClassical republicanism Classical republicanism, also known as civic republicanism or civic humanism, is a form of republicanism Republicanism is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state (polity), state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges f ...
*
Consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent as under ...

Consent
*
Consent of the governed Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent as understo ...
*
Constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

Constitution
*
Constitutionalism Constitutionalism is "a compound of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law". Political organizations are constitutional ...

Constitutionalism
*
Self determination The right of a people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a cult ...
*
Contract A contract is a legally binding agreement that defines and governs the rights and duties between or among its parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview ...

Contract
* *
Federalism Federalism is a mixed or compound mode of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Maga ...
*
Mandate (politics) In politics, a mandate is the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative. Elections, especially ones with a large margin of victory, are often said to give the newly elected government or elected official an implicit mandat ...
*
Mayflower Compact The Mayflower Compact, originally titled Agreement Between the Settlers of New Plymouth, was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony Plymouth Colony (sometimes Plimouth) was an British America, English colonial venture in America from ...
*
Monarchomachs The Monarchomachs (french: Monarchomaques) were originally French Huguenot Huguenots ( , also , ) were a Religious denomination, religious group of French people, French Protestantism, Protestants. Huguenots were French Protestants who held ...
*
The Racial Contract ''The Racial Contract'' is an essay by the Jamaican philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of wisdom'. The coining ...
*
Right of rebellion In political philosophy, the right of revolution (or right of rebellion) is the right or duty of a people to Revolution, overthrow a government that acts against their common interests and/or threatens the safety of the people without cause. Stated ...
*
School of Salamanca The School of Salamanca, also called Iberian School of Peace, ( es, Escuela de Salamanca) is the Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. was a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle ...
*
Social capital Social capital is "the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively". It involves the effective functioning of social group In the social science Soc ...
*
Social cohesion Group cohesiveness (also called group cohesion and social cohesion) arises when bonds link members of a social group In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar chara ...
* Social Contract (Britain) - British Labour Party policy involving trade-offs between employment conditions and social welfare *
Social disintegration Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...
* '' Social Justice in the Liberal State'' * Social rights (social contract theory) * Social solidarity * Societal collapse * Consent theory * ''
Crito ''Crito'' ( or ; grc, Κρίτων ) is a dialogue that was written by the ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Gl ...
'' – dialogue by
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
* Juan de Mariana


References


Further reading

* Ankerl, Guy. ''Towards a Social Contract on a Worldwide Scale: Solidarity contracts. Research series''. Geneva: International Institute for Labour Studies [Pamphlet], 1980, . * Carlyle, R. W. ''A History of mediæval political theory in the West''. Edinburgh London: W. Blackwood and sons, 1916. * Falaky, Faycal (2014). ''Social Contract, Masochist Contract: Aesthetics of Freedom and Submission in Rousseau''. Albany: State University of New York Press. * Gierke, Otto Friedrich Von and Ernst Troeltsch. ''Natural Law and the Theory of Society 1500 to 1800.'' Translated by Sir Ernest Barker, with a Lecture on "The Ideas of Natural Law and Humanity", by Ernst Troeltsch. Cambridge: The University Press, 1950. * Gough, J. W.. ''The Social Contract''. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1936. * Harrison, Ross. ''Hobbes, Locke, and Confusion's Empire: an Examination of Seventeenth-Century Political Philosophy''. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Hobbes, Thomas. ''Leviathan''. 1651.
* Locke, John.

' 1689. * * Pettit, Philip. ''Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government''. NY: Oxford U.P., 1997, , Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997 * Pufendorf, Samuel, James Tully and Michael Silverthorne. ''Pufendorf: On the Duty of Man and Citizen according to Natural Law. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought''. Cambridge University Press 1991. * Rawls, John. ''A Theory of Justice'' (1971) * Riley, Patrick. "How Coherent is the Social Contract Tradition?" ''Journal of the History of Ideas'' 34: 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1973): 543–62. * Riley, Patrick. ''Will and Political Legitimacy: A Critical Exposition of Social Contract Theory in Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel''. Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 1982. * Riley, Patrick. ''The Social Contract and Its Critics'', chapter 12 in ''The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought''. Eds. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler. Vol 4 of ''The Cambridge History of Political Thought''. Cambridge University Press, 2006. pp. 347–75. * Rousseau, Jean-Jacques.
The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right
' (1762) * Scanlon, T. M. 1998. ''What We Owe To Each Other''. Cambridge, Massachusetts


External links


"The Social Contract". ''In Our Time'' (7 Feb 2008). BBC Radio Program. Melvyn Bragg, moderator; with Melissa Lane, Cambridge University; Susan James, University of London; Karen O'Brien, University of Warwick.


Discussion of game theory that touches on relation of game theory to the Social Contract. * [https://web.archive.org/web/20120413015649/http://arcade.stanford.edu/journals/rofl/files/article_pdfs/roflv02i01_Foisneau_121510.pdf Foisneau, Luc. "Governing a Republic: Rousseau's General Will and the Problem of Government". ''Republics of Letters: A Journal for the Study of Knowledge, Politics, and the Arts'' 2, no. 1 (December 15, 2010)]
"The Social Contract and Constitutional Republics"
Constitution Society, website.
Sigmund, Paul E. "Natural Law, Consent, and Equality: William of Ockham to Richard Hooker". Published on website ''Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism''. A We the People project of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* * *
Jan Narveson. "The Contractarian Theory of Morals:FAQ". On website ''Against Politics: Anarchy Naturalized''.


Parody. * [https://ssrn.com/abstract=1268335 Social Contract: A Basic Contradiction in Western Liberal Democracy], Eric Engle. A critique of social contract theory as counter-factual myth. {{DEFAULTSORT:Social Contract Political concepts Social theories Thomas Hobbes John Locke John Rawls Sovereignty Social agreement Sociological terminology