Social contract

social contract theorycontractarianismcontractariansocial contractscontractcontractualist theorySocial contract theoriescontract theoryContractarian libertarianismcontractual
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.wikipedia
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State (polity)

statestatesthe state
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.
Over time, a variety of different forms developed, employing a variety of justifications for their existence (such as divine right, the theory of the social contract, etc.).

Thomas Hobbes

HobbesHobbesianHobbes, Thomas
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" by Thomas Hobbes). Prominent of 17th- and 18th-century theorists of social contract and natural rights include Hugo Grotius (1625), Thomas Hobbes (1651), Samuel von Pufendorf (1673), John Locke (1689), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) and Immanuel Kant (1797), each approaching the concept of political authority differently.
Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, which expounded an influential formulation of social contract theory.

Social order

ordersocial ordersmaintaining order
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 or maintenance of the social order.
Thomas Hobbes is recognized as the first to clearly formulate the problem, to answer which he conceived the notion of a social contract.

State of nature

natural statenatural condition of mankindnatural man
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" by Thomas Hobbes).
The state of nature, in moral and political philosophy, religion, social contract theories and international law, is the hypothetical life of people before societies came into existence.

John Locke

LockeLockeanJ Locke
Prominent of 17th- and 18th-century theorists of social contract and natural rights include Hugo Grotius (1625), Thomas Hobbes (1651), Samuel von Pufendorf (1673), John Locke (1689), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762) and Immanuel Kant (1797), each approaching the concept of political authority differently.
Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory.

Political philosophy

political theorypolitical philosopherpolitical theorist
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.
Thomas Hobbes, well known for his theory of the social contract, goes on to expand this view at the start of the 17th century during the English Renaissance.

Age of Enlightenment

Enlightenmentthe EnlightenmentFrench Enlightenment
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.
John Locke, one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, based his governance philosophy in social contract theory, a subject that permeated Enlightenment political thought.

The Social Contract

Social ContractContrat SocialThe Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right
The term takes its name from The Social Contract (French: Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique), a 1762 book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau that discussed this concept. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), in his influential 1762 treatise The Social Contract, outlined a different version of social-contract theory, as the foundations of political rights based on unlimited popular sovereignty.
In this desired social contract, everyone will be free because they all forfeit the same number of rights and impose the same duties on all.

Bellum omnium contra omnes

war of all against alla constant state of warBellum omnium contrā omnēs
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).
According to Hobbes, the outcome is that people choose to enter a social contract, giving up some of their liberties in order to enjoy peace.

Original position

decision procedureequalitythought experiment
Social contract theories were eclipsed in the 19thcentury in favor of utilitarianism, Hegelianism and Marxism; they were revived in the 20thcentury, notably in the form of a thought experiment by John Rawls. Building on the work of Immanuel Kant with its presumption of limits on the state, John Rawls (1921–2002), in A Theory of Justice (1971), proposed a contractarian approach whereby rational people in a hypothetical "original position" would set aside their individual preferences and capacities under a "veil of ignorance" and agree to certain general principles of justice and legal organization.
In social contract theory, persons in the state of nature agree to the provisions of a contract that defines the basic rights and duties of citizens in a civil society.

Civil society

civil society organizationscivil societiesglobal civil society
To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish political community (civil society) 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.
Some of their attempts led to the emergence of social contract theory that contested social relations existing in accordance with human nature.

Individual

individualityindividualshuman identity
In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual.
This ties into the idea of the liberty and rights of the individual, society as a social contract between rational individuals, and the beginnings of individualism as a doctrine.

Crito

accepted his fatehis own eponymous dialogue
The social contract theory also appears in Crito, another dialogue from Plato.
The dialogue contains an ancient statement of the social contract theory of government.

Natural law

laws of naturenatural lawslaw of nature
Francisco Suárez (1548–1617), from the School of Salamanca, might be considered an early theorist of the social contract, theorizing natural law in an attempt to limit the divine right of absolute monarchy.
Modern natural law theories were greatly developed in the Age of Enlightenment, combining inspiration from Roman law with philosophies like social contract theory.

Leviathan (Hobbes book)

LeviathanLeviathan (book)Nasty, brutish, and short
Hobbes wrote in Leviathan that humans ("we") need the "terrour of some Power" otherwise humans will not heed the law of reciprocity, "(in summe) doing to others, as wee would be done to".
The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory.

Two Treatises of Government

Second Treatise of GovernmentSecond Treatise on GovernmentSecond Treatise on Civil Government
While Hobbes argued for near-absolute authority, Locke argued for inviolate freedom under law in his Second Treatise of Government.
The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory.

Sovereignty

sovereignsovereign entitysovereign nation
All of these groups were led to articulate notions of popular sovereignty 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.
In particular, the "Social contract" as a mechanism for establishing sovereignty was suggested and, by 1800, widely accepted, especially in the new United States and France, though also in Great Britain to a lesser extent.

Popular sovereignty

sovereignty of the peoplepeoplewill of the people
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), in his influential 1762 treatise The Social Contract, outlined a different version of social-contract theory, as the foundations of political rights based on unlimited popular sovereignty.
It is closely associated with social contract philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Consent of the governed

consentcommon consentconsent of the Chinese people
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 or maintenance of the social order.

Natural rights and legal rights

natural rightslegal rightsnatural right
The relation between natural and legal rights is often a topic of social contract theory.
During the Age of Enlightenment, the concept of natural laws was used to challenge the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government – and thus legal rights – in the form of classical republicanism.

School of Salamanca

renewedSalamancaSalamanca scholar
Francisco Suárez (1548–1617), from the School of Salamanca, might be considered an early theorist of the social contract, theorizing natural law in an attempt to limit the divine right of absolute monarchy.
The consequence of this contractualist theory is that the natural form of government is either a democracy or a republic, while oligarchy or monarchy arise as secondary institutions, whose claim to justice is based on being forms chosen (or at least consented to) by the people.

General will

general will" theories of democracypopular willthe general will
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" by Rousseau), citizens can withdraw their obligation to obey, or change the leadership through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence.
Furthermore, Rousseau envisioned his Social Contract as part of a projected larger work on political philosophy, which would have dealt with issues in larger states.

Rights

rightRights Ethicspolitical rights
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 or maintenance of the social order.

Epicureanism

EpicureanEpicureansEpicurean philosophy
Over time, the social contract theory became more widespread after 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 Epicurean ethics), decided to bring the theory to the forefront of his society.
Epicureanism incorporated a relatively full account of the social contract theory, and in part attempts to address issues with the society described in Plato's Republic.

Veil of ignorance

didn’t know in advance who we’d beinterchangeability of perspectiveVeil of ignorance (philosophy)
Building on the work of Immanuel Kant with its presumption of limits on the state, John Rawls (1921–2002), in A Theory of Justice (1971), proposed a contractarian approach whereby rational people in a hypothetical "original position" would set aside their individual preferences and capacities under a "veil of ignorance" and agree to certain general principles of justice and legal organization.
The veil of ignorance is part of a long tradition of thinking in terms of a social contract that includes the writings of Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson.