Social Contract Theories

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In-order to understand the significance and purpose of social contract theories, it is essential to understand the theoretical and historical background to these theories. (Browne, 2010) As these theories are based upon a certain context, therefore it is within that very context their strengths and weaknesses can be analysed. This paper makes an attempt to explain what state of nature and social contract is, and then tries to evaluate the potential strengths and weaknesses of these contracts by critiquing the various functions these contracts perform or ought to perform. While doing that, comparison and contrast of Hobbes’s, Locke’s and Rousseau’s social contract theories has been done to show where their theories converge and where their respective…show more content…
There would be chaos and anarchy everywhere; one could do whatever he/she wants irrespective of it being right or wrong; there would be no communal life as we have nowadays. Moreover, there would be no concept of accountability, responsibility or social goods. Hence, the natural condition of mankind, which is termed as “State of Nature”, would exist if there were no governments, no civilization, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. To evolve as human beings, it is imperative for humans to come to an agreement by which they overcome this state of nature and make the world a better place to live in. For this to happen, they entered into two agreements. By the first pact of “unionis”, people sought protection of their lives and property. As, a result of it a society was formed where people undertook to respect each other and live in peace and harmony. By the second pact of “subjectionis”, people united together and pledged to obey an authority and surrendered the whole or part of their freedom and rights to an authority. ("What Is Social Contract Theory?”) The authority guaranteed everyone protection of life, property and to a certain extent liberty. Thus, they must agree to establish society by collectively and reciprocally renouncing the rights they had against one another in the State of Nature and they must imbue some one person or assembly of persons with the authority and power to enforce the initial contract. This…show more content…
This reciprocity is also dependant on rationality as a person will only be willing to give up his/her rights to a sovereign as long as the rest of the population is willing to do so. (Gaskill, “Social Contract Theory”)As a result, the masses get peace, protection of property, safeguard of rights and freedoms which can mutually benefit everyone under the contract. However, the extent to which one gives up his right can have substantial effect upon the influence one can have on the central authority, and this turn questions the power of the sovereign. For instance, Hobbes believed in surrendering all rights and freedoms to the sovereign, and as a result, the subjects end up with no rights against the sovereign and he is to be obeyed in all situations however bad or unworthy he might be. While at the other end, Rousseau considered the people to be sovereign and it was their “general will” which led to the formation of a state where the individuals would part with their natural rights and in return, he would get civil liberties such as freedom, equality, assembly, etc. Furthermore, Rousseau believed that blind obedience should be given to “general will” on the belief that majority was
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