Published by Crackers Books, 23 January 2024

Social Contract Theory

Social Contract Theory: A Concise Overview

  1. Fundamental Premise: Social Contract Theory proposes that individuals consent, either explicitly or implicitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the state in exchange for protection of their remaining rights (Caelleigh, 2001)(Caelleigh, 2001).
  2. Historical Development: The theory has evolved over centuries, with significant contributions from philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Each philosopher presents a different perspective on the nature and purpose of the social contract, reflecting various views on human nature and the ideal relationship between the individual and the state (Bertram, 1998)(Bertram, 1998).
  3. Hobbesian Perspective: Thomas Hobbes viewed the social contract as necessary to avoid the 'state of nature', which he believed was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. His version of the contract involves individuals surrendering their rights to an absolute sovereign to ensure peace and security (Silvers & Francis, 2005)(Silvers & Francis, 2005).
  4. Lockean Viewpoint: John Locke's social contract is more optimistic about human nature and emphasizes property rights and limited government. Locke believed that the social contract should preserve the natural rights of life, liberty, and property, and that people have the right to overthrow a government that fails to do so (Keeley, 1995)(Keeley, 1995).
  5. Rousseau's Contribution: Jean-Jacques Rousseau emphasized the concept of 'general will' and collective sovereignty. He argued that the social contract should not only protect individual rights but also promote the collective good, often at the expense of individual freedoms (Butler, 2014)(Butler, 2014).


Social Contract Theory remains a vital concept in understanding the origin of societies and governments. It highlights the balance between individual freedoms and the authority of the state, shaping modern political discourse and constitutional democracy.


  1. Caelleigh, A. (2001). The social contract. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 76(12), 1174. Link
  2. Bertram, C. D. (1998). Evolution of the social contract. The Economic Journal. Link
  3. Silvers, A., & Francis, L. (2005). Justice through trust: Disability and the “Outlier Problem” in Social Contract Theory*. Ethics, 116, 40-76. Link
  4. Keeley, M. (1995). Continuing the Social Contract Tradition. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5, 241-255. Link
  5. Butler, B. (2014). From Social Contract Theory to Sociable Contract Theory. Contemporary Pragmatism, 11, 1-17. Link

Recommended Citation

Crackers Books. (2024, January 23). Social Contract Theory: A Concise Overview [Crackers Basics]. Retrieved from

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