In contrast, social contract theorists reason that the free choice to remain a member ofsociety
not birth and not locale
is what binds each member of society to thecontract's terms.
In this sense, human beings “volunteer” to belong to society simply
because it is rational and in one's self-interest to do so (Lessnoff, 1986). Laws
whether penal or non-penal
are non-coercive in that, once children have observedsociety and matured, they can choose as adults to stay or to leave. The choice to stayis what binds a citizen to the social contract and to abide by its terms. This is how the
“contract” emerges, as has been argued at least as early in intellectual history by Plato
, Socrates maintained that a decision to remain in society conferslegitimacy to the social contract and imposes its obligations upon a citizen; a decision toleave society signals illegitimacy and, although relieved of its obligations, a citizen nowmust submit to suffer the consequences of this decision or to leave society.Taking their cue from Hobbes (1985) in
, other proponents of social contracttheory have argued that in order for citizens to keep from perpetrating injustices againstone another and to live in peace, there must be a guarantee in the event that one citizenperpetrates an injustice against another citizen society will not retrogress to the law ofnature. For these theorists, the social contract emerges not from birth, law, or thechoice to remain, but from the virtue of justice. Deliberation about what justicerequires
then, convinces members of society not only to cooperate withone another but also to adhere to their agreements as well (Gauthier, 1986).
The opponents' arguments
...Feminists and race-conscious philosophers, in particular, have argued that socialcontract theory is deficient for the reason that it subjects individuals and groups to anagreement that does
advance their particular self-interests. The issue for thesephilosophers concerns how the social contract has systematically excluded women andnon-Caucasians from its provisions solely by means of the reasoning from which thesocial contract has been derived.For feminists, what is wrong with the social contract is that much of Western philosophywas written by men and is based on instrumental rationality which supports the
subordination of women (called “patriarchy” and “partriarchal right”).
Women and theirexperience, then, are excluded from the social contract and its provisions.Pateman (1988) argues that the social contract, as an exemplar of this patrimony, wascrafted by brothers, literally or metaphorically, who, after overthrowing their father's rule,agreed to share their domination of the women previously controlled by the father.According to Pateman, the social contract, then, is nothing more than a means by whichmen continue to exert hegemony over and to dominate women, especially as thisideology evidences itself in the marriage contract (which prohibits the legal category ofmarital rape), the prostitution contract (which accords males sexual access to femalebodies), and the contract for surrogate motherhood (which requires access by men to
women in the instance of women’s reproductive rights).