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Rafael Zamarripa
Mr. Morrow
Political Science
30 September 2013
The Social Contract Theory
The social contract was important because it provided influential radical arguments and,
more important, extraordinarily powerful images and phrases, which were widely cited during
the French Revolution. Social inequality greatly corrupted the formation of the government.
Under conditions of inequality, governments and laws represented only the rich and privileged.
By equality, it intended that no one could be rich enough to buy another, nor poor enough to
have to sell one self. The contract involves parties keeping some natural rights, while accepting
restrictions of some liberties, as well as assuming some obligations (Dillbeck 2).
There were a few philosophers who argued that the sovereign's power should have been
unlimited, because the state originates in a social contract, whereby individuals accept a
common superior power to protect themselves from their own cruel instincts and to make
possible the satisfaction of certain human desires. In contrary it is also argued that sovereignty
resides in the people for whom governments are trustees and that such governments can
legitimately be overthrown if they fail to discharge their functions to the people. Therefore, the
philosophical underpinnings behind social contract theory are the origin and legitimacy of the
government, the origin of the law, the reasons as why to obey the law and how people can punish
the government in case they fail to fulfill their functions. Social contract theorists assert that in
order for a society to function, there must be a real or hypothetical agreement among its
members regarding the rights and responsibilities of both the state, which is concerned with
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advancing the common good, as well as its citizens, who are concerned with advancing their
self-interests. For this contract to work, every member of society must be presumed to agree to
its terms (Social 6).
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are the most famous
philosophers of the social contract theory, which formed the theoretical groundwork of
democracy. According to Hobbes' theory, without society, we would live in a world where we
would each have unlimited natural freedoms. So anyone in the state of nature would be able to
do anything they like; but this also means that anyone could do anything they wanted to anyone
else. The state of nature according to Hobbes is pre-social and pre-political in nature and there is
no scope for development to take place. In able to avoid this dilemma, we could jointly agree to a
social contract by which we as individuals would gain civil rights in return for subjecting
ourselves to civil law. In Hobbes' origination, sovereign is its creation. It is not a part of the
contract, so is not bound by it. Human beings are physical objects, according to Hobbes,
sophisticated machines all of whose functions and activities can be described and explained in
purely mechanistic terms (Hobbess 3).
John Locke stated that all people had the rights of Life, Liberty, and Property. He stated
that if these rights were not protected, the people could revolt and form a new government.
Lockes social contract was devoted to sovereignty and law. Sovereignty derived from the
peoples will. This will remained with the people. He argued that sovereignty did not reside in
the state but with the people, and that the state was supreme, but only if it was bound by civil and
natural law. To Locke, under social contract power was surrendered not to the sovereign but to
the community. According to John Locke, community signifies the government of the people by
the people for the people, therefore community rights should succeed over individual rights and
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the rights are surrendered into the community because, sovereign is the people. Locke argues
that God gave us our capacity for reason to aid us in the search for truth. As Gods creations, we
know that we must preserve ourselves. If we all must come to discover the truth through reason,
then no one man is naturally better able to discover truth than any other man. For this reason,
political leaders do not have the right to impose beliefs on the people (Locke 3).
It is said that social contract theory is exercised through elections of some people to form
the government, but the systems of many elections in the world do not reflect the reality. In
every political community of people there is a constitution and the constitution is supposed to
reflect the WILL of the people. And since the constitution is the WILL of the people, it then
enjoins every person to abide the provisions of this constitution, that is, to live according to their
agreed procedures and respect the community. The jurisprudence behind social contract theory is
to promote peace and harmony and as that it is the bed rock of democratic societies.


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Works Cited
Dillbeck, Barbara. Social Contract (The). LearningToGive.org. Web. 30 September 2013. <
http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper222.html>
Hobbess Leviathan. 1997, 2011 Garth Kemerling. 12 November 2011. Web. 30 September
2013. < http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/3x.htm>
Social Contract Theory: Man was born free, but everywhere is in chains!. Web. 30
September 2013. <
http://www83.homepage.villanova.edu/richard.jacobs/MPA%208300/theories/social%20cont
ract.html>
Themes, Arguments, and Ideas. John Locke. 2013 SparkNotes LLC. Web. 30 September
2013. < http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/johnlocke/themes.html>