Social Contract Theory

Powerful Essays
The political world is one that impacts nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Whether it be through its enforcement of laws, protection of the public, or use of taxpayer-raised monies to carry out its myriad tasks, the government makes a mark on its people. The actions of the government, while frequently ridiculed or vilified, are the result of the people themselves, operating within our system of government. So while many people may disapprove of the job Congress is doing or the direction the president is leading us in, the status quo remains the same. This is because our current state of affairs, however twisted and convoluted it may be, has been determined as a norm, and agreed to by a majority. In the following pages I will show how modern social contract theory, especially that of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, grew into the divisive issue it is in contemporary political philosophy. I will do so by briefly unpacking the recent history of social contract theory and why it is a source of political divide today.

Modern social contract theory can trace its roots to prominent thinkers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. It is their thoughts on social contracts that lie at the center of the many spheres we are a part of. For Hobbes and Locke, social contract theory sought to analyze the relationship between rulers and the ruled. It’s a relationship that exists in virtually all governments: there is always a position of power, and a position that must respond to that power.

For Hobbes, a social contract was needed to lift people out of a condition of war that exists in nature anywhere government is absent. The rule of law and a government were vital to Hobbes’ theory. In it, the government fulfills the inherent ne...

... middle of paper ...

...e by it. It provides a context and a ruler for our actions as well as the authorities’. It’s far from perfect, but it allows us to operate and interact with one another and the government as God has instructed us.

Works Cited

Cowan, Steven B., and James S. Spiegel. The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

Katz, Michael B. "The American Welfare State and Social Contract in Hard Times." Journal Of Policy History 22, no. 4 (October 2010): 508-529.

Matthews, C. J. Gletus, and C. N. Jacobs. “The Theory of Social Contract: Shaping Today's Society." Journal Of International Social Research 3, no. 14 (November 2010): 262-265.

Tate, Thad W. “The Social Contract In America, 1774-1787: Revolutionary Theory As A Conservative Instrument." William & Mary Quarterly 22, no. 3

(July 1965): 375-391.
Get Access