Social contract

What is the social contract

It is known as a social contract that which Citizens implicitly sign with the State once they decide to live in a society regulated by the latter..

The social contract is a term first coined by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) in his work The social contract: or the principles of political law published in 1762.

For Rousseau, the social contract is a reconciliation between nature and culture where the general will is expressed in the form of social interest and the common good and not just a majority numerical totalization of particular wills, which are selfish and have private interests. Rousseau affirms in the last of the four books that make up this work that it is the manifestation of the general and social will for public utility from which the sole and legitimate authority of the State emanates.

The clauses of the social contract are constituted by the rights and duties of individuals, where the more rights, the more duties. Rousseau justifies the abandonment of citizens’ freedoms to the State in exchange for the State ensuring an order. This justification is based on the thought of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Rousseau’s thought was important for the maturation of the concepts that catalyzed the French Revolution (1789-1799) with the motto “Equality, liberty and fraternity.”

Examples of social contract

The forms that the social contract takes in a society are, for example, referendums, which as a mechanism of citizen participation through suffrage have an influence on a government decision. The right of citizens to be consulted in State decisions conflicts with their duty to vote.

Measures to ensure human rights and equality in society are part of the duties of the State regarding the social contract with its citizens.

See also 5 examples of equality in society.

Social contract with Thomas Hobbes

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his work The leviathan of 1651 mentions the social contract under the term of original pact between the governed and the rulers.

Thomas Hobbes popularizes the phrase Homo Homini Lupus translated as “man is a wolf to man” in his work to describe the bases of the implicit agreement of the original pact or social contract.

Hobbes refutes classical thought that defines the political order as a consequence of the natural order. Instead, he claims that political order is determined through bases of civil power reflected in contracts and that the only natural order that remains is the instinct of self-preservation. It is this instinct of conservation that results in the right to conserve leading to wars among each other because “man is a wolf to man.”

It is because of the above that citizens sacrifice rights that are handed over to a higher authority to ensure their own survival through the social contract. This original pact is not entered into voluntarily, but rather out of fear of what society is capable of doing. Hobbes defines that the origin of the pact lies in collective selfishness.