What Is an Example of Social Contract Theory

According to Filmer, political relationships and obligations stem from historical and family relationships and customs. Locke repeated this argument directly in the first treatise of his Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689. In the second half of the text, Locke described an alternative to the biblical and cinematic representation of political legitimacy. According to Locke`s model and the model of all social contract theorists, individuals are extracted from the socio-historical constraints that Filmer emphasized and placed in an artificial construction generally referred to as the “state of nature.” From this starting point, the theory of the social contract affirms the principle of consent instead of primogeniture as the basis of political legitimacy. However, the situation is not hopeless. Because people are reasonable, they can see their way out of such a state by recognizing the laws of nature that show them the means by which they can escape the state of nature and create a civil society. The first and most important law of nature requires that every human being be ready to seek peace when others are willing to do the same, while retaining the right to continue waging war when others are not seeking peace. Since they are reasonable and recognize the rationality of this fundamental commandment of reason, people can be expected to build a social contract that allows them to live a different life than they have in the state of nature. This contract consists of two separate contracts. First, they must agree to found society by collectively and mutually renouncing the rights they had against each other in the state of nature.

Second, they must equip a person or gathering of persons with the power and authority to enforce the original contract. In other words, to ensure that they escape the state of nature, they must both agree to live together according to common laws and create a mechanism for the application of the social contract and the laws that compose it. Since the sovereign is endowed with the authority and power to impose sanctions for breaches of contract that are worse than not being able to act as he pleases, people have good, if selfish, reasons to adapt to the artificiality of morality in general and justice in particular. Society becomes possible because, while in the state of nature there was no power capable of “overwhelming” them all, there is now an artificially and conventionally superior and more powerful person who can force men to cooperate. While living under the authority of a ruler can be difficult (Hobbes argues that because people`s passions can overwhelm their mental health, the ruler must have absolute authority for the contract to succeed), at least it`s better than living in the state of nature. And no matter how much we can resist it, how badly a sovereign manages the affairs of the state and regulates our own lives, we never have the right to oppose his power because it is the only thing that stands between us and what we most want to avoid, the state of nature. According to Locke, the state of nature is not a state of individuals, as is the case with Hobbes. Rather, it is populated by mothers and fathers with their children or families – what he calls “conjugal society” (para. 78). These societies are based on voluntary agreements to care for children together, and they are moral, but not political.

Political society is born when men representing their families come together in the state of nature and agree that everyone will give up executive power to punish those who transgress natural law and surrender that power to public power to a government. After doing so, they are subject to the will of the majority. In other words, by concluding a pact to leave the state of nature and shape society, they make “a political organ under one government” (para. 97) and submit to the will of that body. One adheres to such a body, either from the beginning or after it has already been established by others, only by express consent. After creating a political society and a government by their consent, people receive three things that they lacked in the state of nature: laws, judges to pass laws, and the executive power needed to enforce those laws. Every human being therefore hands over the power to protect himself and punish violators of the natural law to the government he created by the Pact. Both considerations have been attacked in contemporary theories of social contracts, especially in the second. According to Buchanan, the key development of the new theory of the social contract was to distinguish the question of what generates political obligation (the main concern of the consent tradition in the thought of the social contract) from the question of which constitutional orders or social institutions are mutually beneficial and stable over time (1965). The nature of a person`s duty to respect the law or social rules is a matter of morality with respect to individuals (Rawls 1999, 293ff), while the design and justification of political and social institutions is a matter of public or social morality.

According to Buchanan, a crucial feature of recent contractual thinking has been to focus political philosophy on public or social morality rather than individual engagement. These two principles are linked by a certain order. The first principle, the distribution of civil liberties as far as possible in accordance with equality, precedes the second principle, which distributes social and economic goods. In other words, we cannot decide to give up some of our civil liberties in favour of greater economic advantage. Rather, we must meet the requirements of the first principle before moving on to the second. From Rawls` point of view, this series of principles expresses a fundamental rational preference for certain types of goods, that is, those embodied in civil liberties, over other types of goods, that is, economic benefits. The social contract begins with Rousseau`s most frequently quoted phrase: “Man is born free, and he is everywhere chained” (49). This claim is the conceptual bridge between the descriptive work of the Second Discourse and the prescriptive work that will come. Humans are essentially free and were free in the state of nature, but the “progress” of civilization has replaced this freedom with dependence, economic and social inequality, and the extent to which we judge ourselves with comparisons with others. Since a return to the state of nature is neither feasible nor desirable, the purpose of politics is to give us back freedom and thus reconcile who we really are and essentially with the way we live together. .

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