SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY
Social Contract Theory is used to
suggest that a group of self-interested and rational individuals came together and formed
a contract which created society. Each was willing to give up a little bit of freedom to
create social rules that would protect their self-interest.
Proponents of social contract
theory attempt to explain why it is in an individuals rational self-interest to
voluntarily give up the freedoms one has in order to obtain the benefits of political
Social contract is culturally
agreed upon norms that help maintain social solidarity. The elements of the social contract
are not explained or concretely agreed upon - they just become norms. In 'social contract'
people give up freedoms because it is good for the society as a whole.
Social Contract Theory suggests
that individuals were historically prior to societies. It was this view which sociologist
Emile Durkheim argued against in the late nineteenth century with his claim that society
must come before the individual because human culture and communication can only arise in
Social Contract Theory is the view
that persons' moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or
agreement between them to form society.
Socrates uses something quite like
a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the
death penalty. Social Contract Theory is rightly associated with modern moral and
political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes. In
the twentieth century, moral and political theory regained philosophical momentum as a
result of John Rawls Kantian version of social contract theory. More recently,
philosophers from different perspectives have criticized Social Contract Theory. In
particular, feminists and race-conscious philosophers have argued that social contract
theory is at least an incomplete picture of our moral and political lives.
Social Contract Theory -
Implications for Professional Ethics
Social contract theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries provide diverse accounts of human
nature and the social processes that shape conflict, cooperation, and compliance. A
consideration of social contract theory yields a heavy dose of realism when it comes to
this objective but invites neither despondency nor complacency. Philip H. Jos, College of
Charleston, South Carolina.
Toward a New Social Contract
Theory in Organization Science
Joseph T. Mahoney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anne S. Huff, University of Colorado, James O. Huff, University of Colorado
The article suggests that strategy research (and other management disciplines as well)
should move beyond a neo-Hobbesian approach to contracting toward a new social contract
approach. Altruism, ethics, goodwill, moral sentiments, and trust need to be placed in the
foreground of our vision, and society must be accepted as the ultimate principal to which
both individuals and firms are responsible.
Why Be Moral? Social Contract Theory Versus Kantian-Christian Morality - KELLY JAMES
CLARK - Journal of Markets & Morality, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2003
Abstract: According to social contract theories of morality, right and wrong are nothing
more than the agreement among rationally self-interested individuals to give up the
unhindered pursuit of their own desires for the security of living in peace. I argue that
theism provides a better motivation for rationally self-interested persons to be moral. In
the context of our moral development, we are involved in the project of becoming certain
kinds of persons, and this project must extend into the next life within a community
similar to Kant's kingdom of ends.
The European Social Contract and the European Public Sphere
STEPHAN BREDT, Government of the Federal Republic of Germany
European Law Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 61-77, January 2006
Abstract: The normative concept of democracy as expressed in social contract theory is
neither bound to the city-state nor the nation-state, but can be transferred to the
European level. Two institutional characteristics of the democratic European polity could
correspond to the heterogeneous European public sphere: (1) a cooperation of institutions
with clearly separated and limited competences - contrary to the ideal-type sovereign
institutions with broad competences in the nation-state, and (2) the policy field-oriented
structure - contrary to the more uniform and functional structure of democratic
institutions in the nation-states.
Rousseau's Social Contract and the Functional Integrity of the Group-As-A-Whole
Mark F Ettin, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's social contract theory considered how individuals might be
governed as a group without losing their rights as individuals. He speculated about what
type of group process would support individual freedom and hypothesized about the
formulation of a `general will' to account for the uniformity of belief and action by
which a political body charts a common course. This article uses Rousseau's ideas to
examine how the group-as-a-whole configures in order to express its general will, what
channels of expression are open to members within the body politic, and the nature of the
relationship between leaders and followers within the social and therapeutic contract.
Reciprocity and the Social Contract - Ken Binmore, University College London, UK
This article is extracted from a forthcoming book, Natural Justice. It is a
nontechnical introduction to the part of game theory immediately relevant to social
contract theory. The latter part of the article reviews how concepts such as trust,
responsibility, and authority can be seen as emergent phenomena in models that take formal
account only of equilibria in indefinitely repeated games.
Psychological Contracts: A Nano-Level Perspective on Social Contract Theory - Jeffery
Thompson, David Hart
Abstract: Social contract theory has been criticized as a theory in search of
application. We draw upon the psychological contract perspective to address two
critiques of social contract theory: its rigid macro-orientation and inattention to the
process of contract formation. We demonstrate how a psychological contract approach offers
practical insight into the impact of social contracting on day-to-day human interaction.
We then articulate several potentially testable propositions that emerge from this
Toward a Naturalistic Foundation of the Social Contract - C. Cordes, C. Schubert
Abstract: While mainstream social contract theory is based on an original position model
that is defined in an aprioristic way, we endogenize its key elements, that is, develop
them out of the individuals moral common sense. To this end, the biological and
social basis of moral intuitions and empathy are explored.
Rights and Responsibilities in the Light of Social Contract Theory - La Morte,
Abstract: Discusses the influence of the social contract on American institutions, due
process when liberty and property are involved, the nature of an individual's
responsibility to the government, and the application of social contract theory to
At Play In The State Of Nature: Assessing Social Contract Theory Through Role Play
Richard Paul Hamilton
Summary: Practitioners are increasingly acknowledging the value of role play. This article introduces a role play for teaching
social contract theory in political philosophy, specifically the Hobbesian variant. Unlike
real games, this role play has no goal and very few prohibitions.
Hegel and Social Contract Theory - Patten, Alan
Abstract: Considers how Hegel could both accept the starting point of social contract
theory (the commitment to freedom) and reject what contractarians take to be an obvious
implication of that starting point (the social contract theory of political legitimacy).
It also explores the alternative account of social and political legitimacy that Hegel
draws from the principle of freedom. Hegel's main objection to the social contract theory
is that it ignores the function community plays of constituting free individuals.
The juristic origins of social contract theory - Black A.
Abstract: This article seeks to explain the rise of social contract as a way of thinking
about government. By social contract I mean the view that human authorities are
established by agreement with their subjects for specific tasks, that their legitimacy
depends upon fulfilment of these tasks, and that such agreements may be enforced by clear,
defined procedures, as one would enforce a contract in private law.