Why We Obey the Social Contract

1430 Words6 Pages
Since long before the birth of Christ people have subjected themselves to the rule of others, transferring their rights and freedom to appointed individuals in exchange for safe, regulated social orders. The idea of the social contract flourished through the writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 17th and 18th centuries and is still a relevant concept in explaining the legitimacy of state power in the modern world today. The social contract is not binding, and can be broken at any time. However I will argue in this paper that, although we are not obliged to obey the social contract, we will continue to do so because it is in our best interests. In this paper I will critically evaluate the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and attempt to explain why we will always obey the social contract and why it is important that we continue to do so. SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY Social contract theory is a branch of political philosophy which examines the foundations on which the legitimacy of political authority is built (Lessnoff 1990). The fundamental premise of social contract relied upon by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau is that political authority, political legitimacy and political obligations are derived from the consent of those who create a government (the people), and those who operate it through some form of quasi-consent (majoritarianism) (Riley 1982). It requires a mutual transferring of right in which people relinquish their freedom by allowing others to make choices that will benefit society in general. This notion can be found in the literature of the theorists. Hobbes states in Part II Chapter 17 of ‘Leviathan’: “made by covenant of every man with every man, in such a manner, as if every man should say to every man, I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to assembly of men, on
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