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 order. Social order can be attained when there is social contract where an individual willingly follows norms and values that they have grown accustomed to and internalised.
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 David 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 society. 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 nano-level perspective.
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, Michael W.
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 education.
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.