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Social contract , in political philosophy , an actual or hypothetical compact, or agreement, between the ruled and their rulers, defining the rights and duties of each. In primeval times, according to the theory, individuals were born into an anarchic state of nature , which was happy or unhappy according to the particular version. They then, by exercising natural reason , formed a society and a government by means of a contract among themselves. Although similar ideas can be traced to the Greek Sophists , social-contract theories had their greatest currency in the 17th and 18th centuries and are associated with such philosophers as the Englishmen Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Social contract , in political philosophy , an actual or hypothetical compact, or agreement, between the ruled and their rulers, defining the rights and duties of each. In primeval times, according to the theory, individuals were born into an anarchic state of nature , which was happy or unhappy according to the particular version. They then, by exercising natural reason , formed a society and a government by means of a contract among themselves.
Although similar ideas can be traced to the Greek Sophists , social-contract theories had their greatest currency in the 17th and 18th centuries and are associated with such philosophers as the Englishmen Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau. What distinguished these theories of political obligation from other doctrines of the period was their attempt to justify and delimit political authority on the grounds of individual self-interest and rational consent.
By comparing the advantages of organized government with the disadvantages of the state of nature, they showed why and under what conditions government is useful and ought therefore to be accepted by all reasonable people as a voluntary obligation. These conclusions were then reduced to the form of a social contract, from which it was supposed that all the essential rights and duties of citizens could be logically deduced. Theories of the social contract differed according to their purpose: some were designed to justify the power of the sovereign , while others were intended to safeguard the individual from oppression by a sovereign who was all too powerful.
According to Hobbes Leviathan , , the state of nature was one in which there were no enforceable criteria of right and wrong. Locke in the second of the Two Treatises of Government , differed from Hobbes insofar as he described the state of nature as one in which the rights of life and property were generally recognized under natural law , the inconveniences of the situation arising from insecurity in the enforcement of those rights.
He therefore argued that the obligation to obey civil government under the social contract was conditional upon the protection not only of the person but also of private property. Sovereigns who violated these terms could be justifiably overthrown.
Rousseau , in Du Contrat social ; The Social Contract , held that in the state of nature humans were unwarlike and somewhat undeveloped in their reasoning powers and sense of morality and responsibility. When, however, people agreed for mutual protection to surrender individual freedom of action and establish laws and government, they then acquired a sense of moral and civic obligation.
The more perceptive social-contract theorists, including Hobbes, invariably recognized that their concepts of the social contract and the state of nature were unhistorical and that they could be justified only as hypotheses useful for the clarification of timeless political problems. Social contract Article Media Additional Info. Print Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.
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Why should the state exist, and how much power should it have? The social contract may provide the answer. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. John Locke: The state of nature and the social contract. The theoretical foundations of modern constitutionalism were laid down in the great works on the social contract, especially those of the English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in the 17th century and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th.
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Relationship between Political Science and Philosophy
Political Thought is a part of the study of Political Science. Ideal political reforms and political ideologies Individualism liberalism socialism, communism and others. It is a part of the study of Political Science. Each political ideology is a particular and distinct philosophy of state. Thus Political Science and Philosophy are related but two different and distinct disciplines of study. Each uses the knowledge of other. Philosophy is much broader subject of study than Political Science.
Plato 's political philosophy has been the subject of much criticism. In Plato's Republic , Socrates is highly critical of democracy and proposes an aristocracy ruled by philosopher-kings. Plato's political philosophy has thus often been considered totalitarian by some. In the Republic, Plato's Socrates raises a number of objections to democracy. He claims that democracy is a danger due to excessive freedom.
members of society. I mentioned at the outset what appears a rather empty defĳinition of political philosophy: systematic reflection about the nature and purpose.
Plato's political philosophy
The group takes a philosophical perspective in its focus on the social, political and cultural topics. Our aim is to study concepts, analyze and develop key theories and apply critical thinking to the understanding of changes in culture, politics and society. We promote basic research on the view of man and society, on the foundation of normative theories of society, reflection on prevailing rhetoric in the political field and the relationship between politics and other areas of life. The members of the group have their background from different philosophical and methodological lines.
Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state , government , politics , liberty , justice and the enforcement of a legal code by authority. It is Ethics applied to a group of people, and discusses how a society should be set up and how one should act within a society. Individual rights such as the right to life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, free speech, self-defense, etc state explicitly the requirements for a person to benefit rather than suffer from living in a society. Political philosophy asks questions like: "What is a government?
The phrase political society is used in different ways, generally revolving around the process by which the interests and values of civil society are articulated and aggregated for action by government. A large variety of groups and organizations take part in this process including political parties, lobbies, advisory councils, social movements, citizen and consultative assemblies, participatory budgeting meetings, Bolivarian circles and neighborhood and community councils. More is known about each of these kinds of groups and organizations than about how they function collectively to aggregate and articulate the interests and values of a society as a whole.