Social contact is a natural accord through which human beings are believed to leave the “state of nature” to establish societies. Man is believed to have lived in a chaotic state of nature devoid of society. There was no relationship between man and any group such as the society. There are a lot of hypotheses that have been developed to explain this concept.
Therefore, social contract is a broad category of hypotheses explaining manners in which human beings establish states in pursuit of social order. This reveals people giving up independence in order to gain social order. This social order is achieved through the use of the rule of law.Social contact can also be considered an accord by the people on the regulations by which to be governed.
This is basically the origin of the notion that people must agree on the way that they should be governed. It is the basis of the idea that legitimate governance should emanate from the people that are to be governed. The beginning point for almost all the theories is the state of nature. Other theorists referred to this condition as the veil of ignorance. This refers to the human state devoid of any systematic social order. In the state of nature the actions of people are controlled by their consciences.
It is from this basic state that majority of the hypotheses seek to provide an explanation as to why people voluntarily choose to relinquish their freedom to gain the benefits of the social order. In the state of nature, people have a lot of freedom because there is no structured system of government. In this state man is universal and equal. When they leave this state and choose to establish political order by which they are governed, they willingly relinquish their freedom. The most notable philosophers who gave an explanation to this were Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
These three had different explanation of the social contract. They came to varying conclusions for the starting point, which is the state of nature. Thomas Hobbes was in support of the authoritarian monarchy kind of governance. John Locke favored the liberal monarchy kind of governance.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was in support of liberal republicanism kind of governance. It is the efforts of the three that built the hypothetical structure for constitutional monarchy, republicanism and liberal democracy (Macpherson, 1973). Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of social contractJean-Jacques Rousseau developed two different theories in his explanation of the social contact. The very first one is found in his paper, Discourse on the Origin and foundations of Inequality among Men.
This work is basically an explanation of the evolution of human beings from the state of nature. The other theory is normative. This is the idealized hypothesis of the social contract. Due to the fact that there is a problematic nature revealed in the Second Discourse, the normative theory was aimed at providing a way of alleviating this problematic nature that is caused by the society.Rousseau believes that the state of nature was a state with tranquility.
In this state there was peace, freedom and equality. He adds that in this state life was solitary and uncomplicated. The nature provided for their basic requirements which were not much. There was no competition because there were few people and nature provided for them sufficiently.
There was no reason to conflict or live in fear. There were however, changes in the conditions as people began to increase. The means of providing for their requirements also transformed. This made people to start living in groups and families.There was the introduction of division of labor. People began to make discoveries and inventions that eased the living conditions.
This is where competition and hatred started. Inequality began to be evident with ownership of private property. Social classes emerged where those who did not have land began to labor for those who had. Governments were established as a way of protecting the property of those who had from the ones that did not have. Governments were introduced in the pretence that they could oversee equality, while in real sense they operated to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
This reveals that the contract that is meant to ensure equality for all is in real sense, a way of protecting the richer and powerful who benefited from property ownership. They had become afraid that what they had acquired would be taken by those who did not have. The normative theory was a way of dealing with the evils and problems that are caused by the establishment of the society. Despite the fact that neither history nor the root causes of the problems ought not to be ignored, there is need to use abilities to decide on the way life is to be lived (Macpherson, 1973).A comparison of Rousseau’ ideas and the modern view of social contract Just like the modern view of social contact, Rousseau was a believer in democracy.
He argued that freedom was attainable only where people were involved in governance. However, the current view of democracy is so diverse than what Rousseau has in mind. It is no longer possible for every person to be involved in lawmaking. However, the current idea of establishing laws through consensus is in line with the ideologies of Rousseau.
He claimed that it was important for people to be given the opportunity to choose the basic regulations by which to be governed.He added that people should also be allowed to amend the laws on later occasions if they have the reason to do so. This is achieved in the modern times through constitution amendments (Macpherson, 1973). Rousseau argues that a strong democracy is what is required where everyone takes part in the formulation of the laws.
He believed in a strong and direct kind of democracy. His basis in this argument is that it is not right for people to relinquish their will completely to others so that they can handle them how they want.It is thus important that people gathered together regularly, to come into agreement on the way that they are going to live together. It is in this process that they can come up with laws and regulations that can be used to govern them. He added that owing to the fact that the general interest is composed of the individual interests, it is crucial that these interests gather and operate together, for the whole to be successful.
Despite the fact that this is a great idea, it is not applicable in the modern view of social contract. The ideas of Rousseau cannot work in a big state.The modern states are very big and thus it is impossible for the individuals to come together even if it is for the interest of the whole. For the idea of Rousseau to work, it is important for the individuals to identify with each other. It would also be crucial that people know each other. It is not possible for people living far apart to gather.
They must exist in common geographical conditions, so that to be governed by a common law. Rousseau’s idea reveals human beings who have similar and equal interests and wills coming together to establish one who that has common will and interest.His ideas are disputed in the modern view of social contract, due to the argument that human beings have their own personal interests and this is what they aim at pursuing when they join societies. Other modern theorist and scholars in social contract claims that the concept of individual is depicted as “economic man. ” From this point of view, the economic man, begins by defining his individual interests.
From this point, as he enters into any agreement, he does so as a way of achieving his ends. This means that the contract or agreement is not an obligation to the whole, but a way of achieving personal objectives.This is the reason why he is not in a position to represent everyone’s interests at all times (Williams, 2007). Just like the modern view of equality and rights, Rousseau believed that every person is equal in nature.
He added the there was no man who possessed the innate right to rule over others. It is from this point of view that he advocated for power through accords and contracts. The most basic contact is the acceptance to come together and establish a society which consists of individuals of different wills and interests.The real basis of the community is the idea of individuals becoming a people. This means that every one of this people is an entity that is equal to the other. This is supported by the modern idea of universal or fundamental human rights.
These are the rights that equate people by virtue of being human beings (Paine, 1973). The political systems are the ways that restore back sanity in the world since it is not possible to move back to the state of nature. Social contract according to Rousseau and in the modern view, tries to address the question of how it is possible to live freely but in the society.This is from the point of view that in the state of nature there was freedom that is threatened by the forces and oppressions from others. Rousseau maintains that it is possible to achieve this only through submission of personal wills to the collective will that is established through consensus with others. There is the sense of reciprocated role in social contract.
This means that every member of the society has a duty to the others and should operate towards the benefit of the whole (Williams, 2007). There is an aspect of oppression or coercion in the ideas of Rousseau, which is not the case with the modern views of social contract.Rousseau argued that people in the society should not be allowed freedom to have a choice in the fulfillment of their obligation to the society. This means that people should not be allowed to sit back while enjoying the gains that come with being members. According to Rousseau people need to be forced to obey the rules of the society.
This is to some extent an advocacy of oppression and coercion. David Gauthier who is one of the modern theorists of social contract disagreed with the idea that morality in society can be achieved with coercing people to embrace the principle of sovereignty.He argued that regardless of the fact that sovereignty is crucial, the individual wills are very strong such that forcing them to cooperate would be detrimental (Williams, 2007). Rousseau advocated for agreements and conventions without describing the means by which this could be upheld. It is very easy to establish the agreements and covenants, but without a mechanism of managing them, they cannot last.
Gauthier claims that despite the fact that there is need for agreements and conventions in governance, rationality are crucial in ensuring that people stick to the agreement.This is a modern view of social contract. Gauthier however agrees with Rousseau in the need to cooperate only that he does not stop there. Cooperation is important for working together towards a common end.
People cannot live together peacefully without agreeing and working towards the goal and interest of the whole. This is true from the ideas of Rousseau as in the modern view of social contract. Failing to agree and cooperate is the main reason for conflicts in the modern society (Sandel, 1982). The modern view of social contract opposes Rousseau’s idea of the universal man, Noble Savage.
The universal man according to social contract theorist is classless, sexless, and raceless. The modern view takes this to mean an abstract concept of human race. Modern theorists have argued that looking at the liberal man, it is clear that he is not depiction of a universal human being. They claim that the liberal man that was revealed by Rousseau and the other philosophers is simply a historically described particular kind of individual. The modern theorists have also claimed that the liberal man in social contract is actually gendered.
This is despite the fact that the conceivers of the idea shown the liberal man as being genderless. Stefano, in Configuration of Masculinity, argues that the modern depiction of the social contract theory reveals the subjects as being gendered (Williams, 2007). Rousseau believes like most of the other theorist like Hobbes and Locke believe in the state of nature which is the beginning point of the social contract. Rousseau argues that that the state of nature was a state with tranquility.
In this state there was peace, freedom and equality.He adds that in this state life was solitary and uncomplicated. The nature provided for their basic requirements which were not much. The state of nature by Rousseau can be equated to the veil of ignorance as explained by more modern theorist like john Rawls. According to Rawls, it is the original state where every person was presumed to be rational.
In this state, the viewpoint that would be taken would be common since every person chooses the same values for society. This is why he added that if justice is taken from the veil of ignorance there would common principles to govern people (Sandel, 1982).Conclusion Social contract has for a long time been used in understanding life in a society and governance of the state. Many theories have been developed to explain the reasons why man relinquishes his freedom made possible by the state of nature or the veil of ignorance, to join a society in pursuit of social order. It is agreeable from Rousseau’s ideas and most of the modern ideas like those of Gauthier that the staring point for social contract is the state of nature or the veil of ignorance.From this point, all the philosophers develop their own explanation of social contact.
This is where the various explanations of different aspects of social contract emanate. As seen from the paper, it is evident that there are similarities as well as differences between the modern ideas and the older ones developed by philosopher’s like Rousseau. However, the older philosophers established the basis for the understanding of social contract. It is also evident that where it is currently is not the end. Social contract is there to stay, though with regular transformations.