The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls

The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls

The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls

The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls


Leading scholars from Britain and America survey the history of contractarian thought and the major debates in political theory which surround the notion of social contract. A comprehensive introduction within a broad theoretical framework.


In this collection of essays on the social contract and its critics from Hobbes to the present day we do not pretend to provide a history of a unified tradition. Instead the essays are engagements with social contract theory which testify to the importance of the idea in modern political thought and contemporary political philosophy. The contributors approach the issues historically and philosophically and as such the essays make a worthwhile contribution to illuminating the history of the idea of a social contract and to the ongoing debates which serve to illustrate the diversity and continued interest in contractarian thinking.

Taken together the essays in the the volume provide a companion to courses in the history of political thought and modern political philosophy. That said, we do not presume that the authors or the texts considered cover all the interesting and diverse uses to which social contractarian arguments have been put. The emphasis of the volume is upon what is usually regarded as classical contractarianism and its modern progeny, but the first essay does attempt to give an indication of the much wider variety of contractarian arguments invoked for all kinds of purposes throughout the ages.

In a philosophical text of this sort the use of gender-specific terms such as 'man' and 'mankind' is unavoidable, especially given that some of the classical thinkers consciously exclude women from the category of citizens, subjects or full moral individuals. To avoid confusion within each chapter, we have chosen not to impose a false gender neutrality, but we would like to point out that such terms are intended to be inclusive unless the context indicates otherwise.

This collection began its life as contributions to a conference on the social contract and its critics held at Gregynog, the University of Wales Conference Centre, near Newtown in Powys, January 1993. Additional contributions were invited in order to give a more comprehensive characterization of the various aspects of contractarianism. The only essay to have appeared in print previously is that by Jeremy Waldron and we are indebted to The Review of Politics (1989, vol. 51, no. 1) for granting permission to republish it. The original contributor of the Locke chapter pulled out of the project at the last minute and we are grateful to both Jeremy Waldron and Martyn P.

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