The Social Contract (by Rousseau)

social contract

social contract, agreement or covenant by which men are said to have abandoned the "state of nature" to form the society in which they now live. The theory of such a contract, first formulated by the English philosophers Thomas Hobbes (in the Leviathan, 1651) and John Locke, assumes that men at first lived in a state of anarchy in which there was no society, no government, and no organized coercion of the individual by the group. Hobbes maintained that by the social contract men had surrendered their natural liberties in order to enjoy the order and safety of the organized state. Locke made the social contract the basis of his advocacy of popular sovereignty, the idea that the monarch or government must reflect the will of the people. Like Locke, the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, in Le Contrat social (1762), found the general will a means of establishing reciprocal rights and duties, privileges, and responsibilities as a basis of the state. Similar ideas were used as a justification for both the American and the French revolutions in the 18th cent. Thomas Jefferson held that the preservation of certain natural rights was an essential part of the social contract, and that "consent of the governed" was fundamental to any exercise of governmental power. Although historically important, the theory as a basis of society and the state has generally been discarded by modern social and political scientists.

See E. Barker, Social Contract (1948, repr. 1962); J. W. Gough, The Social Contract (2d ed. 1957); A. Cobban, Rousseau and the Modern State (2d ed. 1964); L. G. Crocker, Rousseau's Social Contract (1968); P. J. Mccormick, Social Contract and Political Obligation (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

The Social Contract (by Rousseau): Selected full-text books and articles

The Social Contract and Discourses By Jean-Jacques Rousseau; G. D. H. Cole E. P. Dutton, 1950
Rousseau By Nicholas Dent Routledge, 2005
Rousseau By Timothy O'Hagan Routledge, 1999
Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies By Robert Wokler; Bryan Garsten Princeton University Press, 2012
Rousseau's "Social Contract": Contracting Ahead of Its Time? By Carrin, Guy J Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Vol. 84, No. 11, November 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Compassion without Charity, Freedom without Liberty: The Political Fantasies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau By Hocutt, Max Independent Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, Fall 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Social Contract from Hobbes to Rawls By David Boucher; Paul Kelly Routledge, 1994
Rousseau & the Origins of Liberalism By Scruton, Roger New Criterion, Vol. 17, No. 2, October 1998
Beyond the Social Contract Myth By Frodeman, Robert; Mitcham, Carl Issues in Science and Technology, Vol. 16, No. 4, Summer 2000
Rousseau's Dictator Factory By Roskam, John Review - Institute of Public Affairs, Vol. 57, No. 4, December 2005
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