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Social Contract Theories


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Summary slides regarding Social Contract Theory for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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Social Contract Theories

  1. 1. On the Social Contract Theories On the Social Contract Theories
  2. 2. Points to Ponder <ul><li>Review </li></ul><ul><li>Foundations of the state </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship between citizens and state </li></ul><ul><li>Context of liberty </li></ul><ul><li>Powers of the state </li></ul>
  3. 3. Human Nature: A Continuum Pessimistic Optimistic HOBBES LOCKE ROUSSEAU Man is “evil”, a wolf unto his fellow man. Man possesses perfect liberty. “ Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains”
  4. 4. Summary State guided by the general will. No security or morality. Man is free but ‘immoral’. Rousseau Commonwealth Property is not secure. Man has perfect freedom. Locke Leviathan A state of War. Man is a wolf unto his fellow man. Hobbes Social Contract State of Nature Human Nature
  5. 5. State Foundations <ul><li>States are historical institutions </li></ul><ul><li>However, more fundamentally their moorings are philosophical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How states are organized and function depend on our view of human nature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thus questions of governance and law are not just questions of expediency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“Is it proper to man?” </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Citizen-State Relations <ul><li>The state exists for man, and not man for the state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A state is a human instrument for the achievement of common interests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>States do not rob us of our individuality or liberty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>However, membership in a state comes with obligations to our fellow man </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Liberty <ul><li>Freedom is not absolute </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within a state, freedoms are circumscribed by laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is necessary to place constraints on freedom for the sake of citizens as well as for the sake of the state </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We surrender certain freedoms to attain more freedoms </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. State Power <ul><li>The most important power of the state is legislative power </li></ul><ul><li>Laws depend as much on context as much as content </li></ul><ul><li>States must also possess enough autonomy to implement their laws </li></ul><ul><li>State power is also not absolute (unless you agree with Hobbes) </li></ul>