Hobbes, Locke, And Rousseau On Social Contract Essay, Research Paper
“Social Contract, agreement by which human beings are said to have abandoned the “state of nature” in order to form the society in which they now live. HOBBES, LOCKE, and J.J. ROUSSEAU each developed differing versions of the social contract, but all agreed that certain freedoms had been surrendered for society’s protection and that the government has definite responsibilities to its citizens. Similar ideas were used in the 18th cent. as justification for both the American and the French revolutions. The concept has generally been discarded as a theoretical basis of political life but was revived in the 20th cent. by U.S. philosopher John Rawls.”
“Hobbes, Thomas, 1588-1679, English philosopher. Hobbes developed a materialist and highly pessimistic philosophy that was denounced in his own day and later but has had a continuing influence on Western political thought. His Leviathan (1651) presents a bleak picture of human beings in the state of nature, where life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Fear of violent death is the principal motive that causes people to create a state, contracting to surrender their natural rights and to submit to the absolute authority of a sovereign. Although the power of the sovereign derived originally from the people, Hobbes said-challenging the doctrine of the divine right of kings-the sovereign’s power is absolute and not subject to review by either subjects or ecclesiastical powers. Hobbes’s concept of the SOCIAL CONTRACT led to investigations by other political theorists, notably LOCKE, SPINOZA, and J.J. ROUSSEAU, who formulated their own radically different theories of the social contract.”
“Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 1712-78, Swiss-French philosopher and political theorist; b. Geneva. A member of DIDEROT’s circle, he was one of the great figures of the French ENLIGHTENMENT and probably the most significant of those who shaped 19th-cent. ROMANTICISM, influencing such figures as KANT, GOETHE, ROBESPIERRE, TOLSTOY, and the French revolutionists. Rousseau’s most celebrated theory was that of the “natural man.” In his Discourse on the Inequalities of Men (1754) and Social Contract (1762) he maintained that human beings were essentially good and equal in the state of nature but were corrupted by the introduction of property, agriculture, science, and commerce. People entered into a SOCIAL CONTRACT among themselves, establishing governments and educational systems to correct the inequalities brought about by the rise of civilization.
“Democracy, system of government in which the people-not one class, an autocrat, or a select group-share in directing the state’s activities. It flourished in such Greek CITY-STATES as Athens before giving way to IMPERIALISM. The philosophy and practice of modern democracy emerged slowly in the West. Basic to it is the concept of representation of the people by elected agents. The idea that natural rights could not be taken from the people is also fundamental (see NATURAL LAW). John LOCKE, J.J. ROUSSEAU, and others developed the concept of a social contract in which SOVEREIGNTY rests with the people, who undertake reciprocal obligations with a ruler; rulers violating this contract may be removed. These ideas greatly influenced British government, the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, and the FRENCH REVOLUTION. Since the 19th cent., when political democracy was established in most Western countries, emphasis has been placed on increasing the portion of the population participating in political decisions.”