What Are the Major Criticism of Social Contract Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Social contract theory is a popular political theory that has been used to explain the origin of government and the relationship between the state and its citizens. The theory argues that individuals come together to form a society and agree to give up some of their natural rights in exchange for protection and security from the government. While this theory has been widely accepted, it has also faced criticism from many scholars.

Major Criticisms of Social Contract Theory

1. Historical Inaccuracy

One of the main criticisms of social contract theory is that its historical accuracy is questionable.

The theory suggests that governments were formed through a voluntary agreement between individuals, but there is little historical evidence to support this claim. Many governments throughout history were formed through conquest, subjugation, or inheritance rather than through a social contract.

2. Unrealistic Assumptions

Another criticism of social contract theory is that it relies on unrealistic assumptions about human behavior.

The theory assumes that individuals are rational actors who willingly give up some rights for the greater good, but this is not always the case in reality. People often act out of self-interest, which can lead to conflict and a breakdown of the social contract.

3. Lack of Inclusivity

Social contract theory has also been criticized for its lack of inclusivity.

The theory assumes that all individuals in society have equal bargaining power and are able to participate in the formation of the social contract. However, this is not always true in practice as certain groups such as women or minorities may be excluded or marginalized.

4. Limited Government Accountability

Another concern with social contract theory is that it provides limited accountability for the government. Once individuals have given up their rights to the government, it becomes difficult to hold them accountable if they fail to uphold their end of the bargain.


In summary, social contract theory has faced numerous criticisms from scholars over the years. While it provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between government and citizens, it also relies on assumptions that may not hold true in reality. As such, it is important to critically evaluate this theory and consider alternative perspectives when examining political systems and institutions.