Social Contract Theory refers to a set of political and moral beliefs that explain the origins and nature of society. It is a philosophical idea that tries to define the relationship between individuals and the state. The theory states that people surrender some of their natural rights in exchange for protection and security provided by the government.

The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind social contract theory is that people have a natural right to govern themselves, but they give up some of those rights to create a government. This government is then responsible for protecting the remaining rights of each individual, which include life, liberty, and property.

The Key Thinkers

The most prominent exponents of social contract theory are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These thinkers offered different perspectives on the nature of the social contract.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes believed that humans were naturally violent and selfish creatures. He argued that society needed a strong central power to maintain order and prevent chaos. According to him, people enter into a social contract with their ruler, giving up their individual freedoms in exchange for protection.

John Locke

John Locke believed that people were naturally good and moral beings. He advocated for limited government intervention in society, believing that individuals should be free to make their own choices without interference from the state. Locke’s version of social contract theory emphasizes individual rights over state power.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed in a direct democracy where everyone had an equal say in how society was governed. He argued that people were naturally free but became corrupted by society’s laws and institutions over time. Rousseau’s version of social contract theory emphasizes civic duty over individual rights.

The Implications of Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory has several implications for society and politics. First, it suggests that individuals have a responsibility to obey the laws and regulations set forth by the government.

Second, it implies that governments have a duty to protect the rights of their citizens. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of consent in political decision-making.


Social contract theory is a complex philosophical idea with many different interpretations. However, at its core, it is about the relationship between individuals and their government.

By surrendering some of their natural rights, individuals create a government that is responsible for protecting the remaining rights of each citizen. It is an important concept for understanding modern political theory and the nature of society itself.