What Does the Social Contract Theory Attempt to Explain Quizlet?


Diego Sanchez

The Social Contract Theory is a concept in political philosophy that attempts to explain the origins of government and the relationship between the state and its citizens. This theory suggests that individuals voluntarily give up some of their freedom in exchange for protection and security provided by the government. In this quizlet, we will explore the key elements of the Social Contract Theory.

The Basic Principles of the Social Contract Theory

The Social Contract Theory is based on three fundamental principles:

  • Consent: According to this principle, individuals agree to give up some of their freedom and abide by certain rules in exchange for protection and security.
  • Reciprocity: This principle states that both parties must benefit from this agreement. The government provides protection and security to its citizens, while individuals agree to follow certain laws and regulations.
  • Equality: The Social Contract Theory suggests that all individuals should have equal rights and opportunities under the law. The government should not discriminate against any group based on ethnicity, gender, religion or any other factor.

The Historical Context of the Social Contract Theory

The concept of social contract dates back to ancient Greece where it was first introduced by philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. However, it was during the Enlightenment period when this theory gained prominence.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was one of the first philosophers who introduced the idea of social contract in modern political theory. In his book Leviathan, he argued that individuals were naturally selfish and violent, which led to a state of chaos where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” He believed that a powerful government was necessary to maintain order and protect citizens.

John Locke

John Locke, another prominent philosopher of the Enlightenment, had a different perspective on the social contract. He believed that individuals had natural rights such as life, liberty, and property. According to Locke, the government’s primary role was to protect these rights and in exchange, individuals would agree to abide by the laws of the state.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau took this theory a step further by arguing that individuals should have a say in how they were governed. He suggested that governments should be based on the general will of the people and not just on the interests of a select few.


The Social Contract Theory attempts to explain how governments are formed and how they function. It provides a framework for understanding the relationship between citizens and their government.

The principles of consent, reciprocity, and equality are central to this theory. Understanding social contract theory is essential for anyone interested in political philosophy or government.