The social contract theory is a philosophical concept that has been debated for centuries. The theory is based on the idea that individuals surrender some of their freedoms to a government or authority in exchange for protection and security. This agreement between the citizens and the government creates a social contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party involved.

Origins of Social Contract Theory

The concept of the social contract dates back to ancient Greece, where philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle discussed the idea of a just society. However, it was during the 17th century that this theory gained popularity with the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was one of the first philosophers to develop the idea of a social contract. In his book “Leviathan,” he argued that humans are naturally selfish and violent, leading to a state of war. To escape this state of nature, individuals give up some of their freedoms to a sovereign authority in exchange for protection and security.

Quote from Leviathan: “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.”

John Locke

John Locke expanded on Hobbes’ theory by emphasizing individual rights and freedoms. In his book “Two Treatises of Government,” he argued that people have natural rights such as life, liberty, and property. He believed that government should protect these rights, but if they fail to do so, citizens have the right to overthrow them.

Quote from Two Treatises of Government: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau took a different approach to the social contract theory. In his book “The Social Contract,” he argued that individuals should surrender their rights to the community as a whole, rather than to a government or authority. He believed that this would create a more egalitarian society where everyone is equal.

Quote from The Social Contract: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”


In conclusion, the social contract theory is an important concept in political philosophy. It outlines the agreement between citizens and their government or authority and highlights the rights and responsibilities of each party involved. The theory has evolved over time with various philosophers adding their own perspectives and ideas, but its core remains the same: individuals surrender some of their freedoms for protection and security.