As humans, we all have certain rights, freedoms, and responsibilities. Social contract theory attempts to explain how these rights and responsibilities are established and maintained within a society. In this article, we will explore the purpose of social contract theory and how it has influenced our modern understanding of government and society.

What is Social Contract Theory?

Social contract theory is a political philosophy that proposes a hypothetical agreement among individuals to form a society in which they can live together in peace and harmony. This agreement involves individuals surrendering some of their individual rights and freedoms in exchange for protection, security, and other benefits offered by living in a society.

The concept of social contract theory can be traced back to ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato. However, it was English philosopher Thomas Hobbes who first developed the modern idea of social contract theory in his 1651 book “Leviathan.”

The Purpose of Social Contract Theory

The primary purpose of social contract theory is to explain how societies are formed and how they should be governed. It addresses questions such as:

Social contract theory proposes that individuals agree to give up some of their individual rights in exchange for protection from the government. This creates a mutual obligation between the individual and the government – the individual agrees to follow the laws set by the government, while the government agrees to protect the individual’s remaining rights.

The Role of Government

According to social contract theory, the role of government is to protect its citizens’ life, liberty, and property. Governments are created by individuals who agree to form a society for mutual benefit. The government’s power comes from the consent of the governed, and its authority is limited to what is necessary to protect its citizens.

The Social Contract and Modern Society

The concept of the social contract has had a significant impact on modern society. It has influenced the development of democratic government systems, as well as the idea that governments should be accountable to their citizens.

The social contract also underpins many legal systems, such as the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These documents outline the rights that individuals have within a society and establish limits on government power.


In conclusion, social contract theory provides an important framework for understanding how societies are formed and how they should be governed. It explains why individuals have certain rights and responsibilities within a society, and why governments have an obligation to protect those rights.

By agreeing to live in a society, individuals surrender some individual freedoms in exchange for protection from the government. This creates a mutual obligation between individuals and their government, with both parties having responsibilities towards one another.

Overall, social contract theory has played an influential role in shaping modern society’s concepts of democracy, individual rights, and government accountability.