Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who lived in the 17th century. He is known for his work on political philosophy, specifically his theory of the social contract.

According to Hobbes, the social contract is a hypothetical agreement between individuals to surrender their natural rights to a governing authority in exchange for protection and security. In this article, we will explore Hobbes’s social contract theory in detail.

Hobbes’s State of Nature

Hobbes believed that without a government or ruling authority, human life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” This state of nature would be characterized by constant conflict and competition for resources. In such a state, there would be no morality or justice as everyone would be free to do as they please.

The Social Contract

To escape this dire state of nature, Hobbes proposed that individuals enter into a social contract with one another. This social contract involves surrendering one’s natural rights to a governing authority or sovereign in exchange for protection and security. The sovereign has absolute power over its subjects and is responsible for maintaining law and order.

It is important to note that Hobbes believed that the only way to escape the state of nature was through the social contract. Without it, there would be no stability or security in society.

Natural Rights

According to Hobbes, humans have natural rights such as the right to self-preservation. However, these rights are not absolute and can be surrendered through the social contract. Once an individual enters into the social contract, they become subjects of the sovereign and must follow its laws.

Criticism of Hobbes’s Social Contract Theory

Hobbes’s social contract theory has been subject to much criticism over the years. Some argue that it gives too much power to the sovereign, while others argue that it fails to account for human nature and the desire for freedom. Additionally, some argue that Hobbes’s theory is too pessimistic and fails to consider the potential for cooperation and mutual aid among individuals.


In conclusion, Hobbes’s social contract theory is an important contribution to political philosophy. It proposes that individuals can escape the state of nature through a hypothetical agreement with one another. While his theory has been subject to criticism, it remains relevant today in discussions about government authority and individual rights.