The Divine Right of Kings theory and the concept of a social contract are two fundamental ideas that have shaped political thought throughout history. However, these two concepts are inherently conflicting due to their contrasting views on the origin and legitimacy of political power.

The Divine Right of Kings Theory

The Divine Right of Kings theory emerged during the medieval period, asserting that monarchs derived their authority directly from God. According to this theory, kings were chosen by divine providence and therefore held absolute power over their subjects.

This theory was often supported by religious institutions and used as a tool to legitimize the rule of monarchs. It argued that rebellion against a king was not only treasonous but also a sin against God. Monarchs were considered to be above the law and accountable only to God.

The Social Contract

In contrast, the concept of a social contract emerged during the Enlightenment period, challenging the divine authority of kings. Proposed by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the social contract posits that political authority is derived from an agreement between individuals in society.

According to this concept, individuals willingly surrender certain rights and freedoms to a governing authority in exchange for protection and the promotion of their common interests. This agreement forms the basis of a legitimate government, which is responsible for upholding justice and protecting individual rights.

Conflicting Views

The conflict between the Divine Right of Kings theory and the idea of a social contract arises primarily from their differing views on the source and limitations of political power.

Under the Divine Right theory, kings held absolute power granted by God. Their authority was not subject to any earthly limitations or accountability. The legitimacy of their rule was derived solely from divine appointment rather than consent from their subjects.

On the other hand, the social contract theory asserts that political power derives from the consent of the governed. It emphasizes that individuals have certain inherent rights and freedoms that cannot be violated by any governing authority. Governments are created to protect these rights and serve the interests of the people.

Impact on Governance

The conflict between these two theories has had profound implications for governance throughout history. The Divine Right of Kings theory provided a justification for absolute monarchy, where rulers held supreme authority without any checks or balances.

In contrast, the concept of a social contract laid the foundation for constitutional government and democracy. It advocated for limited government, separation of powers, and individual rights as essential components of a just society.

Legacy and Modern Perspective

Today, the Divine Right of Kings theory is largely discredited, with very few monarchies still claiming divine authority as their basis for rule. Most modern governments adhere to principles influenced by social contract theory.

The idea that political power should be derived from the consent of the governed has become deeply ingrained in democratic societies worldwide. Governments are expected to protect individual rights and act in accordance with the will of their citizens.


The conflict between the Divine Right of Kings theory and the concept of a social contract arises from their fundamentally different views on political power and its legitimacy. While one argues for absolute authority derived from divine appointment, the other posits that power should be derived from an agreement among individuals in society.

As history has shown, societies have moved away from absolute monarchy towards systems based on consent and individual rights. The legacy of this conflict continues to shape our understanding of governance and political legitimacy today.