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The Social Contract Theory Essay

Social contract theory dictates the fact that there must be agreements within a group of people who decide to live together, based on moral notions and judgments. In most cases, the social contract has a ruler or some form of ruling organization, to which people agree to obey in all matters in return for a guarantee of peace and securities. These are lacking in the “state of nature”. The “state of nature”, is a state of human interaction which exists before any social contract is made for people to live in peace together. Without the social contract, people in the “state of nature” are known for savagery.

In these “state of nature” people act like there are in a war zone, always reacting off of fear. The primitive man mindset is what you call: “conditions of war” looking at every living creature as the enemy, while fighting for scarce resources. In these cases there is no such notion as a joined force, only survival of the fitness, causing the weak to get prayed on and to be taken advantage of. The primitive man who using their strength or wits follows the untold rule “Right equal might”; in the environment called “state of nature” those whom are weak would be welcomed to the environment with civilization for protection .

Even though we think of man as civilized today with rational morals, in the primitive world sadism invoked intense pleasure. The things that differ in the state of nature, which makes civilization with the understanding of social contract agreement, are things like condition for peace. In the state of nature there would always be a constant fear of death or need of security. The reason for this is because primitive men are in a constant battle. In civilization written laws protect you from others; this is especially good for the weak because they have something to protect them when they cannot defend themselves.

In civilization there are multiple good outcomes like control of resources for everyone, a family unit, and also longer life expectancy. Human beings have evolved in a way that some will call: civilized. Years of evolution and progress have helped us develop a structure –a mutual agreement between others to establish an institution. Without some type of institution there would not be the advanced civilization that we have today. There would not be anything “civil” about human–beings according to Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes believes in a social contract theory which contains ethical theories that view society as an agreement between people to live together. Moral notions like good/evil, right/wrong, and justice/injustice would exist within the social order. For example: murder is looked upon as wrong if there was no reasonable motivation but if there was like protection for ones live then it can be viewed as right or justified. If someone were to disobey the social contract will have and consequence for their response. If there was no punishment for breaking the social contract then it wouldn’t be a one at all.

Then that’s when the pure savage within would appear. The most crucial period of early modern England’s history: the English Civil War, waged from 1642-1648. The reason for the war was because there was a clash between the King and his supporters; the Monarchists preferred the traditional authority of a monarch, and the Parliamentarians, who were led by Oliver Cromwell demanded more power for the quasi-democratic system of Parliament. Thomas Hobbes represents a political theory is best understood if taken in two parts: psychological egoism, and his theory of the social contract.

Hobbes’ believing in the psychological egoism theory he rejects the theory of the Divine Right of Kings, which is expressed by Robert Filmer in his Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings. Filmer’s view held a king’s authority was invested in him by God; this authority was absolute, and therefore that the basis of political obligation lay in our obligation to obey God absolutely. Looking at this viewpoint, political obligation is under religious obligation. Hobbes social contract theory (Leviathan) also rejects the early democratic view, taken up by the Parliamentarians, which thought power ought to be shared between Parliament and the King.

In rejecting both these views, Hobbes is view as the one who’s both radical and conservative. ” He argues, radically for his times, that political authority and obligation are based on the individual self-interests of members of society who are understood to be equal to one another, with no single individual invested with any essential authority to rule over the rest, while at the same time maintaining the conservative position that the monarch, which he called the Sovereign, must be ceded absolute authority if society is to survive (www. iep. utm.edu). ”

Sovereign power is necessary in order to ensure people that the contract has terms within it that everyone agreed to abided by. If the terms are not followed then there are punishments for the criminal who breaches the contract. “Thus, a sovereign authority (or commonwealth) must be instituted in order to defend the rights of individuals, and in order to protect individuals from being victimized by the selfish desires of other individuals (www. angelfire. com). ” Any dispute will be settled between people as long as there’s a sovereign power.

A sovereign could decide property rights, make peace with other nations, or reward or punish his or her subjects, according to the laws of the commonwealth. “The sovereign power of a commonwealth may be exercised by a monarch, by a council, or by an assembly of elected representatives. Thus, the political structure of a commonwealth may consist of a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a democracy. These three kinds of commonwealth may provide security and protection for their subjects (www. angelfire. com).

” “The Social Contract is the most fundamental source of all that is good and that which we depend upon to live well. (www. iep. utm. edu)”. The society is given a choice either to follow the terms of the contract, or reform back to the “State of Nature”, which according to Hobbes no reasonable person could possibly prefer. “John Locke did not envision the State of Nature as grimly as did Hobbes; he imagined conditions under which one would be better off rejecting a particular civil government and returning to the State of Nature, with the aim of constructing a better civil government in its place (www.iep. utm. edu). ”

Locke was a strong believer that the “State of Nature” is a complete liberal way to conduct one’s life as they please without interference from others. This does not mean that on can do as he pleases, like harm others and steal. “The State of Nature is a state of liberty where persons are free to pursue their own interests and plans, free from interference, and, because of the Law of Nature and the restrictions that it imposes upon persons, it is relatively peaceful (www. iep. utm. edu).

” The “state of nature” is not viewed by Locke as Hobbes sees it, a state of war. However, Locke thinks it can lead to that. Lockes’ version of the state of nature is that you are still bound to the Law of Nature, which is the basis of all morality, and is given to us by God. It commands that we do not harm others with regards to their “life, health, liberty, or possessions” (par. 6//An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government). The Law of Nature allows people to defend their own lives, and kill if necessary.

The executive component of government is still the protection of the people’s property and well-being, “so when such protection is no longer present, or when the king becomes a tyrant and acts against the interests of the people, they have a right, if not an outright obligation, to resist his authority. The social compact can be dissolved and the process to create political society begun anew (www. iep. utm. edu). ” For John Locke, 1632-1704, the “State of Nature” is viewed with a different meaning due to the norms of civilization at the time.

The argument Locke makes concerning the social contract and the nature of men’s bond to authority are quite different, while Locke uses Hobbes’ methodological logic of the State of Nature with a new twist. Locke’s theory of social contract and for the right of citizens pushed to revolt against their king. As a result, his arguments were enormously influential on the democratic revolutions that followed, especially on Thomas Jefferson, and the founders of the United States.

A novel highly recommend to high school students throughout the nation today “Lord Of The Flies” gives an insight look when a social contract falls apart without sovereign power and the “State of Nature” takes over. Williams Golding the author of Lord of the Flies describes the concept about social contract between children whom are on an island without any adult supervision. Golding could of use any age for his characters but instead he use children around the same age to show even the youngest of humans aren’t just born with more good morals, as some people are condition into thing now in the contemporary culture.

In my opinion I think people in society have this way of thinking because majority of youth lack experience with every aspects of life, thus concluding if you haven’t experience and comprehend the reason behind actions (like war, rape, etc. ) then you can’t have an evil notion within you. Golding begs to differ as he explains the hypothetical story. Throughout the novel there are two major concerns in Lord of the Flies: law vs. anarchy.

Law vs. anarchy can be seen as a number of ways society may view it for example: civilization vs.savagery, order vs. chaos, reason vs. impulse, or the broader heading of good vs. evil. In society today people would believe that there’s an instinct within humans to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group against the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act violently to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. “Throughout the novel, Golding associates the instinct of civilization with good and the instinct of savagery with evil.

The conflict between the two instincts is the driving force of the novel (www. sparknotes. com). ” The young boys’ Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Roger, and Samanderic (twins) come to the island civilized, moral, disciplined behavior. Over a period of time they accustom themselves to a wild growing a brutal, barbaric lifestyle in the jungle. Golding represents the conflict between civilization and savagery within two main characters: Ralph, the protagonist, who represents order and leadership; and Jack, the antagonist, who represents savagery and the desire for power.

William Golding shows how the children are slowly choosing paths of civilization and savagery. To explain more in depth Piggy shows no savage feelings, while Roger seems to go against the rules of civilization because he transforms into a barbarian, and kills Piggy in the novel for no reasonable motive. Not only that he admired his work of taking Piggy’s’ life by staring at the die corpse. “Generally, however, Golding implies that the instinct of savagery is far more primal and fundamental to the human psyche than the instinct of civilization.

Golding sees moral behavior, in many cases, as something that civilization forces upon the individual rather than a natural expression of human individuality (www. sparknotes. com). ” Golding implies humans naturally revert to cruelty, savagery, and barbarism. This idea of Golding explains the term “State of Nature” in the novel. Golding was a firm believer that “State of Nature” would always take over civilize people, because humans will eventually revert to “State of Nature” and be less rational.

In a broader sense the good guy never wins when “all fair in love and war”, which means normal morality is often suspended in extreme circumstances. Even Golding says: “most of us have a road stretching to the horizon laid down for us by social system. Most of us are potential murderers and most of us are potential surgeons because we have three generations of surgeons behind us, we don’t become surgeons. ” Our society keeps us in shape to show us our bright side but take away the civilization we fall into the dark side.

However, In the US today a form of “Social Contract” is still used known as the Constitution. Which one of the founding fathers of the Constitution and President Thomas Jefferson was a Thomas Hobbes fan whom had made the Leviathan that focused a direction on sovereign power. Individual lives are the focus of this theory when it comes to social relationships and need of security. “Social control theory has played an ongoing role in understanding criminal behaviors. A variation on social control theory is the Differential Association Theory proposed by Edwin H. Sutherland in the 1930s (www.eHow. com). ”

The criminals the breach the contract are now acts are seen as learned behaviors acquired from peers that develop into altered perceptions of society’s norms. Stating that the “State of Nature” acts are can’t be instincts, we evolved so much that that part of human are forgotten to some existent, and thus have to be learned. In contemporary culture we can never be fully savage but doesn’t mean were fully good ether. There are still evil in us but we been under a Leviathan for so long that if we have a barbaric thought we will think twice about doing an evil deed.

Good and evil resigns in all human beings, but it’s less likely to be fully savage like in early developing civilization because we follow a psychical written agreement of law which also mental stops of from doing non moral actions before committing it. Whereas Jean-Jacques Rousseau would say when referring to The Social Contract “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains” (49). SOURCES The Social Contract by Whereas Jean-Jacques Rousseau (www. sparknotes. com) (www. iep. utm. edu) (www. angelfire. com) Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes Lord of the Flies by Williams Golding.


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